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Literature / Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a 1978 children's storybook by Judi Barrett with illustrations by Ron Barrett.

The story begins with a young girl describing a Saturday morning at her home. Saturday is Pancake Day at her house. The girl's grandfather makes the pancakes. When the dog runs past the grandfather, he accidentally causes a pancake to fly through the air and hit his grandson Henry in the face. The family laughs it off and the rest of the day goes as expected. That night the grandfather tells his grandkids the best bedtime story he knows of...

Far, far away and across several oceans there once was a small town of about 300 called Chewandswallow. Chewandswallow was like many towns out there, except for the fact it had no food stores. There was no reason for such stores as all the food everyone needed came raining from the sky each day. Food, completely cooked, came from the heavens three times a day in vast amounts. No person or animal was ever hungry in Chewandswallow.

One day, however, the weather started acting up. Some days nothing but smelly Gorgonzola cheese fell from the skies while other days nothing but overcooked broccoli came instead. Too much of certain food and bad combinations kept falling for no apparent reason. One day it got even worse, and oversized foods began to fall in large qualities from the sky. The food wrecked the town to the point where the sanitation department gave up. With no other choice left, everyone built boats made of bread and sailed to find a new place to live. This new land didn't have food falling from the sky, but the people learned to adapt. No one ever went back to Chewandswallow.

The book ends with the grandfather wishing his grandkids goodnight. The next day the kids go sledding. They look at the sun over a hill and think it looks a bit like butter over mashed potatoes.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has two sequels: Pickles to Pittsburgh (2000) and Planet of the Pies (2013).

In 2009 the original book was very loosely adapted into an animated feature film.

This book provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – Animal Care: It's mentioned that they give leftovers to the dogs and cats, and then dump the rest into the ocean for "the fish, turtles, and whales to eat". Such diets would be unhealthy for pets but especially so for ocean animals. Of course, this is just a children's bedtime story, so accuracy is moot.
  • Birthday Party Goes Wrong: When the food weather starts turning bad, one poor kid named Floyd gets brussel sprouts and peanut butter with mayonnaise served at his birthday party.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The people of Chewandswallow have to abandon the island they called home after the food weather grows unexpectedly out of control and too dangerous. But they manage to create a new town and learn to start shopping at grocery stores.
  • Bland-Name Product: The pancake box says "Aunt Jim's Pancake Mix", instead of "Aunt Jemima's Pancake Mix".
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The "real" parts are in monochrome while the bedtime story is in colour.
  • Disappeared Dad: The family seemingly consists of the protagonist, her brother, her mother, her grandfather, the dog, and the cat. The father is either off-screen or absent.
  • Food Porn: The defining feature of the book is its gorgeous illustrated food and the delicious sounding text to go along with it.
  • Framing Device: The plot of the book is portrayed as a bedtime story that an old man recounts to his grandchildren.
  • Narrator: A girl for the Framing Device, and her grandpa for the main story.
  • No Name Given: The protagonist's name is never mentioned.
  • Rain of Something Unusual: The book discusses a fictional valley where the weather precipitates various foods instead of water.
  • Scenery Porn: With a premise like raining food, and illustrations as detailed as these, it's expected.
  • Shout-Out: At the theatre, amongst other food-related films, you can see Breakfast at Tiffany's on the billboard.
  • Visual Title Drop: Early in the story, a man watches the TV weather report, which says it is expected to be cloudy with a chance of meatballs.
  • Weird Weather: Ordinary weather in Chewanswallow rains food and drink, sparing the land from many of the world's problems and creating others. Unfortunately, Chewanswallow eventually becomes uninhabitable after the falling food started getting bigger and bigger.
  • Youthful Freckles: Both the girl and her brother Henry have freckles.