Ona, Cloud Rider
The Chapter Book Version
By Stuart Baum
Illustrations by Molly Baum
who is never anything but.
(Except when she's being a tiger or a dragon.)
WE MEET ONA.
Ona lived on the top of a
small hill in Utah. She was only three years old, though her
mother would often say that Ona wasn't 'only' anything.
To Ona, the hill she lived on was very tall. It was a long
way down, even by car. It was a longer way up.
On very cloudy days, the clouds would come and visit. They
would come right up to Ona's front door.
It was a beautiful sight, looking out the front window and
seeing the white and gray-edged quilt that expanded from the
house's front door to the horizon.
Ona's Mom and Dad would sit on the front steps and stare
out into the distance for what seemed, to Ona, to be hours and
hours and hours.
Nothing was more boring to Ona.
Instead of sitting on the front steps, Ona would grab a large
spill-proof cup of juice (one of the many her Mom would leave
ready in the fridge) and a granola bar. She would walk out the
back door, find a small and friendly cloud, and go for a ride.
WHERE THE CUPS WENT.
At first Ona
couldn't control where the clouds went and was often afraid
they wouldn't take her back home. But they always did.
Once she learned to drive the clouds, she would
float them over to a nearby hill and reach down and pick flowers
or just look around while she ate her granola bar. She wasn't
able to do much until she ate her granola bar because she needed
both hands. If she put the granola bar down onto the cloud it
would fall through. The lost granola bars were not so bad since
she could go home and get more, but the lost cups often caused
her Mom to scold her.
Her Mom would say "I don't know where you could
possibly misplace so many sipping cups." And then there'd be
no cups for a few days and that made Ona sad.
So she was very careful not to put her cups
down when she rode around on the clouds.
ONA MAKES IT RAIN FROGS.
One day Ona brought two small
frogs with her onto the cloud. They were so wiggly and wriggly
she had to put them down. Like the granola bars and the cups,
they fell through. Ona watched them fall towards the ground,
but they soon disappeared from view She decided that she was
going to fly back to her hill and climb down and look for the
frogs on the ground. On her way back, however, she saw a hill
covered with hundreds of bright blue flowers and forgot all
about the frogs.
On the television news that night, there was a story of a
woman who said it rained frogs on her lawn party She held up
two frogs as proof. The two frogs wiggled and wriggled around
in her hand, trying to escape.
Ona smiled. "I'm glad they're okay" she said.
Her Mom hugged her. "You're a very compassionate little girl,"
said her Mom. Ona didn't know what 'compassionate' meant, but
she enjoyed the hug. Then she frowned at her Mom, declaring
with a pout, "I'm a big little girl!"
Her Mom hugged her again. "You certainly are," she agreed.
Ona was content.
MISS GREEN TEACHES THE CLASS ABOUT CLOUDS.
One day at preschool, the
class was learning about clouds.
Miss Green, the teacher, told the class that clouds were
water vapor, which she explained is rain before it falls to
Ona nodded. That explained why her butt was always a little
wet after she returned.
When Miss Green held up a picture of different kinds of clouds,
one of the other children asked if people could stand on them.
The teacher said, "No."
Ona said, "Yes".
Everyone in the class looked at Ona, since she had the more
interesting answer. She explained, "But once they start moving
you have to sit down or you'll fall off."
Miss Green laughed, but none of the children thought Ona
"Really?" another child asked Ona.
"Really" said Ona.
"Not really," said Miss Green. Miss Green smiled at Ona,
but Ona returned the smile with a pout. Miss Green added, sweetly
"But it would be fun if it were true."
"It is fun," said Ona to herself.
Later, during 'open works', Michael B. came over to Ona and
asked, "Have you ridden on clouds?"
"Yes," said Ona.
"Next time, can I come?" asked Michael B.
"Yes," said Ona. And then, trying to sound like a grown-up,
she added, "That would be pleasant."
ONA TEACHES MICHAEL B. HOW TO RIDE CLOUDS.
The next cloudy day, Michael
B. came to visit.
The two Moms sat on the front stairs and talked, which is
what grown-ups always did.
Ona and Michael B. went out the back door to ride the clouds.
"First," said Ona using her 'explaining' voice, "we need
to find a friendly cloud to make sure we get back."
Michael B. was nervous. "Do they go up very far?" he asked.
"Nope", said Ona, "the clouds always go straight." Then she
pointed at a gap in the clouds to the forest far below. "But
the ground goes down."
This only made Michael B. more nervous.
"It's easy," said Ona. "Just get on the cloud", and she did
this as she spoke. "Then sit down." She did. "Then lean forward."
Ona leaned forward slightly and the cloud moved away from the
side of the hill. It stopped after a few feet. Though she was
still very close to Michael B., Ona yelled, "You need to lean
back if you want to stop or go backwards!" Her cloud came back
to the hill, stopping right in front of Michael B.
Ona commanded, "Now, get on a cloud."
Michael B. said quickly, "I'll ride with you." He got on
her cloud and was surprised that it felt like a slightly wet
pillow. He held onto Ona tightly
Ona asked, "Do you want a g'anola bar?"
Michael B. just shook his head, too afraid to talk. He managed
two words: "go" and "slow"
As if Michael B. should already have known this, Ona said,
"That's all clouds go."
THE TRIP TO MOUNT DANDELION.
Ona pointed off into the
distance. "We're going to that hill," she said. Michael
B. looked and saw that there were many hilltops poking through
the cloud cover.
"Which one?" he asked.
"The yellow one," Ona said. "It's called Mount Danny Lion."
Both Ona and Michael B. wondered who 'Danny' was.
The two children leaned forward and the cloud began to move.
Most of the clouds were going the same direction as they were,
but their cloud was going slightly faster. It moved directly
through some, bumped others aside, and went around still others,
like cloud bumper cars.
"See, it's easy," said Ona.
Michael B. agreed, nodding, but he did not loosen his grip
Halfway across, their cloud moved out from the crowd of clouds
and into the open space. Michael B. tried very hard not to look
down. He failed.
"It's very f-f-far down," he stammered. "What if we f-fall?"
"Clouds don't fall," explained Ona. It wasn't quite what
Michael B. meant, but he was too afraid to ask again.
To Michael B.'s relief, they made it to the other hill and
he quickly jumped off.
"Get back on, silly!" said Ona. "If you want to pick flowers,
just reach down and grab them." She demonstrated by pulling
up a big, yellow dandelion.
Ona sang, "Momma had a baby but its head popped off!" She
tried to snap off the flower's top with one hand but couldn't
manage it, so she ripped it off with the other hand and threw
it to the ground. She noticed her fingers were now yellow She
tried to rub off the yellow, but ended up getting yellow over
both of her hands.
"Look!" she said excitedly, "I'm yellow!" She put up her
hands, palms forward, to show them to Michael B., but Michael
B. was gone!
A LIGHTNING STORM.
"Michael B.!" Ona yelled.
"Michael B.!" He was nowhere to be seen.
Finally, she saw him sitting in a patch of tall dandelions,
just a little way down the hill.
Ona was afraid to get off her cloud since all the other clouds
were dark and angry looking. She also saw that the top layer
of clouds had moved closer and in some places was touching the
lower level, like when you pull Silly Putty apart.
"Michael B.! You had better hurry!" she yelled. "It's going
to storm! Bad!" Michael B. refused to get on the cloud. He turned
away from Ona, folded his arms against his chest, and shook
The first drops of rain began to fall.
Ona steered the cloud in front of Michael B. Since the cloud
would not go any lower, she hovered a few inches above his head.
Ona saw that Michael B. was crying.
"Don't cry" said Ona softly "It'll be okay We just-"
"I am not crying!" snapped Michael B. He didn't want
to cry in front of a little girl. He was supposed to be the
brave one. "It's the rain," he said. "It dripped down my eyes
is all." He drew lines from his eyes to his cheeks with his
fingers, to demonstrate.
Ona wanted to argue, but she didn't think there was time.
Her Mom would be very mad if she were out in the rain. She was
trying to think of a way to get Michael B. back on the cloud
"Craa-ack!" Both children looked in the direction of the
noise and caught the last glow from the lightning. It came down
right between the hill they were on and the hill where Ona's
The rain, as if it were scared out of the upper clouds by
the lightning, st arted coming down much harder and much colder.
"This is very, very, very bad!" declared Ona. Using her 'serious'
voice, Ona said, "Michael B. We have to go. Right. Now."
Michael B. quickly climbed up behind Ona. He held on tightly
and closed his eyes. "Hurry," he said softly "I'm not afraid
to go fast anymore."
Ona could not stop from explaining, "Clouds don't go fast."
MICHAEL B. FINDS A CLOUD ESCALATOR.
Ona looked left and right
and saw that the storm was all around them. She looked straight
forward and could just barely see her house through the rain
and taffy clouds. Ona started driving the friendly cloud directly
towards her house.
"Craa-ack!" Another bolt of lightning. The lightning came
through the top layer of clouds, streaked through the now thin
empty area between the two layers, and shot through the bottom
Ona hoped the tea party lady had brought the frogs inside,
where they'd be safe.
Suddenly, Ona started to cry Michael B. felt her body shake
as she sobbed. It was his turn to be strong.
"Let's go up!" he yelled over the roar of the storm.
Now angry with Michael B., Ona yelled back, "Clouds don't
go up!" She didn't think he was listening to her.
Michael B. pointed to their left. Ona looked and saw a line
of small, friendly clouds slowly moving upwards, as if they
were on a cloud escalator.
Ona steered the cloud to the back of the line. Once they
edged behind the last cloud in line, they felt safe.
In the upper layer of clouds, there was a hole through which
the friendly clouds were going. Ona and Michael B. watched as
the clouds, one at a time, zoomed upwards and then popped through
Ona said, "This must be where friendly clouds go when there
is a storm." The line moved quickly and soon it was their turn.
The trip was fast, but not at all bumpy.
Up, up, up they went and then - pop! - they hopped through
the hole in the clouds.
They were now above the storm clouds and felt the warming
rays of the sun on their cold, wet clothes and skin. Ona turned
around and hugged Michael B.
Michael B. returned the hug, saying, "See? Clouds do go up."
He was happy to be right.
THE JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS.
The upper layer looked especially
angry from above. It was dark gray, rumbling, and there was
lightning running through it like fish swimming around in a
Ona said, "Sit down." Michael B., who did not realize he
was standing up, sat down quickly. They both leaned forward
to make the cloud move as fast as it could, which was not very
fast. Ona steered the cloud towards her hill.
On the very top of the Ona's hill was a rock. This rock was
as tall as Ona and about as wide as their kitchen table. Ona
and her Dad would climb up to this rock every Sunday.
She and Fooey, her dog (named after the horse in one of Ona's
favorite stories), would play on the rock as her Dad sat with
his back against it, drinking coffee and reading the Sunday
paper. Every now and then Ona's Dad would wake suddenly, exclaiming
loudly, "I wasn't sleeping. I was just resting my eyes for a
bit." It always made Ona laugh.
Ona stopped the cloud about five feet above the rock. Only
the very tip of the rock was jutting through the clouds.
Before Ona could explain her plan, Michael B. declared, "I
am not going to jump down onto that rock! We'll crack our skulls
open like pumpkins." He imagined the seeds spilling out of his
broken head, just as he always did when his mother gave the
Ona pushed at him gently, saying, "Don't be a silly We're
going to jump onto that fluffy cloud right next to the rock.
And then walk to the rock." She pointed to the cloud next to
It still looked to far to Michael B., so he asked, "Why don't
we stay here for a bit? It's nice up here,"
Ona looked up at the bright sun. She turned her still yellow
palms upwards and felt the sun's warmth on them.
"It is nice up here," she agreed. "But we must get
down. Anyway, it's time for you to go home." Ona was tired from
the adventure and wanted to cuddle with her Mom, alone.
"We are going to jump," Ona declared. "I will show you how,"
she said bravely It would be a very brave jump, even braver
than jumping off the edge of a swimming pool.
BACK ON THE HILL . . . WITH A THUMP.
All of a sudden, there was
a large growling rumble and the clouds below them began to roll
upwards and downwards, like waves on an ocean. Then there was
a bright blast of light and the loudest "Cra-raa-raa-aRack!"
of all. As if scared, their friendly cloud tipped on its side
dumping Ona and Michael B. off
Down, down, down they fell! They landed right on the white
puffy cloud below them. But instead of holding them up, the
cloud pushed them side to side, shaking them like Ona's dog
shakes a towel, and then dropped them onto the muddy hill.
"Ouch!" said Ona.
"Good!" said Michael B., who was very happy to be back on
at least somewhat firm ground. They expected it to be pouring
rain, but it was barely drizzling.
Ona and Michael B. stood up, the tops of their heads brushing
the very bottom of the clouds. Ona ducked, not wanting her head
to touch the bad clouds, but Michael B. was suddenly curious.
He poked his hands through the cloud layer.
Water from the cloud poured down his arm and soaked his shirt.
"Yuck!" said Michael B. "Miss Green was right about the clouds,"
he decided. Then, catching Ona's angry look, added, "Except
she was wrong about riding them."
HOME AND DRY.
It was a long walk from the
rock at the top of the hill to Ona's house. Maybe not long for
adults, but for two in wet and tired three-year olds, it was
far enough. It took them almost five whole minutes and by the
time they arrived they were very happy to be home.
As soon as they walked in the back door, Ona yelled, "Mom!
Michael B. needs to go home now!" Instead of being insulted,
Michael B. nodded in agreement.
The two Moms came running towards the back door, each one
quickly grabbing her own child up in her arms. "There you are,
my sweetie, " both Moms said at once. And also at once, they
both exclaimed, "Oh my! You're soaked through to the skin!"
Ona's Mom asked, "Where have you been?"
Michael B.'s Mom repeated the question, "Yes, where have
you been? I was- we were worried sick!"
Michael B. looked at Ona, wondering if he should tell the
Moms where they went.
Ona didn't think the where part was so important.
What was important was that she and Michael B. were wet and
"I'm wet and cold," she told her Mom.
"I'm wet and cold, too," Michael B. told his Mom.
The Moms started talking quickly about which of Ona's dry
clothes Michael could wear and where the hot chocolate was and
who should make it. Ona thought it was odd that they called
him 'Michael' and not 'Michael B.' She wondered how they knew
which Michael they were talking about, since there were three
Michaels at her school and another one at her sitter's. But
she didn't have time to ask, since she was quickly whisked away
from the back door and into her room to be changed.
THE STORY ENDS WITH HOT CHOCOLATE.
Soon enough, Ona and Michael
B. were at the breakfast table, sitting in dry clothes, their
heads wrapped in towels, their hands holding mugs of hot chocolate.
Each cup of hot chocolate had an ice cube in it.
Michael B.'s Mom told them to wait until the ice cubes melted
before they took even one sip. Ona kept checking Michael B's
ice cube to see if his were melting faster, though she was unsure
if this were a good or a bad thing.
Ona's Mom broke the silence. "Kids?" she said to get their
attention. They looked up to see her holding a large, clear
bag of small, puffy, white objects. "Do either of you want some
marshmallows?" she asked.
"Oh no! No, thanks!" both children quickly replied.
© 2002 Stuart B. Baum, Illustrations
by Molly Baum