What if food fell from the sky?
In the classic picture book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, a grandfather putting his grandkids to bed invents a mythical land without grocery stores or kitchens. Instead, people simply ate the weather.
“Across an ocean, over lots of huge bumpy mountains, across three hot deserts, and one smaller ocean … there lay the tiny town of Chewandswallow,” the grandpa begins.
A minutely detailed, double-spread ink drawing shows him cuddled up with his wide-eyed grandson, who looks about eight, on a twin bed, while his slightly older and equally wide-eyed granddaughter stares at him from another twin bed.
All three figures and the room that surrounds them are rendered in black and white on the left side of the drawing, but in the center of the drawing the room gradually merges with a vast ocean, which gives way to an enchanted world bursting with color on the right.
“The menu varied,” the grandpa explains.
“By the time they woke up in the morning, breakfast was coming down.”
“After a brief shower of orange juice, low clouds of sunny-side up eggs moved in followed by pieces of toast. Butter and jelly sprinkled down for the toast. And most of the time it rained milk afterwards.”
“For lunch one day, frankfurters, already in their rolls, blew in from the northwest at about file miles an hour.”
“There were mustard clouds nearby. Then the wind shifted to the east and brought in baked beans.”
“A drizzle of soda finished off the meal.”
“Dinner one night consisted of lamb chops, becoming heavy at times, with occasional ketchup. Periods of peas and baked potatoes were followed by gradual clearing, with a wonderful Jell-O setting in the west.”
For ages, life in Chewandswallow was pleasant and delicious, says the grandpa. But then, all of a sudden, the weather took a terrible turn.
Would the people survive or perish?
Near the end of the book, the story-within-the-story concludes, and the grandpa, who lives with the kids and their mother, gives each child a goodnight kiss.
But the next morning, while the kids are out sledding, they realize that a bit of the tale’s magic has endured.
The book, which was published in 1978 and has sold millions of copies, is a timeless celebration of both the bond between kids and their grandparents and the transcendent power of a story well told.