Breaking Through the Clouds: The Sometimes Turbulent Life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson by Sandra Nickel and Helena Perez Garcia

Hello, Sandra Nickel! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.! Thank you for stopping by to debut Breaking Through the Clouds: The Sometimes Turbulent Life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson’s wonderful book trailer. What are three things you would like everyone to know about Joanne Simpson before pressing PLAY?

Sandra Nickel: Hi Mr. Schu! I’m excited to be here. Thank you for inviting me! Three things about Joanne Simpson? She was America’s—in fact, the world’s—first female meteorologist. She was fascinated by clouds and sparked an entire branch of science. It’s because of her that scientists create cloud models and give us predictions like partly cloudy skies this morning, expect blue skies this afternoon.

What ran through your heart the first time you saw Helena Perez Garcia’s finished illustrations for Breaking Through the Clouds?

Sandra Nickel: The colors! The colors! The colors! Helena wanted them to be bold and vibrant to reflect Joanne’s spirit, and she pulled it off with magnificent aplomb. She uses a lot of variations of blue to reflect the intense colors of the sky and then contrasts those with amazing oranges, yellows, greens, and purples. It all adds up to an incredible feast for the eyes!

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Clouds are extraordinary. Before reading Joanne’s journals and papers (which are archived at Harvard, by the way), I loved watching clouds change. Yet, I didn’t really know anything about them. Thanks to Joanne, I now know that they are not just fluffy puffs floating in the air. They are immensely powerful. A giant cumulonimbus can carry ten times as much energy as an atomic bomb!

Nonfiction picture books were my daughter’s favorites. She cleaned out the nonfiction box for each reading level before she even started the fiction box. I always loved nonfiction too, but her enthusiasm catapulted nonfiction to an even higher level for me. Nonfiction ideas are always grabbing me by the scruff of the neck, making me stop short and pay attention. I love researching and learning, so creating nonfiction books is a dream job for me.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me…What my favorite thing about Joanne is. There are many. But one of my favorites is her generosity. Even though her own career path was bumpy, she went out of her way to help new meteorologists, especially young women. In fact, one meteorologist said Joanne didn’t just blaze a trail for women, she blazed a road. Isn’t that marvelous?!

Yes! Thank you, Sandra! Congratulations! 

Sandra Nickel says that story ideas are everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab them. She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, was awarded a Christopher Award and was a Golden Kite Award finalist. Sandra lives in Chexbres, Switzerland, where she blogs about children’s book writers and illustrators at To learn more, visit

Helena Perez Garcia is a Spanish illustrator whose work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and books around the world. Her clients include Penguin Random House, The Body Shop, Tate Publishing, and Reader’s Digest, among many others. She currently lives and works in Madrid.


Popular Posts