Balloon Fancy

Tonight we went out to eat, and Jeffrey and Eleanor were given balloons at the restaurant.

Eleanor’s balloon popped about ten minutes after we arrived back at home — she sat on it (and then cried inconsolably) — but Jeffrey spent quite a few minutes lying on his back in his bedroom, quietly gazing at it while occasionally tugging on its string.  What was he doing?

“I’m just fishing for clouds in the sky, Mommy.”

Can’t help but think of this book:


The Blue Balloon by Mick Inkpen.  Yeah, it’s by the same guy who gave us the Kipper books, which I’ve always been kind of meh about.  But I really adore The Blue Balloon — basically, it tells the story of a boy who finds a balloon on the street, which turns out to have all kinds of “strange and wonderful” properties.  It’s unbreakable, can change shape, and even carries the boy into outer space.  Inkpen’s ink-and-watercolor illustrations are simple yet expressive; best of all, he uses the occasional fold-out or pop-up device to show how wonderful a balloon really can be.  A storytime read-aloud staple for pretty much every child librarian I know.

Oh, and I HAVE to mention this one.  How could I forget it?


Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai.  This Japanese import has a quiet magic very different from The Blue Balloon.  Little Emily is given a balloon while out with her mother.  She returns home to play with it, and it slowly becomes a friend — weighted down by one of Emily’s spoons, it bobs along right at her eye-level.  Emily makes a flower crown for the balloon, and talks to it in the backyard.  But then a gust of wind blows the balloon into a tree, and Emily is distraught.  She tearfully describes how she had planned to help the balloon get ready for bed — but then sees the balloon outside her window, is struck by how it reminds her of the moon, and goes to sleep content.  Soft yellow-and-grey charcoal illustrations are placed gracefully on the page; not a single stroke is wasted.  This was probably my favorite picture book of 2006.  Read it to your toddler, and it might become your favorite, too.

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