________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 9 . . . .January 7, 2005


The Balloon Tree.

Phoebe Gilman.
Markham, ON: Scholastic Canada, 1984/2004.
40 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 0-439-96187-4.

Subject Headings:
Kings and rulers-Juvenile fiction.
Princesses-Juvenile fiction.
Balloons-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 4 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Liz Greenaway.

**** /4



"You must help me, " whispered Princess Leora. Quickly she told the Wizard what the evil Archduke had done.

"There is only one thing to do," said the Wizard. "Find one whole balloon. Before the next sunrise, plant it under the tree that grows in the courtyard and say these magic words:

Moon balloon,
Moon balloon,
Tickle the tree.
Four balloons,
More balloons,
Blossom for me."

The sun was setting as Princess Leora slipped through the castle gates to begin her search. She visited the richest Lord in the city, but all his balloons had been broken.

She asked the butcher.

She asked the baker.

She asked the old toymaker. But no one had any balloons.


Princess Leora loved playing and singing and dancing, but most of all she loved balloons. The castle was always full of them. One day, her father is called away to another kingdom, and Leora is left with his brother, the Archduke. She objects to being left like this as her uncle "is grumpy and he never plays games." She is to signal her father of trouble by releasing a bunch of her balloons from the tower, and he will return right away.

internal art     Leora's fears prove grounded: her uncle is not to be trusted. He plans to take over the kingdom in his brother's absence and immediately orders all balloons destroyed. But Leora is resourceful and visits her friend, the Wizard, through a secret passage in the castle. He gives her a magic spell that will release balloons if Leora can find just one to plant underneath the tree. A search through the night proves fruitless until Leora is spotted by a little boy who had kept one balloon in the back of his closet.

     With this balloon, Leora is able to begin the spell that will save the kingdom. After she has said the words, the magic begins immediately:

Suddenly the tree began to quiver. Tiny balloons blossomed on it and began to grow bigger and rounder. Princess Leora reached up to touch one and hundreds came floating down.

More and more balloons blossomed from the tree, until they filled the whole courtyard. As the sun rose they drifted through the gate. People leaned from their windows and rushed into the streets, shouting and pointing and laughing.

"Pop those balloons!" the Archduke shouted to his men. But whenever they tried, the magical balloons whizzed away. Before long the whole city was filled with balloons."

     Phoebe Gilman's fairy tale has all the necessary elements: magic, evil characters, wizards and a brave heroine who saves the day. Her illustrations are lush with pageantry befitting the story, and the details burst off each page. It is no surprise that Scholastic has issued a beautiful 20th anniversary edition of this popular story. Both story and illustrations are as timeless today as they were in 1984 when the book was originally published.

     A must for every home and school library.

Highly Recommended.

Liz Greenaway has worked in bookselling and publishing and lives in Edmonton, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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