________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 17. . . .January 3, 2014


Once Upon a Balloon.

Bree Galbraith. Illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2013.
32 pp., hardcover & pdf, $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0324-4 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0325-1 (pdf).

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Reesa Cohen.

**** /4


internal art     Ever wonder where escaped balloons go? This story might help answer inquisitive young minds.

Theo and Zeke’s cousin gave them four balloons.

Zeke took three and handed Theo one, a small green one with a long orange string. With all four balloons waving this way and that, Theo’s father had to strain to see out the car’s back window. Before they got out of the car, Theo’s mom offered to tie Theo’s balloon to his wrist. But Theo said no.

     Theo is warned repeatedly, by all, “Don’t let go of the string”. Of course, even with Theo’s fist clenched tight, his fingers had other plans and off the balloon drifted. Theo then poses the question, “Where did my balloon go?”. His father says it went to the moon. His mother explains that it popped due to the air pressure. Since these answers weren’t satisfactory, Theo turns to his older and wiser brother Zeke “[w]ho knows everything.”

     Zeke then weaves an imaginative story that is so much better than anything Theo’s parents could come up with, starting with the outrageous but amusing statement, “It is a little known fact that all lost balloons end up in Chicago.” Zeke proceeds with a complicated but amusing story about Frank, the collector of balloons, who has a host of inventive devices that he uses to track down the scattered balloons. Zeke also relays Frank’s efforts to build a robot to help him so he can someday retire from being the “Nocturnal City Collection Custodian”. Because of his admiration for his all knowing brother, Theo suspends all disbelief and wants to help Frank who has missed so many celebrations in his life because of his job. The boys send another balloon to Frank with a personal message of encouragement and wishing him good luck in his efforts to get that robot built.

     This imaginative tale displays a charming sibling relationship, somewhat reminiscent of Marie-Louise Gay’s “Stella and Sam” series, that will leave the reader wanting more. The delightful text is told with gentle humour, and Bree Galbraith’s ending is upbeat and clever. There is a question left unanswered in the end, even with what appears to be a finished robot. Was it the message sent to Frank by the boys that encouraged him to finish his robot? Did he retire? These questions could spark some discussion between the reader/teacher and students and could also present a chance to do a real-time science experiment with the older range of students, or an investigation to show, once balloons are in the atmosphere, how they might affect the environment.

     The illustrations, done in watercolours, coloured pencils, and pastels, are as appealing as the story. The childlike, whimsical drawings suit the playful text. Colourful balloons can be found floating among skyscrapers, causing traffic jams, while depictions of Frank and his robot are lighthearted and animated.

Highly Recommended.

Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children’s Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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