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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Once Upon A Balloon, written by Bree Galbraith and illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant. Orca Book Publishers, 2013. $19.95 ages 4 and up

"Theo tried to hold on,
he really did.
He stared at his hand and
told it to stay closed, but it
didn't want to listen.
He clenched his fist so
tight, his knuckles turned
white, but his fingers had
other plans.
Theo watched the string
slip from his hand."

Ah, the misery of a lost balloon! Have you ever watched it float gracefully away while a little one watched in horror? It doesn't seem to matter how well you explain the concept of 'holding on'; too often the balloon is gone to that balloon corral in the sky before we can count to 10.

In this debut picture book by Bree Galbraith, Theo watches as his balloon disappears. That leads him to wonder just exactly what has happened to it, and where it might be. His dad has a theory:

"The moon. How else do you think it stays up there?"

His mother thinks that she knows:

"Oh, it probably popped when the air pressure changed way, way up high," she said. "

Even his brother Zeke has an idea:

"It is a little known fact that all lost balloons end up in Chicago."

He has a plausible explanation for that unlikely revelation. And, it has to do with Frank. Theo is more trusting of Zeke's view. He believes the imaginative and spirited story that Zeke spins for his little brother, and even goes so far as to encourage Frank in his quest to find a replacement. The boys send Frank a message...perfectly!

The artist captures the fun that is inherent in such a charmer of a story. Using watercolor, colored pencils, and pastels, she creates memorable images that match the tone and delight of this homage to a child's innate ability to suspend belief when the situation calls for it. Bravo, Zeke!

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