Once Upon a Balloon

illus. by Isabelle Malenfant. 32p. Orca. 2013. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781459803244. LC 2013935385.
K-Gr 3—Theo watches the string of his green ballon slip through his clenched fist and disappear in the sky. Neither parent can tell him where it has gone, so he asks his brother, who knows everything about everything. "Chicago," says Zeke. "It is a little-known fact that all lost balloons end up in Chicago." He tells Theo about Frank, the Nocturnal City Collection Custodian, who has cleared the streets, trees, fountains, and ballparks of balloons for 35 years. He wants to retire and enjoy some of the many celebrations he has missed, but no one wants his job. This story touches Theo's tender heart, so the brothers send a message on a balloon to Frank, encouraging him to finish the robot that he tinkers with periodically. Though they can never be sure of the outcome, the last page shows Frank arm-in-arm with it, now holding a bunch of balloon strings securely in his clamp grip. The artwork, done in watercolor, colored pencil, and pastels, is as droll as the text. Some landscapes curve like giant balloons, while a highway, floating in the clouds, is flooded with balloons from Japan. This story is for every child who has ever let go of a balloon and wondered where it went. Zeke's fanciful story is a gift to his younger brother, strengthening the bonds between them. It is a fine choice for storytime and a welcome addition to all libraries.—Mary Jean Smith, formerly at Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN
When Theo's balloon flies away, his older brother tells him that "all lost balloons end up in Chicago" (i.e., the Windy City) where balloon "custodian" Frank gathers them up. The mythology around Frank, who longs to retire but can't find someone to take over, is interesting but somewhat overelaborate (readers may want to get back to Theo); the multimedia art is imaginative.

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