It’s a mom-and-son trip to the zoo, but mom’s preoccupation with her cellphone makes for a lonely time until being present becomes a priority—and then magic occurs.
It all begins with the titular question: “Can one balloon make an elephant fly?” Mom, never looking up from her phone, answers in the negative. Her son continues his line of questioning, with unchanging results. Dejected, he sadly slumps down. When his mother finally looks up, she understands and fully engages. Together as they walk, they tie balloons to test his theories, hers to animal miniatures, his to live animals. When they reach the path’s end, she releases the toys and offers a celebratory hug, while the live animals also slowly rise across the city. Simple, stylized charcoal illustrations are deftly executed, and Newman cleverly uses repetition to highlight the characters’ emotional journeys. The oft-used map of the zoo shows the black mother and son on various stages of the path in expressive poses. Unfortunately, narrative clarity is sometimes hampered due to the stylization of the drawings. There’s also more of a grittiness or heaviness to the drawings than in Newman's previous works. Those quibbles aside, this is one of the first books to so accurately portray what parental cellphone use may look like to a child and how it can affect parent/child relationships.
A sweet story about connectedness and a willingness to believe in these modern times. (Picture book. 4-7)