This earnest effort to put a metaphorical spin on themes of loss and grieving misses the mark despite having its heart in the right place.
Ella awakens to find that her pets—a dog, a fish, a bird and a cat—are gone. After searching her house, she sees them suspended from balloons and floating in the sky. She calls for them to come down and climbs a tree to reach them, but they just float higher and higher. Her mother soothes her, delivering the overt moral of the story in rhyming text: “When things float away / we must stay on the ground / and know in our hearts that / someday they’ll be found.” Ella isn’t ready to accept her mother’s advice and continues to reach for them by floating aloft with a bunch of her own balloons. Mom repeats her advice, but the emotional resolution only emerges when she later tells Ella to look for the lost animals in her own heart. Throughout the story, the line between metaphoric intent and the reality of the story-world is fuzzy. Are readers to understand that Ella’s pets have died? The ambiguity is ultimately problematic given the seriousness of the book’s apparent aim, and the simple line drawings do little to clarify things.
A missed opportunity to shed light on important themes. (Picture book. 4-7)