Sebastian, an Everychild from his plain, russet face and nondescript hair to his striped socks, creates a hot air balloon from his grandmother’s quilt scraps and goes on a joyous, never-ending journey.
When Sebastian decides that he needs to see the world beyond his tired street of identical houses, he gathers “all the things he would ever need” and boards his huge hot air balloon. “He charted a course. He checked the breeze. He cut the strings… // and floated free.” Those last three words float over a large white moon, which in turn is suspended in a double-page spread of vast, textured, blue-and-black sky. Against the moon is Sebastian in his colorful balloon, his faithful cardinal friend hovering nearby. This is the first of many frame-worthy pictures, as Sebastian and the bird form friendships with a winsome bear, a “very tall bird” and—yes, Shakespeare enthusiasts—three weird (but charming) sisters, all of whom eventually crowd into the balloon and advance the journey. Expressive charcoal drawings colored with layers of pastels and oil paints add to the dreamlike quality of the tale. The sophisticated nature of the book requires readers to slow down and read the pictures as carefully as the text—and both carry equal, impressive weight.
Stead does not disappoint, giving readers another beautifully rendered picture book full of whimsy, heart and delight. (Picture book. 3-7)