How a skunk came to have a magenta balloon tied to its foot is a mystery, but there it is, bobbing upside down through town on a wordless journey.
At first just the balloon and string are visible—on the endpapers and title page, then floating among an assortment of helium counterparts carried by costumed parade participants. The black-and-white creature moves on, rising and falling through differently sized and shaped sequential panels. It passes ethnically diverse individuals seen through windows in an apartment complex; the sight of it causes a woman below to be “watered” by the surprised flowerbox gardener above. Some characters attempt assistance: a crane worker offers a sandwich, an elephant extends its trunk. Each action causes a reaction, displaying Lam’s facility in arranging cut paper to show motion. Her colorful collages present a pleasing balance of white space, interesting patterns, bright solids, and stylized shapes. (Well-read viewers will find subtle references to Eric Carle.) She orchestrates suspense and comedy, as in the hilarious view of her protagonist’s puffy cheeks during an underwater scene. When the skunk finally frees itself, its rueful expression speaks volumes; ultimately, the creature masterminds a plan and resumes life aloft.
There are multiple reasons to return to the beginning, not the least of which is the impulse to figure out how to mimic such clever compositions. (Picture book. 4-7)