A young boy who loses his treasured balloon illustrates the stages of grief in this debut picture book.
Joey has loved his yellow balloon ever since an old man at the carnival wrapped the string around his wrist. The beautifully detailed images by Madrid (Jungle Cruise, 2018, etc.) set the story in the early 20th century; day after summer day, the balloon comes with Joey on his appealingly old-fashioned adventures. At night, Joey tells the balloon: “I love you so much. I can’t wait for tomorrow.” But one day, the balloon somehow slips off his wrist, disappearing into the sky. The previously colorful images turn gray and cold to match Joey’s grief, anger, and confusion. But over time, his sadness lessens, and color gradually returns in his life. Seeing the warm yellow sun, Joey realizes that while he’ll always miss his balloon, it’s a part of him and always will be. In her book, Papageorge deftly tells a fable about grief, one that children could use to better deal with the loss of a relative or pet. The sensitive, expressive illustrations partner well with the text, especially the remarkable gatefold spread that opens up to show, when the book is turned, the yellow balloon rising impossibly high while Joey remains earthbound. The author honors a child’s feelings but also shows how they can slowly change: “As time passed,” Joey “was sad a lot of the time instead of most of the time.”
An effective and moving approach to understanding sorrow that children should understand.