Emily's Balloon

Komako Sakai, Author . Chronicle $14.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8118-5219-7

With its soft charcoal outlines, three-color images and matte pages, Japanese author-artist Sakai's book looks as if it could have been published in the early '60s, yet her theme is timeless. The measured pacing of the text and roomy spreads evoke a more leisurely era. Emily, a toddler with short hair and gray overalls, has trouble holding onto her yellow helium-filled balloon, until her mother (who wears a skirt and high heels) wisely ties it to a spoon ("Look! It floats, but it doesn't fly away!"). Emily and the balloon share a happy afternoon in the garden, picking flowers and making matching leafy crowns, until a gust blows the balloon up into a tree, and it stays there. "We wanted to eat together," the text reads, as Emily sits at the table in tears, imagining supper and then bedtime with her new friend. Sakai smoothly moves from Emily's thoughts to her words, always keeping readers in the heroine's mindset. Tucked into bed, Emily finds she can see the balloon from her window: "There it was, nestled in the tree. It looked just like the moon." Sakai's quiet voice represents loss as small children experience it: sometimes, she seems to say, although we can't have what we love close to us, they are still there—just like the moon. A dog-eared favorite in the making. Ages 1-5. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/29/2006
Release date: 02/01/2006
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