Search Results for: my red balloon

my red balloon + red balloons in children’s books

14738335My Red Balloon by Kazuaki Yamada (2014).


This is a picture book to sit with. It seems simple, but there’s something profound about it. A girl with a red balloon boards a yellow bus. The bus stops for a bear (at a bear-shaped bus sign). And the balloon blows away.

my-red-balloon-one(Click image(s ) to enlarge)

The bus driver follows the balloon but always stops for any animal waiting for a ride along the way. Rabbit, penguin, elephant, and finally, giraffe (who happens to have a crow on her back).









Just when the bus full of creatures is upon the elusive red ballon, here comes the crow with its sharp beak. And POP. No more balloon.



It’s never totally clear who is speaking in this book, but I get the sense it’s often that kind bus driver. At the end, I imagine he’s the one who says, “Cheer up…Look up in the sky!”



Everyone looks to the sun, a giant fiery balloon setting in the sky.



“And we’ll see it again tomorrow.”

That moment with the sun, the other red balloon that never blows away or pops, that moment is breathtaking. And here’s where the profound part comes in. The whole journey, going after that red balloon, led the girl and her animal crew to the red balloon sun. The thing that will be constant every day, the thing that marks every day’s journey. The thing we can’t chase after but will never disappoint.

Yeah, I love this book for that idea.

But also for the expressions on the characters’ faces. The heart-shaped trees. The way each spread could be a perfect painting for a child’s room: colorful, complete, yet mysterious.


Thanks to Minedition for images!




As iconic as that yellow school bus or animals in children’s books is that red balloon.


Most iconic? The one from the French film (then book) of the same name. Who wouldn’t be entranced by a bright red balloon with a spirit of its own amidst all that gray?






My other favorites? 


This lovely cover and one spread inside of Where You Came From by Sara O’Leary, illustrations by Julie Morstad.


“Your father saw a red balloon appear, far off in the sky.

And at the end of the string, there you were, holding on for dear life.”



This one I’m adding to the post after the fact because Travis Jonker of 100 Scope Notes pointed it out. Thanks Travis!

A Sick Day for Amos McGee written by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (2010).


Any red balloon references I’ve missed? Please share in the comments!


17072249p.s. I’ve blogged about balloons once before here on This Picture Book Life. Check out Please Bring Balloons + Balloons!










please bring balloons + balloons!!

17072249I adore the kinds of picture books that can be interpreted as either fantastically real adventures or dreams that didn’t actually happen but are flights of fancy instead. Either way, it’s magic.



Please Bring Balloons by Lindsay Ward is one of those books.





 “It appeared unexpectedly.

Peeking out of the polar bear’s saddle, a hint of paper.”



The first page has the word “paper” in it. It’s a note from a carousel polar bear. And paper is also what makes the illustrations in the book so unique. They’re collaged and pasted together with bits of papery stuff—notebook paper, a doily, maps.




The carousel polar bear wants balloons to fly. To fly with the girl. To fly with the girl all the way to the North Pole to dance with other polar bears. (To rumpus with them, in a shout out to Where the Wild Things Are.)






It’s wild and magical, but my favorite line in the book is pretty down to earth:

“Emma was thankful she had worn her boots.”




(Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu comes to mind as an excellent pair to this one. Both have that dreamlike quality and a fabulous white bear leading the way.)


Thanks to Lindsay Ward for the images!



So, balloons!! A polar bears says, bring ’em so here they are!

My first stop for balloon inspiration has got to be Studio DIY.




She decorated O shaped balloons to look like donuts. With sprinkles! How happy are they (and us)?




This is a pretty way to paint balloons that even I could do. (I think.)




DIY Fruit Balloons from Oh Happy Day.



How cool would it be to have these balloon lamps?




This balloon art installation in the Netherlands in 2012 is pretty wonderful.



And Daisy Balloon‘s balloon dresses?  Out of this world.




Bjork wore one once. I rest my case.


Big shout outs to Geronimo Balloon in Los Angeles and Brooklyn Balloon Company too.




My turn. For my latest birthday, my dude, who is kind of a balloon guy, surprised me this way. (Now you know my age and what my bed pillows look like.)




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picture book life advice

I often look to picture books for nuggets of wisdom, so here are ten with life advice found in their themes. May they be your literary fortune cookies for the new year!




Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and  Sydney Smith (2015).

A masterful wordless story wherein a girl and father walk home through a city. Only she notices the little blooms of color, collecting them for what becomes a special purpose.




My Pen by Christopher Myers (2015).

Even when you don’t have much influence or money or age, you have the power of your own pen to create something all yours, something limitless.



Tough Guys Have Feelings Too by Keith Negley (2015).

This book cracks me up while hitting at something astute. Superheroes, lucha libre wrestlers, and race car drivers all cry sometimes, just like you.




Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato (2016).

Weddings are wonderful opportunities to embrace tradition and change. Meet worm and worm, a lovely couple who knows top hats and veils don’t define them.




Little Kunoichi The Ninja Girl by Sanae Ishida (2015).

A ninja girl who isn’t quite a ninja yet. A little samurai who’s not quite a samurai yet. They help each other. They practice. They aren’t perfect, but that’s not really the point.




Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mallick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (2015).

A historical story inside a bedtime story for a boy. A soldier and a bear cub. An enduring character based on a real life friendship.


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The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet (2014).

A treasure box of a book about finding the right word and following your passion/obsession/preoccupation/fixation.




Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea (2015).

A brilliant picture book with a message for those of us who don’t like to speak up for fear of upsetting others’ feelings. After all, a good friend wants to hear what you have to say!




Bernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah E. Harrison (2015).

Poor Bernice. This birthday party is not going her way. And then it takes her up, up, and away! On the way down, she figures out how sharing with others brings its own happy.




My Red Balloon by Kzuaki Yamada (2014).

After a day spent searching for a balloon, a girl, a bus driver, and animal passengers lose it just as they’ve found it. But then, the sunset! Another red balloon that is there day after day, a constant to count on.




when-the-beat-was-bornYou might also like 15 Creative Lessons on Creativity from Picture Books.






Cátia Chien’s Picture Book Life + giveaway

Today it’s illustrator Cátia Chien‘s picture book life here on This Picture Book Life!

When I think of Cátia Chien’s art, I think of textures: fuzzy, confetti-ed, rich, circled, splattered, splashed.

When I think of her art, I also think of these words: dreamy, vivid, beautiful.

Each page of a picture book Cátia Chien has illustrated is a discovery, each one varied in vibrant color and shape and experimentation and emotion. Stick around to see!





The above PBS video featuring Cátia Chien is extraordinary. I remember the impact it had on me a couple of years ago when it first came out. In it, she is honest about her childhood, her life, her experience as an immigrant and feeling like an outsider. She is honest about her process of being an artist and how making art is an act of empathy for her, and for the children she teaches.

“The feeling of actually belonging, it’s self-created. Arriving at the process of creating something from the inside out, it’s really just a validation of existing. It matters that we add to the conversation so that it’s not just one voice that’s being told in picture books.”

—Cátia Chien

She has art and prints for sale at Gallery Nucleus here in Los Angeles.

Now for her picture books, starting with the newest one, forthcoming The Bear and the Moon (out September 29th from Chronicle Books and our giveaway book) as well as some special process photos of The Bear and the Moon Cátia Chien provided for us!




The Bear and the Moon written by Matthew Burgess (September 29, 2020).

This is a story of surprise. Of companionship. Of loss. And the art is fuzzy, rich, dreamy and beautiful.


(click image(s) to enlarge)

Balloons are magic for children, and red ones have a literary and film history. And it turns out they’re magic for bears, too. This bear who is alone but curious and up for an adventure.


The red balloon the bear finds becomes not only a novel and wonderful mystery, but a friend. The bear shows the balloon all its haunts and habits, the way you’d tour a friend around too. The balloon is not only real, but feels animate. It’s a thing, yes, but a “wonderful thing! A squishable, huggable thing!”

Just look at those shapes and blended, muted pastel colors!


And here, the technicolor blue, the pops of white stars and constellations, the dreaminess of this evening scene as the bear and balloon sit together.

We all know what happens to balloons though. They don’t last forever. Nothing does, really.

The bear makes a mistake. Mistakes, like things not lasting, are something else universal. We all know what that’s like. The regret that follows. The blame. The despair and the wish that it wouldn’t have happened. That we hadn’t done it. That is the hard part.

I won’t give away the details of the ending of this beautiful, tender, reassuring book, but I will tell you that it’s hopeful. Because like anyone who’s made a mistake or experienced loss, the bear finds encouragement. The bear looks to nature. The bear accepts themself.

And like a red balloon and a full moon, the bear’s memories go around and around and around in an enveloping circle of comfort.


All the colors come together here, an emanating rainbow of everything will be okay.



The Town of Turtle written by Michelle Cuevas (2018).

A lonely turtle has a dream and then builds it, builds a whole town, and by doing so builds a whole community. The text of this book couldn’t be more perfectly paired with Cátia Chien’s absolutely fanciful pencil, acrylic, and paper collage illustrations. The turtle’s shell and then town feel like a planet and there are galaxy elements throughout—stars and dark black space and elemental shapes. The book is a dream that mirror’s turtle’s told-of dream.


Things to Do written by Elaine Magliaro (2017).

A compilation of poems that explore things to do according to your perspective and place—a celebration of moments and nature and soaking up every small experience.


The Sea Serpent and Me written by Dashka Slater (2008).

This one is sweet-sweet-sweet and mirrors what it’s like to find, to love, and to, when the time comes, let go.


A Boy and A Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz (2014).

This is the autobiography of Alan Rabinowitz, wildlife conservationist, who found that his ability to speak with animals was his special gift.


My Blue is Happy written by Jessica Young (2013).

An exploration of color and feelings and the way two interplay.


Big thanks to Cátia Chien and to Chronicle Books for images of The Bear and the Moon!




Thanks to Chronicle Kids, I’m giving away a copy of the latest picture book Cátia Chien’s illustrated, The Bear and the Moon, words by Matthew Burgess—out September 29th, 2020!

Simply comment below for a chance to win! (U.S. only; ends Friday, September 4th at midnight Pacific.)








16 picture books with knitting and yarn

Because my middle grade novel, Zinnia and the Bees, features a main character who’s a knitter and yarn bomber, I always notice picture books with knitting and yarn (and have great admiration for knitters and crocheters in real life!). So, since I’ve got yarn on the brain, I thought it would be fun to round up a bunch of great picture books featuring yarn and knitting—perfectly cozy reads for winter and good fits for crafters of all kinds.

Plus, because knitting a gift for someone is often a sign of love and friendship, many of these are perfect for Valentine’s Day too. As you’ll see, knitting is often synonymous in story with showing kindness and the connections characters make.


Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon (2012).

One of the sweetest books ever with a scarf-wearing penguin who finds a pinecone, knits it a scarf, and then finds its new friend’s proper home.


Knit Together by Angela Dominguez (2015).

A story of a mother and daughter, one who knits, one who draws, and how they combine talents in an artistic collaboration that connects them—so sweet!



Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius by Katie Harnett (2016).

I adore all the humans in this book, and the way the community comes together over this neighborhood cat. And I adore Mrs. Murray, who knits, and who shares a kinship with Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius that is meant to be.


Last Stop on Market Street, words by Matt De LA Peña, pictures by Christian Robinson (2015).

This wonderful book’s beating heart is Nana and a bus ride she takes with her grandson. Nana demonstrates generosity to CJ, as well as the ability to see beauty. Also, she spends part of the bus ride with needles and yarn.


Bertolt by Jaques Golstyn (2017).

The way knitting figures into this one at the close is kind of a surprise, so I’ll leave it at that. (Hint: yarn bombing!)



A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards and G. Brian Karas (2016).

A girl who wants to do a kindness for the kindest person (and knitter) she knows. A super sweet story, plus pom poms!



Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (2012)

A knitter-yarn bomber is at the center of this fairy-tale-esque book with a surprise ending. If you like the idea of covering anything and everything with colorful yarn and a bit of magic, you’ll like this book.



Red Knit Cap Girl by Naoko Stoop (2012).

The main character here doesn’t knit, but is known for her signature knit cap as her name. It’s a quiet, meditative quest story of looking to connect with others and the moon.




Edmund Unravels by Andrew Kolb (2015).

This one stars an actual bundle of yarn (and joy) who longs to explore. The only thing is, exploring can mean needing to return home in order to feel whole again.



Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranza and Margaeet Chamberlain (2014).

A creative main character  discovers knitting and eventually completes a fantastic project for the school play. A positive portrayal of being yourself and pursuing your passions.



Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol (2016).

The wildly unexpected story of someone who wants to knit sweaters in peace, and is wiling to go as far away as possible to find it.


Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead (2014).

Sebastian, in a balloon made of quilts and blankets, goes on an adventure to avoid boredom in this story of encounters and twists and turns. And, of course, three knitting sisters!




Cat Knit by Jacob Grant (2016).

Cat is good friends with Yarn, but not so sure about that when Yarn becomes Sweater.


The Story Blanket by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz, illustrated by Elena Odriozola (2008).

A story about story, and kindness—the story blanket is a precious place, but is soon needed for its yarn in order to give warm gifts to the community.


Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always by Tao Nyeu (2012).

A set of four stories about sea creature friends, one of whom—Squid—is a knitter. Complete with socks, mittens, tea, and cake, this one delights! Author-illustrator Tao Nyeu even came up with a knitting pattern to go along with the book!


Three Balls of Wool by Henriqueta Cristina and Yarn Kono (2017).

A family must flee their home country and the new place they live feels bleak and uniform—people wear sweaters in only one of three solid colors. A resourceful mother unravels the sweaters in order to make new sweaters, patterned ones that express joy and individuality, and she starts a kind of revolution come spring. This is “…based on the story of a Portuguese family that fled the dictatorship in the late 1960s and lived in exile in Algeria, Romania, and finally Czechoslovakia.”


Please add any titles I missed to the comments!