Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

Flying high with a yellow balloon

Posted on | June 10, 2011 | 9 Comments



Iris on Books is one of my favourite blogs for reviews of fiction for adults. Iris tends to review classics and forgotten classics, books about and written by women, with a focus that I particularly like on world literature.

For the month of June, Iris (who happens to be Dutch by birth but currently living in Sweden) is hosting a special event focussing on Dutch literature. I’ve been meaning to write about our favourite Dutch books forever and a day but have kept putting it off – I have so many I want to share with you that it’s always seemed like too big a project to undertake. However, inspired by A Month of Dutch Literature, I’m now going to jump in and share the best of translated Dutch children’s picture books with you over the next few weeks.

Of course, this fits in quite well with my Reading Round Europe project for this year. It’s been too long since we last did a little bit of travelling! I’ve definitely got itchy feet and today’s book is the perfect read in these circumstances.

As with many brilliant picture books, the core idea behind The Yellow Balloon by Charlotte Dematons is incredibly simple; A balloon is let go of and it floats around the world. There could hardly be a barer basic storyline to this entirely wordless book. Despite, and perhaps also because of this, Yellow Balloon is a tour de force of both storytelling and illustration, a book your children will spend hours with, a book I’ll wager you’ll pick up after the kids are in bed, to look for secret clues and take part in your own flights of imagination.

What makes this book so brilliant?

  • Its vast scale – the yellow balloon’s journey is truly epic and breathtaking, across continents, over mountains and vast oceans.
  • Its incredible detail – so precise, appealing to many children’s love of miniature worlds, capturing that same sense of amazement you can feel when you look through a microscope and see minutia you hadn’t previously been aware of.
  • Its vibrancy – Dematons uses sumptuous, evocative colours in her illustrations – they feel alive, and it’s almost as if you could smell the markets, cities and bazaars the balloon floats over.
  • Its historical and geographical details that will lead you to pick up other books out of curiosity, because you want to find out more about great animal migrations, aircraft carriers, the Great Wall of China or the sinking of the Titanic. These cameos enable the book to be enjoyed on many levels and by many ages.
  • Its connecting threads – a fakir on a flying carpet and an escaped prisoner frequently, often providing an occasion for a good giggle.
  • Its secrets for lovers of children’s literature – Nils Holgersson, Pippi Longstocking, Red Riding Hood, and other characters from childhood such as Batman and Tarzan and Jane can be found if you pour over the pages long enough!
  • Not entirely unlike the magnificent Anno’s Journey, The Yellow Balloon is a wonderful book which will take you on a tremendous journey, although in its scope and style The Yellow Balloon is more like a fairy tale symphony to Anno’s (beguiling but less romantic) baroque invention.

    To sum up: Let yourself have your breath taken away. Be immersed in 1001 different, amazing, intriguing stories. Treat yourself to this incredibly beautiful, imaginative and inspiring book!


    ****************



    As ever wanting to turn the book into real life we played “hunt the yellow balloon” in our own home.


    We took it in turns to hide the balloon and then the rest of us had to seek it.

    An incredibly simple game but one that kept us playing and laughing all afternoon.

    Whilst hunting our yellow balloon we had on in the background:

  • Yellow Balloon by Celia Evans – which you can hear in full for free here.
  • Yellow Balloon by The Yellow Balloon
  • Hide and go seek with the Moon by Eric Hermann and the Invisible Band
  • And the rather bouncier Elephant Hide and Seek by SteveSongs (which has a brilliant rhyme for Machu Picchu!)

  • Other activities which could be fun alongside reading The Yellow Balloon include:

  • Creating your own hot air balloon like this one on Bloesem Kids (funnily enough a blog written by a Dutch woman, living in Malaysia!)
  • Creating your own miniature worlds, gardens, cities – here are lots of ideas from The Imagination Tree to whet your imagination, and Roots and Wings Co. has a gorgeous fairy garden you’ll want to play with!
  • Trying to tell your own stories – Susan, The Book Chook, has a great list of ideas to help you get going and gain confidence in telling stories without reading them from a book.


  • Don’t forget to visit Iris on Books before you leave the computer today – she’s a great reviewer and I’m sure you’ll find something interesting there, Dutch or otherwise :-)

    Disclosure: The Yellow Balloon was provided to me gratis by the publisher. This review, however, reflects my own and honest opinion.

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    Comments

    9 Responses to “Flying high with a yellow balloon”

    1. ally
      June 10th, 2011 @ 12:51 am

      Hello
      Reading your blog is costing me waaaay too much money – I want to order everything you rave about!!!
      Our post card arrived today – thankyou.
      We love Emily’s books and Richard Scarry’s and I will hunt out the other one for bedtime reading
      xxx

    2. Even in Australia
      June 10th, 2011 @ 2:10 am

      This reminds me of The Umbrella by the Schuberts. I’m not sure if they are Dutch as well. I vaguely remember you discussing their work on another post or in the comments as well…
      Even in Australia recently posted..Right Up My Alley – And Yours

    3. Zoe
      June 10th, 2011 @ 6:44 am

      Sorry, Ally, wish I could give out book tokens with my reviews!

      Even in Australia, funnily enough The Umbrella is published by the same US publisher – Lemniscaat USA – highly recommend them, they’ve got lots of gorgeous books.
      Zoe recently posted..Flying high with a yellow balloon

    4. Susan Stephenson, the Book Chook
      June 10th, 2011 @ 8:23 am

      We are going to Europe next year. It suddenly occurs to me that I am going to have a huge problem with excess baggage or else a large postal bill. The Yellow Balloon is now on my must-have list. PLEASE don’t tell me about any more great books, Zoe!
      Susan Stephenson, the Book Chook recently posted..Visual Literacy – Play with Images at Iaza

    5. Zoe
      June 10th, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

      Maybe, Susan, you could commandeer a hot air balloon to take your books back :-)
      Zoe recently posted..Flying high with a yellow balloon

    6. Ali B
      June 12th, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

      Lovely description of the book! I love picture books that really encourage readers to examine the pictures very closely; the Ahlberg’s Each Peach Pear Plum for example, where you have to find the character from the previous page. Wonderful for new readers.
      Ali B recently posted..Poor kids

    7. Kerri
      June 12th, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

      Sounds like a fabulous book! I enjoyed reading your post and just reserved the book at our library! I also like that you included an activity and music with your book. Thanks so much for sharing the link!

    8. Isil
      June 14th, 2011 @ 2:12 pm

      Looks like a beautiful book! Also thanks for pointing out M.Rosen’s bedtime story on twitter,we really enjoyed them :)
      Isil recently posted..Reading Nook Wall Art

    9. An Overview of Posts for Dutch Literature Month (1) | Iris on Books
      June 16th, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

      [...] from Playing by the Book writes about the children’s book “Flying High with a Yellow Balloon” by Charlotte Dematons. A book I hadn’t heard about before, but that looks like a lot [...]

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