Emily’s Balloon

posted in: Komoko Sakai | 2

emilysballoonFriends are fun to play with. Friends keep you company. Friends comfort you. All this Emily knows.

She also knows a simple balloon can be your friend.

Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai is the gentlest of observations about how nothing more than a plain balloon and a little bit of imagination can be the cause great happiness.

Emily receives a balloon and takes it home to play with. Soon she’s sharing everything with her balloon and takes it outside to play house with. One gust of wind, however, and it is stuck in a nearby tree. What will Emily do now? What will console her?

The innocence and lucidity of this story gives it charm that is utterly captivating. It celebrates a sense of wonder that we sometimes lose as we grow older, but which we’re only too happy to be reminded of. Emily’s natural openness, her ability to imagine and indeed truly see her balloon as a friend – to show such a easy leap of faith – will warm all but the coldest of hearts.

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Sakai’s illustrations have a quiet magic about them, capturing Emily’s body language like poetry; in a way that seems so right, so simple and yet still startling in its accuracy. Minimal use of colour and lots of wide open white space create a sense of meditative timelessness. All in all a peaceful, lyrical picture book with the hallmarks of a classic.

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Not all playing by the book needs to be complicated. Recently all we did to celebrate a book was eat some cheesecake. (Tough life!). This time, all that was needed was a yellow helium filled balloon to play with after school.

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We batted it about, we took it outside, we played “chicken” letting it float away and then catching it before it flew out of grasp!

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We tied a spoon to the string and found the “balance point” – using blutack we added and removed tiny weights until the balloon with the spoon floated mysteriously in mid-air, neither touching the ground, nor flying up to the ceiling.

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This turned into a science lesson the next day when we saw how how the helium appeared to become less effective at lifting the balloon (this is actually due to helium leaking out of the balloon, through the relatively porous latex) and we had to reduce the weight of the spoon to re-find the balance point.

Whilst playing with our balloon we listened to:

  • It Only Takes One Night to Make a Balloon Your Friend by Lunch Money (this really is a GORGEOUS song)
  • Balloons by Skyboat
  • Can We Buy a New Car (So I Can Have a Balloon)? by Eric Herman. ‘Coz I’m a sucker for a bit of steel guitar.


  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading Emily’s Balloon include:

  • Reading Sakai’s Hannah’s Night – my very favourite book in any genre from 2013.
  • Making a hat for your balloon (as Emily does) – this is a really easy tutorial using an old pair of leggings, from This Simple Home.
  • Creating a flower garland (like Emily does) to wear in your hair. If you haven’t fresh flowers, try this tutorial using a paper bag from Happy Hooligans.


  • If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:

  • A review of a wordless picture book, The Yellow Balloon by Charlotte Dematons
  • Learning how to stick a knitting needle through a balloon without it popping!
  • One of my all time favourite Playing by the book activities, inspired by Up with Birds! by John Yeoman and Quentin Blake
  • balloons

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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher. Whilst this book has been translated from Japanese, there is no information available regarding the translator.

    Emily’s Balloon
    Komako Sakai
    Chronicle Books
    £5.99 • Paperback •

    2 Responses

    1. Oh, I had forgotten about this book! We bought a copy several years ago for a little friend of ours called Emily, it’s a really lovely book. Thank you for reminding me about it.
      Katherine recently posted..A move

    2. This looks like a lovely story. Added to our library requests, thanks Zoe!
      Caroline@learningparade recently posted..Funnybones Skeleton Craft For Kids

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