Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Penelope's Balloons by Brooke Bourgeois

Penelope, a plump gray elephant, always takes ten red balloons with her everywhere she goes. But balloons are fragile and she has to be very careful that none of her friends, from a porcupine to an alligator - pop her precious balloons. When Penelope gets caught in a storm, the fierce wind forces her to let her balloons go and she is devastated. Her best friend Piper, a little porcupine, arrives to comfort her and help her home, but nothing can cheer Penelope up. Even when she arrives home and finds one surviving red balloon, she doesn't stop to talk to her family or thank Piper - she races to her room to protect the precious balloon.

But balloons are fragile and the more she tries to protect the remaining balloon, the more pressure she puts on it until... POP! Penelope is in despair until the other nine balloons return... found by her friends and she realizes that her friends are more important than her balloons. Bourgeois' art is a mix of gray and brown earth tones with a wash of pink and the balloons are bright pops of color against the background.

This story didn't quite work for me - there "moral" felt forced and the whole premise of Penelope and her balloons was odd. There's also a jarring moment where Penelope is described as "perceptible" which is a very odd word choice. I feel that if this book had been produced by a European writer, it could have stood alone just as a quirky story without needing to push it into having a "lesson." As it is, it gives the idea that you are physically close to friends you truly treasure and have to participate with friends, even if you prefer to stand quietly by and watch.

Verdict: This isn't a bad story, but it would have worked better if it had been left alone to stand as just an odd little story without a moral. It might be of interest to parents trying to refocus kids who are more interested in things than people. An additional purchase.

ISBN: 9781454951827; Published April 2024 by Union Square; Review copy provided by publisher

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