Monday, September 16, 2019

Review - The Remember Balloons

The Remember Balloons
by Jessie Oliveros
illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
Date: 2018
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 48
Format: e-book
Source: library

What’s Happening to Grandpa meets Up in this tender, sensitive picture book that gently explains the memory loss associated with aging and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.

But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!

Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Well, there's a depressing picture book. Don't get me wrong: it's pretty good. It's just so sad.

Despite what the synopsis says, this isn't a book about simply getting a little forgetful as you age. Grandpa has full-blown, rip-roaring Alzheimer's, to the point where he loses all of his memories. The point at which he loses the silver balloon--representing a shared experience with his grandson--is gut-wrenching. However, there's a little bit of hope at the end, and about as much of a happy-ever-after as a story like this is going to get.

I really like the metaphor that's used here. Balloons represent memories. It's not explicitly stated, but as the boy explains that he has more than his baby brother, and his parents have more than him, and his grandfather has more than all of them combined... well, it's easy to see what the balloons represent. (It gets even easier when the boy explains what's in those balloons.) The fact that even the dog has a balloon made me smile (and wonder what that one precious memory is all about... although I'm guessing it probably has something to do with food). As Grandpa's Alzheimer's takes hold, he starts to lose his balloons. The boy tries to chase them, but because they're not his, he can't really catch them. He has to just watch them float away. Eventually, though, because Grandpa told him the stories of what was in those balloons, the boy ends up with a few new ones in his own bunch... which he can then share with his grandfather.

The illustrations are simple, but effective. Pretty much everything is black and white, except for the balloons and the scenes depicted inside them. It really helps highlight what the reader is supposed to focus on.

Overall, this is a sad book, but it's a nice metaphor about memories and it could help children who are trying to understand what's happening to a family member who might be suffering from Alzheimer's.

Quotable moment:

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3.67 out of 5 ladybugs

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