The Wishing Balloons

Holt. May 2022. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250317377.
Gr 1-5–Just as this painterly illustrative style demands that readers squint, pay attention, look close, and peer at the pages to see better, Dot has to think about friendship in new ways when a new boy, Albert, moves in next door. He does not want to be friends, it seems, although he does want things. He sends up balloons with wishes: to fly away, to get a dog, and most importantly, to have his dad back. Dot, in her own fashion, grants the first two wishes, and Albert softens slightly. But that third one? Dot has to sit still and summon up all she knows about her own father, and how terrible she’d feel if he were not with her, to know that there is no answer for Albert’s wish. And so she just goes to sit with him in his pain. Voss has taken a lesson most adults never learn and bitten off child-sized pieces, laid down in brushstrokes that will have onlookers scouring the pages for details. Dot is loving and questioning, but her thoughtfulness never outweighs her years. This book could be the basis for a week of story hours, for talks about loss, friendship, neighbors, compassion, and more.
VERDICT Ideal for the SEL shelves, but masterful in capturing the melancholy children take on and cannot give voice to. Recommended.

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