The Remember Balloons
Author: Jessie Oliveros; Illustrator: Dana Wulfekotte
Published: August 28, 2018 by Simon & Schuster
Goodreads Summary: 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.
My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is beautifully conceived. James’ grandpa has colored balloons that represent his favorite memories. Some of these memories begin to slip away, and James cannot catch them as they fly into the sky. Soon, his grandpa starts forgetting who James is, too. I read this in my son’s new school’s library and had to work very hard not to hold back tears. It is a stunning story, and I think it will resonate with both adults and children. This book allows for rich discussions of senility and Alzheimer’s Disease.
As I read this with my son, I was compelled to have him draw his own balloons to represent his favorite memories. While he drew his balloons, I drew a balloon of a shared memory at the same time. Teachers might have students cut balloons out of colored paper and ask students to create a giant bulletin board filled with their memories together.
This is a great text to teach the concept of the extended metaphor.
Discussion Questions: How does James feel when his grandpa starts to lose his balloons?; What memories would make up your own balloons?; What is a metaphor? How are the balloons a metaphor?
Read This If You Loved: What a Beautiful Morning by Arthur A. Levine; Forget Me Not by Nancy Van Laan; The Memory Box by Mary Bahr, Still My Grandma by Veronique Van Den Abeele, Really and Truly by Emilie Rivard, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, written by Mem Fox, What’s Happening to Grandpa? by Maria Shriver
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