Sunday, July 4, 2010
A Canadian Classic: The Balloon Tree
The Balloon Tree, written and illustrated by the late Phoebe Gilman (Scholastic Canada Ltd, September, 2004), is such a quintessential piece of children's literature that excerpts from the story have appeared in elementary-level achievement tests. We first read this book to our eldest daughter when she was not quite two. Even though the story is quite a lengthy one it held our daughter's interest and became such a favourite that she would recite one of its verses over and over. "Moon balloon, moon balloon, tickle the tree, four balloons, more balloons, blossom for me." Pretty cute coming from someone who couldn't pronounce her 'l's.
This is the story of a princess and how she saves the kingdom from the wrath of her selfish uncle. Before her father, the king, leaves on a trip he tells his daughter she may signal him, if she needs his help, by sending a balloon up into the sky. The girl's evil uncle discovers the plan and in order to overtake the kingdom he destroys every last balloon. Or so he thinks...
While Gilman has written the story based on a fairy tale land where balloons grow on trees she has injected many modern elements into the story. It teaches a good lesson to young female readers: that girls are strong and capable of achieving any goal. Very different from traditional fairy tales where boys tend to be strong and girls are the weak who need saving. Gilman has also taken a modern approach in her illustrations and one I particularly like is that of the king sporting 'dad glasses.' Did I just say, "modern"? Well 'dad glasses' were stylin when the book was originally published.