Mathilda and the Orange Balloon

Mathilda and the Orange Balloonby Randall de Sève, illustrated by Jen Corace

(published 2010, by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins)

(You might remember one of my other Jen Corace faves, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, over at Design Mom!)

Oh, Mathilda. You are a determined sheep. A sweet sheep. A sheep with a story.Mathilda and the Orange BalloonMathilda and the Orange BalloonMathilda and the Orange BalloonMathilda and the Orange BalloonSee, in Mathilda’s world, everything is small. And green. And gray. A fluffy sea of same. Which is only a shame for a page or two, because then . . . an orange balloon.Mathilda and the Orange BalloonIt’s just the thing to buoy the heart of a sheep weary of the same. She calls it magnificent, and something inside her wakes up. I love that, don’t you? The hope of a floating balloon, and the hint that the world is bigger and more colorful than you know.

While this magnificent thing sparks a joy in Mathilda, the other sheep are unimpressed. Heads down, mouths chomping on clumps of clover, they are uninterested. Blind to the magic. Especially when Mathilda says she is an orange balloon. When you’re blind to the magic, that friend filled with joy is just a gray sheep. And will always be a gray sheep.Mathilda and the Orange BalloonMathilda and the Orange BalloonMathilda and the Orange BalloonBut when you are Mathilda, you are round and warm. You fly. You are fierce and big, and you are happy. Of course, because you are an orange balloon. You are.

I adore this story. I love that it’s utterly ridiculous but full of hope. I’d like to give Mathilda a fist bump and say, “you go, girl.” And I’d like to be an orange balloon, too.

So the color here is masterful. Its contrast to the herd of gray sheep is a delight. It’s also restrained, and that’s why it soars. Mathilda and the Orange BalloonLast week I woke up in the middle of the night for the ALA Youth Media Awards. What a celebration of art and story, and man, aren’t our readers the real winners? Thinking about the Caldecott awards, this struck me:Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 1.48.25 PM(Come on, that Mr. Wuffles bit about nine-tenths is funny, right? Still searching for validation on that one.)

(Also, here’s where I’ll put a little I-told-you-so about Flora and the Flamingo‘s win. Remember this post from July?! I told Molly Idle that I immediately felt guilty for publishing those words so early in the year, so what a relief that I didn’t actually jinx the process.

I know. That’s not how it works. Still.)

So.

Mathilda and the Orange Balloon is a stunning example of the balance between words and pictures. Type out Randall de Sève‘s words. Her text doesn’t dictate how Mathilda became the orange balloon. It didn’t have to. The pictures solve that puzzle. The pictures jump into the playground of your imagination and fill in the gaps. Her words are beautiful, but spare, and leave breathing room for the illustrations. This form is visual. Isn’t that the best part? Breathtaking mini-museums, and a rich storytelling experience. We have to leave them room, writers!

Enjoy this one. And check out this Mathilda birthday party! How fun!

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23 thoughts on “Mathilda and the Orange Balloon

  1. I am already a huge fan of Randall de Seve. Toy Boat is one of my favorite books. Will look for Mathilda at the library. Great review!

  2. This looks like a cute find! I love sheep(from reading James Herriot as a kid). Also, how cool is it that the bday party was thrown by Dianne Peterfruend! I recently finished her for Darkness Shows the Stars YA novel. It was really good.

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