Un amour de ballon/Emily’s Balloon – Komako Sakai

I bought this book in France, because I couldn’t help myself.  There were all these little French children’s books, just sitting there begging to be given a new home (in North America), with their sweet covers and – at one sentence a page – extreme readability.  I picked up Un amour de ballon, flipped through the story, and was hooked.  It practically bought itself.  I found out just recently (i.e., 30 seconds ago) that Sakai is also the author of The Snow Day, a book that I recognized almost immediately and that, apparently, was one of Time Magazine’s “top ten children’s books of 2009“.  So, apparently, I’m not so much a huge sucker, but am more of a (ahem) rather discerning shopper.

Un amour de ballon is a story about Akiko, whose mother (bless her!) buys Akiko a yellow helium balloon.  After a few of the usual helium balloon problems (balloon comes untied from wrist/finger; balloon is out of reach; parent must rescue balloon; parent ties balloon to heavy object) Akiko spends the day playing with the balloon, and I do mean “with”.  The balloon is a playmate more than a plaything.  They go outside to play, have a little tea party, and are (well, Akiko is) planning to have supper, wash up, and go to sleep together when – disaster! – the balloon is blown into a tree.  Thankfully, Akiko has an understanding and patient mother who convinces Akiko to stop bawling and whining crying, and Akiko manages to go to sleep without too much more fuss.

I like this book because it’s real.  Any kid with a balloon knows exactly what Akiko is going through, and any parent who has (unwisely) given their child a helium balloon knows what the mother is going through.  I also like that the book is available in French.  It is so easy for a person with even rudimentary French to read and to explain this little book to a non-francophone child, because Sakai’s simple and colourful illustrations say it all.

And for those who need a cheat sheet…Un amour de ballon is also available in English translation as Emily’s Balloon.

Reading Ages: Pre-school.

Favourite Moment: When Akiko is crying at the table because she had promised Balloon that they would eat together, and now they. are. not.  So sad!

Rating: A-.  A very nice book and a welcome addition to my library.  Not, however, a “must-have”.


2 thoughts on “Un amour de ballon/Emily’s Balloon – Komako Sakai

  1. Now WHY would they change the obviously-Japanese girl’s name to “Emily”? Is “Akiko” too hard for English audiences?

  2. I have no idea. I mean, it’s not any harder to say in English than it is in French…

    Can you believe that I didn’t even notice the change? I’m such a nut.

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