Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Penelope's Balloons by Brooke Bourgeoise

I smiled when I saw the title and cover of today's read. The elephant reminded me a bit of the very popular Babar series...and don't even get me started on red balloons (yep, Nena's song is now running through my head.) So, I'm hoping this one will be a lovely read...and my expectations are high because of the above reasons. Is that fair? Nope. Not at all. But readers hit books with all sorts of reasons and thoughts, and I'm hoping this read lives up to mine, too.

Let's see if this books is as cute and warming as I hope it is!

by Brooke Bourgeoise
Union Square & Co.
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 6

From a dynamic debut creator, here is a charming and endearing picture book about an elephant’s quest for acceptance—destined to become a modern classic.
Penelope loves her ten red balloons. She spends every moment with them, taking them with her everywhere she goes—school, ballet class, and the market. But when she loses all her balloons, Penelope is devastated. With a gentle nod to perennial classics in its art style, Penelope’s Balloons is a celebration of differences, embracing your identity, and, especially, friendship.

​Debut author-illustrator Brooke Bourgeois beautifully explores childhood passions, identity, and anxiety in this timeless story about the power of friends, family, and community.

Penelope's Balloons is an imaginative elephant book that promotes themes of identity, community, and emotional growth. Perfect for anyone in search of anxiety books for kids, as well as parents and educators looking for read aloud kids books ages 4-6 that spark discussion around managing worries, embracing differences, and the power of friendship.

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The joy of red balloons follows a sweet elephant through a lesson of treasures and friendship.

Penelope adores her ten, red balloons and takes them everywhere she goes...and I mean everywhere. Never willing to part with a single one, she even takes them to school. There, she must be very careful not to let her friends with spikes, horns, or sharp teeth come too close or the balloons might pop. But all of her careful maneuvering fails as a sudden storm hits while she's walking home, and the balloons float away. Except for one, and she'll do anything to protect what is left.

The red balloons draw focus to the story, and it's easy to understand why Penelope is excited by them. After all, there is something magical about balloons. Penelope's sweet, seemingly carefree personality comes across clearly right away, making her a character, who would be fun to play with and meet. This offers a wonderful foundation before her extreme caution sets in. While readers will clearly see what's happening and know there's a problem, Penelope is still sweet enough to wish that everything turns out well for her. There's a lot of character arc as she learns an important lesson about material fixations versus friendship, and it flows nicely with the tale.

The story grabs with various emotions as it dances through fun moments, growing problems, tenser situations, sadness, and happy realization. These are strengthened through the well-done illustrations, which make the characters and world come to life. The illustrator places the bright red balloons against earthier tones during most of the read, allowing them to stand out in accordance to Penelope's fixation. At the end, when she realizes what her true treasure is, the red dims down to match the rest of the world. It's clever and subtle.

I do hope to see more of Penelope and her friends, since this is a lovely introduction to a world with many possible adventures to come.

And here she is...

Brooke Bourgeois is a cartoonist, writer, and illustrator originally from New 
Orleans, Louisiana. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker and Private Eye, amongst other publications. Penelope's Balloons is Brooke's debut author-illustrator picture book. She invites you to visit her online at

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