Children's Books of the Week: Balloons and Bananas

You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Museum of Fine Arts by Jacqueline Preiss Wiseman and Robin Preiss Glasser

Once Upon a Banana by Jennifer Armstrong, illustrated by David Small

Two books today! Both are wordless books with a lot to look at, and both start with one small incident that causes much zany action and excitement as the book progresses. Both books have maps that give an overview of where all the book’s action is going (and I don’t know about your kids, but the boys love books with maps, like Hundred Acre Wood and what have you). Both book’s stories start on the book cover, continue on to the title page, and then into the book itself. Both books also have motorcycles fairly early on, and I’m not sure how much of a similarity that is really, since motorcycles are very action-packed, and you don’t need words to say so, so motorcycles are a logical choice for books like these.

Once Upon A Banana is also remarkable for the fact that (through street signs and building names) it manages to be a wordless book that rhymes. Which is great because the hundredth time you find yourself “reading” a wordless book (hello! there aren’t any words! which means you can read it yourself, honey!) you can in fact read this one, and very zippily at that. The boys like the madcap antics in this one, which might be horrifying in another realm (a baby flying out of its carriage and sailing through the air) but are really completely joyous here (the baby is having a great time).

You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the Museum of Fine Arts is nice because it is also educational. While a grandmother and her granddaughter’s flyaway balloon traipse around Boston’s Freedom Trail, grandpa and grandkids check out the Museum of Fine Arts, and reproductions of some of the works are included. The art mirrors the action that’s happening with the balloon (some college students napping in Boston Common, and a painting called “Noonday Rest”). There is a ton to see here (including many famous Boston historic figures, which are listed in the back) (the artwork is listed also), and it’s nicely done in that most of the drawings are black and white, but the people involved in the action are in color (as are the art reproductions); this specific point is something that Henry mentioned as one of the reasons he likes the book. I see there are also “you can’t take a balloon” books about The Met and The National Gallery, but this is the one Henry found at the library, and it works for us since we’re closest to Boston and we always go for the New England angle whenever and wherever we can.

These are both great books for looking closer and closer. Both are the kind of books where I’ll find both boys quietly hunched over them lying on the living room rug seeing what else they can see. You’ll love them!

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