The Red Balloon was actually first a film, released in 1956 and the author, A Lamorisse is a French film director. He wrote the screenplay and directed the film, which won many awards, including Best Writing and Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards in 1957. The book was released with stills from the film as its illustrations. It has been translated into English and it is a rare case of the film actually being better than the book, but if reviewing the book, which is still completely lovely, gets you to at least know the story and maybe even seek out the film, then my job is done!
The Red Balloon is set on the streets of Paris and begins with the lead character, Pascal, spying a beautiful red balloon, tied on a street lamp. He climbs up and retrieves the balloon, which he then takes everywhere with him. The balloon turns out to be a little magical and a little cheeky and Pascal finds himself in a bit of trouble as he tries to hang on to his new friend.
Why I love it:
The Red Balloon is an absolutely beautiful story of friendship and loss. There is something incredibly appealing about Pascal and his innocence and the story takes you on a bit of a rollercoaster ride of emotions. My Mum read me this book when I was little and I don’t think I’ve ever read it (or watched the film) without crying. My daughter now feels the exact same connection to it as I do and it’s simply one of those timeless stories in which everyone can find something special.
Themes to discuss with your child:
There are many themes throughout The Red Balloon. Some of the more prominent ones for me are:
- Loneliness and being an outsider
- How it feels to be a child in a grown-up world
- What is fair and just?
- Magic and wonder
- Sadness and hurt
Questions to ask your child:
- What do you think this book might be about?
- Do you think this is a fiction book (a story) or a non-fiction book (facts)?
- Have a quick look through the photographs in the book; when do you think the book was written? What makes you think this?
- What would be a good name for the boy on the cover?
- What do you think he is doing?
- What do you think he is feeling?
- Where and when do you think the story is set?
- List three different feelings you had throughout the story.
- How did you feel when the boys burst Pascal’s balloon?
- Why do you think the balloon meant so much to Pascal?
- Do you think Pascal was generally a happy boy or a sad boy? What makes you think this?
- How did the adults in the story treat Pascal?
- If you saw a group of children chasing someone and being mean the way the boys were to Pascal, what would you do?
- How did you feel at the end of the story?
- What do you think will happen now as Pascal goes on his trip around the world?
- What would be a good name for a sequel (a book telling the story that happens next)?
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