Friday, June 14, 2013

PPBF: The Purple Balloon

TitleThe Purple Balloon
Author/Illustrator: Chris Raschka
Publisher/Date: Schwartz & Wade Books/2007
Genre/Audience: Fiction/All ages
Themes: death & dying, including child; community; support

"No one likes to talk about dying. It's hard work."

Synopsis: (From Publishers Weekly)

"Raschka (The Hello, Goodbye Window) broaches the topic of death in this solemn book, crafted for terminally ill and/or grieving children. Filmy balloons, potato-printed in muted watercolor on beige backgrounds, drift over the cover and endpapers; balloon heads, with facial features limned in dots of ink and string-lines for bodies, take on the roles of families, friends and professionals. The fragile but buoyant balloon image comes from art therapy, as an author's note explains: "When a child becomes aware of his or her pending death and is given the opportunity to 'draw your feelings,' he or she will often draw a blue or purple balloon, released and floating free." Raschka eases into his distressing subject by first depicting an old person's lined face, on a green balloon, and a child's face on a red balloon. When the elderly person dies, the green tint changes to lavender, the face becomes peaceful and the balloon's string curves and lifts to shape two open arms or angel wings. The predictable death sets up the second act: "There is only one thing/ harder to talk about than/ an old person dying—/ a young person dying." Concerned friends, therapists, doctors and relatives cluster around to support the sinking red-balloon child, whose eyes grow heavy. "Good help makes leaving easier," the text asserts, as the child's gently smiling face looks out from an ascendant lavender balloon. Without going into specifics, Raschka acknowledges pain and fear, and provides a "What You Can Do to Help" list. This evocative, nondenominational book strives to comfort those at hospices and hospitals."

Why I Love This Book
I have to admit, I had no idea what I was grabbing when I pulled this from the shelf and tucked it into my library bag. I am glad I read it before my kids. It is a beautiful, haunting, and incredibly simple depiction of death; first of an elderly person, then of a child. In straight-forward text and soft illustrations, Raschka emphasizes the importance of family, friends, and support. This book can be used as a springboard for discussing one of the most difficult subjects to talk about with children.

The final page of the book offers a "What You Can Do To Help" list for children who have sick friends.

Art therapy can be an outlet for all feelings. Draw your feelings when you are angry, sad, cheerful, grumpy, etc.

Children's Hospice International Resources

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.


  1. wow! this sounds like a book any parent might need to help a child understand ... and books are a great springboard to talking. Thanks for sharing this one.

  2. I'm glad you accidentally grabbed this book! Excellent choice for teaching kids through art about death. The idea of balloons is brilliant. Must see this one! Art therapy is a great way to help children share their feelings.

  3. Yes, this is a difficult topic, but well done according to the review. How fascinating that dying children picture themselves as a purple balloon ascending to Heaven. I've never read a book written for the dying child himself. Much needed in today's world.
    Thanks for sharing it. . . And have a good summer!


  4. I LOVE Chris Raschka's work (all but one rather disturbing book), and would look for this anyway, but your review has me excited to find this one - thanks!

  5. Wow, that sounds a wonderful book for those grieving. Very well researched too with all that colour therapy. Thanks for sharing.