Sebastian and the Balloon

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Sebastian and the Balloon Book Poster Image
Gentle adventure about going wherever the wind takes you.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows tools and tasks needed for mending and repairing, but doesn't show details.

Positive Messages

If you're bored, you can do something about it with what you have around you -- no fancy equipment needed. If you let yourself go wherever the wind takes you, you'll have all kinds of adventures and meet interesting people. You can make things better by working together. You might have to work hard to be able to do something fun, but it's worth it.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sebastian is first seen sitting on the roof of his house, even though he knows he's not supposed to. He takes action when he gets bored, is very hospitable toward those he meets on his adventure, and works together with others to repair the roller coaster. The real bear, the three sisters, and the very large bird are helpful companions.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sebastian and the Balloon is a gentle, quiet bedtime story from Philip C. Stead, the Caldecott Medal-winning author of A Sick Day for Amos McGeeIt's an adventure about going wherever the wind may take you, but Stead's earth-tone illustrations and simple, gentle narration keep it low-key. We first see Sebastian sitting on the roof of his house, even though he knows he's not supposed to. Otherwise, he's a good role model for taking matters into your own hands, being open to new people and experiences, and working hard so you can do something fun.

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What's the story?

Sebastian surveys his neighborhood and sees nothing going on. So he decides to build a balloon, packs everything he needs, and sets off into the wind. Unexpected landings introduce him to a real bear, a very large bird, and three sisters who tell him about the best roller coaster he'll ever see. When the party gets to the roller coaster, they find it falling apart and overrun by pigeons. If they want to ride the roller coaster, they'd better get to work.

Is it any good?

This is a low-key, charming adventure; the simple, gentle narration and muted earth tones set the right mood for bedtime. The mixed-media illustrations have a rough style that harks back to the '70s and conveys motion and brightness mainly through contrast. And, as with Philip C. Stead's other work, there's a sweet melancholy in his illustrations that softens the mood, nicely accompanied by the understated, conversational text. The supporting characters -- a real bear, a very large bird, and three sisters -- add charm and quiet humor.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about not knowing where you're going. Would you set out on a journey if you didn't know where you'd end up? Why does Sebastian do it?

  • Do you like the pictures in Sebastian and the Balloon? Which one's your favorite, and why do you like it? How do the pictures help tell the story?

  • If you had a cardboard box and some old blankets, what would you make them into: a balloon, the way Sebastian does, or something else?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love picture books and animal stories

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