The Big Wet Balloon

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
The Big Wet Balloon Book Poster Image
Gentle cartoon vignettes tell cozy sister story.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Could spur discussion about siblings and how they can help each other. Also could spur discussion about what kids learn as they grow older, and there's some very elementary science information about the rain: that it brings worms and rainbows.

Positive Messages

Sisters can enjoy each other. Older siblings can help younger ones. Playing in the rain can be fun.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The older sister clearly loves her little sister and wants to spend time with her. She patiently shows her how to do things and models the language she needs to understand and navigate the world.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Big Wet Balloon is a sweet and tender sister story by Argentine cartoonist Liniers. Based on his popular Spanish-language comic Macanudo, it translates snugly to a picture book/easy reader. The art is appealing ink-and-watercolor vignettes, with multiple pictures per page as in a comic. Some pages are charmingly spotted, as if by the rain in the story. There's also a bilingual (Spanish/English) edition. Because The Big Wet Balloon is so gentle, it makes an excellent wind-down book before bed. It also nicely models how older siblings can help younger ones.

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What's the story?

Older sister Matilda wants little sister Clemmie to come out and play with her on a happily unstructured Saturday, but the weather isn't cooperating. It's pouring outside, so Clemmie hangs back. When Matilda outfits her sister in rain gear and shows her how to stomp through puddles, Clemmie gets the hang of rainy-day fun. The fun ends abruptly when Matilda decides to release their balloon into the sky, but then she thoughtfully hangs a bunch of colorful new balloons on Clemmie's crib.

Is it any good?

The sisters' relationship in THE BIG WET BALLOON is touchingly and realistically drawn. Clemmie is convincingly young; she doesn't have the language skills to distinguish "boots" from "balloon" and has no clue how to open an umbrella. However, Matilda clearly enjoys modeling the language Clemmie needs to understand what's going on and also actively shows her how to do things. The characters have a close and loving sibling relationship. While siblings may not feel so loving every minute of the day, this book celebrates their bond.

The Big Wet Balloon is a class act. Toon Books, dedicated to publishing comics-style books for easy reading levels, is headed by Françoise Mouly, art editor of The New Yorker, so the level of art and artistry is high.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about siblings and their relationships. Do the sisters in The Big Wet Balloon remind you of your family? Do you like to help your siblings? How? Do you always feel as loving and helpful as the big sister in the story?

  • Why are stories about families so popular in kids' books? What's fun about having a brother or a sister? What's hard? 

  • There's lots of talk in The Big Wet Balloon about rain. Have you ever seen a rainbow? What can you do in the rain?

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