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Published by: Trigger Publishing, October 2020
After my three kids all loved Superheroes Don't Get Scared by Kate Thompson and Clare Elsom, which was also published by Trigger Publishing, we were absolutely delighted to be asked to review Arthur Wants a Balloon. As with all Trigger Publishing books, this is a picture book which aims to open up discussions about mental health and well being- in this case, a parent with depression.
Arthur Wants a Balloon more than anything but his gloomy dad just walks on by. As days pass by, Arthur wonders what is the matter and, more importantly, whether he can make his dad smile again, even for a moment.
This is a beautifully written, beautifully illustrated picture book that will encourage children to develop their understanding and empathy towards the feelings of others. With Arthur's mum in hospital and his dad being unable to smile, this young lad has a lot to contend with. For Arthur, having a colourful balloon to brighten his day is his main focus. However, as the story progresses he realises that his dad needs a balloon more than he does and, through compassion and kindness, Arthur realises what he truly wants.
There are some wonderful analogies and techniques used in this book to help young readers tackle the abstract concept of feelings. For example, Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia effectively incorporates the weather to mirror both Arthur and his dad's feelings. As the characters' emotions darken, so do the elements. But all is certainly not lost, for where there is hope there is always...a rainbow.
Myself and my son also loved the effectiveness of the illustrations. My son was instantly drawn to the fact that only the balloons and Arthur's wellies are presented in full colour until the end, making them them stand out all the way through. The mood and atmosphere of the story is greatly enhanced by the fact that everything else is illustrated in a drab tone, which of course symbolises the depression. The simplicity of these balloons represent so much to Arthur in the story; hope and light and love amid a dark world.
Arthur Wants a Balloon does not offer a solution for parental depression- because of course there are no easy answers. What is does show, through the balloons, however is that small acts of kindness can go a long way. Arthur wants a balloon and then gives the whole bunch away! Why? Because throughout the book he has grown in understanding and empathy and has found a pathway forward. Hopefully, thanks to his poignant, heartfelt story, young readers facing similar challenges will relate enough to find their own pathway forward and be able to open up and discuss their own feelings and others.
Arthur Wants a Balloon is available to order from Trigger Publishing and other major retailers. A big thank you to Trigger Publishing for giving us the chance to review.