4 out of 4 stars
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James and the Birthday Balloon by Nicola J Rowley is a story about two young friends, James and Ruby. Ruby is having a birthday party, and James can’t wait to go celebrate and make his friend smile. For her birthday, Ruby gets a surprise birthday entertainer – a balloon artist! Both James and Ruby are given special, uniquely colored balloons. Unfortunately, Ruby loses her balloon and gets hurt trying to chase the big red balloon before the wind takes it and it floats out of reach. How will James manage to make Ruby feel better on her special day now that she lost her balloon and is also in pain?
The message in James and the Birthday Balloon is simple, yet important. Friendship, sharing, kindness and empathy are all well-developed themes in this picture book. Moreover, these themes are exuded by the main character, James, in a way that will easily resonate with young readers without the feeling that they are being spoon-fed an intended message. Lastly, the author smartly chose to center this story around a birthday party; typically, birthday parties are a relatable and easy to understand event for children to read about.
The illustrations in James and the Birthday Balloon are bright and colorful. Further, there is balance between cartoonish and realistic characteristics in each image, making the illustrations appealing yet also interesting for various ages. Each picture contains a good amount of detail to keep readers entertained and curious. Additionally, the children are depicted with realistic and understandable expressions. Even without the ability to read the words, children could easily understand the basic story simply by analyzing the illustrations and facial expressions of the characters on each page.
The language used throughout this story is simplistic, and the narrative is structured in short, manageable sentences. As early readers develop their skills, this is a book they could read on their own with little help needed from an adult. Further, the illustrations strongly correlate with the wording on the page, so readers may be able to infer more difficult wording with a quick examination of the corresponding illustration. There was only one instance where the language used may be confusing; this occurs when the ‘A&E’ is referred to. ‘A&E’ may not be commonplace for all readers; this should be spelled out as ‘Accident and Emergency’ to ensure all readers understand the abbreviation.
James and the Birthday Balloon checks many of the boxes of a successful picture book. The language is appropriate, the narrative is simplistic, the themes are important, and the illustrations are not only attractive but also aid in the development of the story. With only one minor criticism, I must rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. This book is most appropriate for early readers aged 2-5. Although this book could be fun for all, the content may be too juvenile for older readers to enjoy.
James and the Birthday Balloon
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