This is a visually attractive but slightly strange book by Tim Hopgood.
A small boy delights in his huge yellow balloon, which appears unpoppable despite floating past aerials and hollybushes. However, the balloon is on a mission and continues to fly all the way up into space (still not popping). The boy is very sad without his balloon, but then a small green spaceman brings it all the way back down to earth. The balloon then pops, apparently spilling planets and stars all over the place.
The text is simple and straightforward and quite fun to read. Our 17 month old test reader loves trying to say ‘unpoppable’ and enjoys patting the balloon shouting ‘Ball-OON! Ball-OON!’ repeatedly. It gets smaller on every page and it’s quite fun trying to spot it. The illustrations are bright and exciting as well, in an unusual style.
As an adult reader however, it doesn’t really make sense. The beginning is well-thought-out, as the balloon heads off into the sky, but how or why a spaceman would return the balloon is not really explained. Furthermore when he brings it down he announces ‘This is no ordinary unpoppable. Get ready for something spectacular.’ On the next page there is a large bursting balloon and the word POP! Planets and stars are all over the place. The children love this – a big pop is something very exciting for the under-fours. But it isn’t really clear what’s going on. Have all the planets spilled out of the balloon? Is this a replica of the Big Bang? How can they be standing on Earth if there’s a picture of Earth on the page? And there the book ends, leaving most adults rather confused, to be honest.
I can’t deny that the children love this book and it has proved extremely popular. But something about it feels unsatisfying, and I think it’s that it doesn’t fully make sense.
Appealing but confusing.