What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(tagged with 'balloons')

Recent Comments

Recently Viewed

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Tag

In the past 7 days

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: balloons, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 23 of 23
1. Birthday Party

0 Comments on Birthday Party as of 7/13/2016 4:59:00 AM
Add a Comment
2. Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat

stanleycover300pxLet me introduce Stanley to you.

He’s a cat.

He’s a generous friend to many.

And he loves to knit.

But what happens when he has to choose between his passion and his pals?

Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat by Emily MacKenzie (@emilymackenzie_) is all about the dilemma you face when you have to decide what really matters to you. Stanley is wild about wool, barmy about yarn and just can’t stop the click-clack of his knitting needles. He makes all sorts of lovely jumpers, scarves and more for his friends, but when he runs out of wool just when he needs it most (for a knitting competition) what’s he to do? Will he demand his gifts back, in order to re-use the wool? Will he find a way to follow his dream and yet avoid disappointing his friends?

Emily MacKenzie’s tale of enthusiasm and eccentricity is joyous and upbeat, illustrated with all the energy Stanley puts into his knitting. Funny (knitted elephant trunk tubes, anyone?), vibrant (all the alluring colours you’d find in a wool shop) and feel-good, Stanley’s spirited creativity is infectious and inspiring.


And inspired we were! Taking our lead from Stanley and a hot air balloon he knits we decided to have a go at making our own woolly dirigibles.


Our first balloons were made by gluing lots and lots of strands of different wool onto card (we used PVA glue and card rather than paper so everything held together a little better).



When all the glue was dry we flipped the card over and drew two shapes – a large circle (by drawing around a bowl), and a basket shape – before cutting them out and joining them together with a bit of hot air balloon rope (ie more wool). Finally we drew Stanley so he could fly in our balloons as they floated gently over our kitchen table (suspended from the ceiling with a little bit of thread).


If you don’t feel like drawing your own Stanley, Emily has very kindly created one you can print off and cut out:

Right click to save and the print out!

Right click to save and the print out!

Our next plan was a little more ambitious.We wanted to create a 3-D hot air balloon and so this time we dipped our wool in PVA glue before draping it over a suspended balloon.


Whilst the gluey wool dried (it took a couple of days – though if it’s summer where you are the process might be a whole lot speedier) we made our basket. I cut vertical lines down the side of a plastic pot and the girls then wove wool strands in and out of the tongues of plastic, gradually covering the entire pot.

We attached the basket to the woolly balloon and then popped the balloon….


It didn’t work out quite how I had hoped, but we were still smiling at the result and hopefully Stanley was too!



Whilst making our balloons we listened to:

  • Hot Air Balloon by Vanessa Trien
  • The Knitting Song by Liz Simcock (great lyrics, especially if you are a knitter)
  • Mr. Stanley by John Hiatt (a lovely bit of blues)

  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat include:

  • Making pompoms. Stanley the Knitting Cat makes lots of pompoms and if you’ve never made them before with the kids, here’s a good place to start, via Red Ted Art.
  • Yarn Bombing. If street art or brightening up your neighbourhood appeals to you and your kids this activity might be just the ticket. Find inspiration in this Time Magazine gallery, or via Knit the City
  • Scribbling with exhilaration! The endpages of Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat are filled with lots of unruly wool, with wild scribbles across the page. Why not let the kids go crazy and see how quickly they can fill a page with loose pieces of “wool”?

  • If you liked this post you might like another post by me: Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz & Margaret Chamberlain & a whole host of other knitting themed picture books


    If you’d like to receive all my posts from this blog please sign up by popping your email address in the box below:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.

    4 Comments on Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat, last added: 1/13/2016
    Display Comments Add a Comment
    3. Emily’s Balloon

    emilysballoonFriends are fun to play with. Friends keep you company. Friends comfort you. All this Emily knows.

    She also knows a simple balloon can be your friend.

    Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai is the gentlest of observations about how nothing more than a plain balloon and a little bit of imagination can be the cause great happiness.

    Emily receives a balloon and takes it home to play with. Soon she’s sharing everything with her balloon and takes it outside to play house with. One gust of wind, however, and it is stuck in a nearby tree. What will Emily do now? What will console her?

    The innocence and lucidity of this story gives it charm that is utterly captivating. It celebrates a sense of wonder that we sometimes lose as we grow older, but which we’re only too happy to be reminded of. Emily’s natural openness, her ability to imagine and indeed truly see her balloon as a friend – to show such a easy leap of faith – will warm all but the coldest of hearts.



    Sakai’s illustrations have a quiet magic about them, capturing Emily’s body language like poetry; in a way that seems so right, so simple and yet still startling in its accuracy. Minimal use of colour and lots of wide open white space create a sense of meditative timelessness. All in all a peaceful, lyrical picture book with the hallmarks of a classic.


    Not all playing by the book needs to be complicated. Recently all we did to celebrate a book was eat some cheesecake. (Tough life!). This time, all that was needed was a yellow helium filled balloon to play with after school.


    We batted it about, we took it outside, we played “chicken” letting it float away and then catching it before it flew out of grasp!


    We tied a spoon to the string and found the “balance point” – using blutack we added and removed tiny weights until the balloon with the spoon floated mysteriously in mid-air, neither touching the ground, nor flying up to the ceiling.


    This turned into a science lesson the next day when we saw how how the helium appeared to become less effective at lifting the balloon (this is actually due to helium leaking out of the balloon, through the relatively porous latex) and we had to reduce the weight of the spoon to re-find the balance point.

    Whilst playing with our balloon we listened to:

  • It Only Takes One Night to Make a Balloon Your Friend by Lunch Money (this really is a GORGEOUS song)
  • Balloons by Skyboat
  • Can We Buy a New Car (So I Can Have a Balloon)? by Eric Herman. ‘Coz I’m a sucker for a bit of steel guitar.

  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading Emily’s Balloon include:

  • Reading Sakai’s Hannah’s Night – my very favourite book in any genre from 2013.
  • Making a hat for your balloon (as Emily does) – this is a really easy tutorial using an old pair of leggings, from This Simple Home.
  • Creating a flower garland (like Emily does) to wear in your hair. If you haven’t fresh flowers, try this tutorial using a paper bag from Happy Hooligans.

  • If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:

  • A review of a wordless picture book, The Yellow Balloon by Charlotte Dematons
  • Learning how to stick a knitting needle through a balloon without it popping!
  • One of my all time favourite Playing by the book activities, inspired by Up with Birds! by John Yeoman and Quentin Blake
  • balloons

    If you’d like to receive all my posts from this blog please sign up by inputting your email address in the box below:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher. Whilst this book has been translated from Japanese, there is no information available regarding the translator.

    Emily’s Balloon
    Komako Sakai
    Chronicle Books
    £5.99 • Paperback •

    3 Comments on Emily’s Balloon, last added: 10/15/2015
    Display Comments Add a Comment
    4. When it’s ok to have your head in the clouds: The Cloudspotter by Tom McLaughlin

    cloudspotterI’m sometimes called the Bread-Bike-Book Woman by people who recognise me in the community but don’t know me by name; I go everywhere by bike and my basket is nearly always full of either baguettes and or books.

    Shop assistants will ask what I’ve borrowed from the library, or let me know when the fresh bread is cheap at the end of the day. It’s a sobriquet I’m quite at ease with :)

    Tom McLaughlin‘s The Cloudspotter is actually called Franklin, but because of his passion for watching the sky and imagining what he can see high above him, everyone calls him after his hobby.

    To some, the Cloudspotter might appear isolated; Indeed, he doesn’t have many friends.

    But what he does have is bags and bags of imagination. He can look at the sky and imagine stories galore in which he’s a hero, and adventurer or an explorer. Simply put, he’s very happy with his head in the clouds.

    One day, however, Scruffy Dog arrives on the scene. The Cloudspotter doesn’t want to share his adventures and poor Scruffy is sent packing. But could it be that Scruffy wasn’t trying to take anything away from Franklin? Perhaps he was trying to offer him something? Something kind and full of heart, to make adventures and exploring, on earth or in the sky, even more enjoyable?

    Tom McLaughlin’s quiet and thoughtful story is a lovely celebration of the power of imagination to provide comfort and joy, as well as solace. The Cloudspotter also acknowledges that it’s quite OK to be a bit different, to daydream. It shows how when friendship comes knocking it’s about doubling – rather than halving – fun and games through sharing.


    The summery, soothing, pastel palette enhances the story’s gentle and charmingly whimsical feel. McLaughlin’s style makes Franklin feel like a cousin to Oliver Jeffers’ boy in How to Catch a Star.


    All in all a delightful book to encourage us all to be open to spotting more adventures in the world around us.

    After sharing The Cloudspotter with my girls, I prepared somewhere comfortable to do a bit of our own cloud spotting…


    …we lounged around and saw lots of scenes like this…


    …then we went over to the paint station…


    …and started covering large sheets of paper with various shades of blue, mixing in PVA as we went. The large sheets of paper were strips of wallpaper lining. The PVA (glue) was mixed in so that we could start sticking “clouds” onto our skies as soon as the paper was covered:


    We used a mixture of cotton wool and toy stuffing for the clouds, exploring the different ways these materials stretch and becoming wispy.


    Whilst our sky scenes dried, it turned out that cleaning up after painting was almost as much fun as creating our art!


    A few hours later, our skies were ready to go above beds, enabling hours of relaxing cloud spotting. Here’s what the kids can now see as they lie with their heads on their pillows:


    What can you see in our clouds?

    Music to spot clouds by could include:

  • Blue Clouds by Elizabeth Mitchell and You Are My Flower
  • Baby Cloud by Caspar Babypants
  • Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell

  • Other activities which could be great fun to try out alongside reading The Cloudspotter include:

  • Making hot air balloons! I’d like to try these ideas over on Project Kid.
  • Creating atmospheric (geddit?) cloud mood lighting – this project from DIY for Teens looks fun.
  • Having edible sky and clouds for dessert. YUM YUM.
  • Reading my review of another of Tom McLaughlin’s books – The Story Machine.
  • Do you have a nickname like Franklin or me?

    Wishing you and yours many happy hours of cloud spotting, creating stories with all the amazing characters you imagine!

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.

    If you’d like to receive all my posts from this blog please sign up by inputting your email address in the box below:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    0 Comments on When it’s ok to have your head in the clouds: The Cloudspotter by Tom McLaughlin as of 1/1/1900
    Add a Comment
    5. The Colour Thief x 2

    Can you imagine a world without colour, where all you see is black, white or the shades of grey in between? As a self-confessed colour junkie such a world would sap my energies and leave my life (perhaps ironically), somewhat blue.

    Thus when two new books came to my attention both titled ‘The Colour Thief’ I was very intrigued; not only did they look like their subject matter would appeal to me, it was funny and surprising to see two books, from different authors/illustrators/publishers with the same title.


    In The Colour Thief by Gabriel Alborozo an alien looks longingly across space to planet earth, full of colours and brightness. He believes such a beautiful place must be full of joy, and so sets off to bring some of that happiness back to his home planet.

    With just a few magic words the alien is able to suck up first all the reds, then the blues and the greens and before long planet earth is looking very grey and sad. But what of the alien? Can he really be happy when he sees the glumness he has caused?

    Alborozo’s story about kindness, desire and what makes us joyous and content is full of appeal. There are lots of themes which can be explored; from the beauty around us which we might take for granted (requiring an outsider to alert us to us), to whether or not we can be happy if we’ve caused others distress, this book could be used to open up lots of discussion.

    Click to see larger image

    Click to see larger image

    Although the alien’s actions could be frightening, this is mitigated by his cute appearance, just one of the book’s charms. I also think kids will love the apparent omnipotence of the alien: He wants something, and at his command he gets it, just like that, and this identification with the alien makes the story more interesting and unusual. The artwork is fun and energetic, seemingly filled with rainbow coloured confetti. I can easily imagine a wonderful animation of this story.

    The Colour Thief by Andrew Fusek Peters and Polly Peters, illustrated by Karin Littlewood is a very different sort of story. It draws on the authors’ own experience of parental depression, exploring from a child’s perspective what it can feel like to watch a parent withdraw as they suffer from this illness.

    Father and son lead a comforting life “full of colour”, but when depression clouds the father’s mind he withdraws, and all the colours around the family seem to disappear. The child worries that he might somehow be the cause of this loss, but he is repeatedly reassured it is not his fault and gradually, with patience and love, colours start to seep back into the father’s life and he returns to his family.

    Mental health is difficult to talk about when you’re 40, let alone when you are four, but this lyrical and moving book provides a thoughtful, gentle, and unsentimental way into introducing (and if desired, discussing) depression. If you were looking for “when a book might help” to reassure a child in a specific situation, I would wholeheartedly recommend this; it is honest, compassionate and soothing.

    However, I definitely wouldn’t keep this book ONLY for those times when you find a child in a similar circumstances to those described in the book. It is far too lovely to be kept out of more general circulation. For a start, the language is very special; it’s perhaps no surprise when you discover that one of the author’s has more than 70 poetry books to his name. If you were looking for meaningful, tender use of figurative language, for example in a literacy lesson, this book provides some fabulous, examples.

    Click to see larger image.

    Click to see larger image.

    And then there are the illustrations. Karin Littlewood has long been one of my favourite illustrators for her use of colour, her graceful compositions, her quiet kindness in her images. And in The Colour Thief there are many examples of all these qualities. I particularly like her use of perspective first to embody the claustrophobia and fear one can feel with depression, with bare tree branches leaning in onto the page, or street lamps lowering overhead, and then finally the open, sky-facing view as parent and child reunite as they walk together again when colour returns.


    Particularly inspired by the imagery in Alborozo’s The Colour Thief we made a trip to a DIY store to pick up a load of paint chips.


    Wow. My kids went crazy in the paint section: Who knew paint chips could be just so much fun? They spent over an hour collecting to their hearts’ desire. A surprising, free and fun afternoon!

    Once home we snipped up the paint chips to separate each colour. The colour names caused lots of merriment, and sparked lots of equally outlandish ideas for new colour names, such as Beetlejuice red, Patio grey, Spiderweb silver and Prawn Cocktail Pink.


    We talked about shades and intensity of colours, and sorted our chips into three piles: Strong, bright colours, off-white colours, and middling colours. I then put a long strip of contact paper on the kitchen table, sticky side up, and the kids started making a mosaic with the chips, starting with the brightest colours in the middle, fading to the palest around the edge.


    Apart for the soothing puzzle-like quality of this activity, the kids have loved using the end result as a computer keyboard, pressing the colours they want things to change to. I also think it makes for a rather lovely bit of art, now up in their bedroom.


    Whilst making our colour mosaic we listened to:

  • My favourite ever, ever song about colours…. Kristin Andreassen – Crayola Doesn’t Make A Color For Your Eyes
  • Colors by Kira Willey. This song would go really well with ‘My Many Colored Days’ by Dr. Seuss.
  • Roy G Biv by They Might Be Giants

  • Other activities which might go well with either version of ‘The Colour Thief’ include:

  • Taking some online colour quizzes to learn more about just how you see colour (and how that might be different to someone else)
  • Making your own colour swatches or favourite colours book, using this amazing 322 year old Dutch book as inspiration. It will be much cheaper and a lot more fun than buying a Pantone Colour Guide.
  • If you know someone suffering from depression these charities may be of help:

  • Depression Alliance
  • Mind
  • Sane
  • Pandas Foundation – Pre and Post Natal depression support
  • Acacia – Pre and Post Natal depression support
  • Disclosure: I received free review copies of both books reviewed today from their respective publishers.

    Some other books I have since found with the same title but by different authors/illustrators/publishers include:


    ‘The Snowy Day’ by Ezra Jack Keats, and ‘The Snowy Day’ by Anna Milbourne and Elena Temporin


    ‘Bubble and Squeak’ by Louise Bonnett-Rampersaud and Susan Banta, and ‘Bubble and Squeak’ by James Mayhew and Clara Vulliamy


    ‘My Dad’ by Anthony Browne, ‘My Dad’ by Steve Smallman and Sean Julian, and ‘My Dad’ by Chae Strathie and Jacqueline East

    My thanks to @josiecreates, @FBreslinDavda and @illustratedword for alerting me to some of these titles.

    3 Comments on The Colour Thief x 2, last added: 10/15/2014
    Display Comments Add a Comment
    6. 42? Sausages? On the meaning of life and Tim Hopgood’s Little Answer

    littleanswerBoth giggle inducing and surreptitiously brain expanding, Little Answer by Tim Hopgood is about BIG questions (“What is the meaning of life?”, “What is the secret to happiness?”).

    And sausages.

    Yes, really. It’s about sausages.

    And I say that even though you could in fact argue Little Answer is ultimately about the biggest existential questions any of us face; it’s about trying to find out who we are, about trying to understand how we fit into the big wide world.

    Profound AND full of laugh out loud moments, kindness and good old fashioned silliness, this is a fabulous book for all ages.

    In this philosophical and joyously absurd book Little Answer actually knows his name (‘Sausages‘), but the worrying problem is that he can’t find his question. Something’s missing in his life, and until he can find the Q to his A, things just don’t feel right.

    With help from a friend, Little Answer asks around. Could he be the answer to “What makes the wind blow?” or “Where did everything come from?”. There must be a question out there just right for him to answer…

    Children will recognise themselves in the gloriously satisfying end to this book, and they and their parents will enjoy the inclusion of brief answers to all the more challenging questions posed in the story. Indeed this is the perfect book for children always asking “Why?”

    Tim’s richly textured illustrations are bright and beautiful. His scribbles and prints, full of energy, have an appealing child-like quality to them. Thick crayon strokes look like they’ve just been drawn on the page. And Little Answer’s characterization is brilliant; he’s utterly personable and endearing!


    Tim’s told me that the idea for this book came to him during a question and answer session at the end of one his school visits.

    One boy put his hand up and said “I’ve got a guinea-pig” and the teacher then explained to the boy that that wasn’t a question.

    She then asked the class “What does a question need?” to which they all replied “An answer!”.

    And at that point Tim immediately thought, “But what if the answer can’t find its question…”

    I do hope that little boy and his guinea pig one day find out they’ve inspired a wonderful, witty, and warm book perfect for feeding (and satisfying) curiosity.


    You know a book’s hit home when within just a couple of hours of it arriving, the kids are already at play, inspired by the book. And so it was with Little Answer. Balloons were filled with rice (making them lovely to hold), and then eyes, smiles and legs were added to make our own Little Answers.


    M couldn’t resist making a BIG Answer too! And the answers didn’t go nameless for long.


    They were called:

  • Butterfly
  • Mummy
  • Chocolate
  • Loa Loa
  • Ovaries
  • Mint
  • and… 55 (she was the BIG Answer)

  • The girls told me that these were all answers to questions they had come up with, and it was now my job to find out what those questions were.

    Well I like a challenge, and I was certain that one of the questions must involve cake, so off we set for a cafe.


    To the huge delight of the girls, I was WRONG! None of their answers involved anything to do with a cafe (though they were more than happy to try some cake, just to be sure).


    I thought I better up my game, so I then decided that the local library would be a good place to look for questions. M was very obliging and looked up the dewey numbers for the books which might help me find the right questions to the answers she and her sister had prepared.


    So at least I was in the right section for some of my questions…. and I started knuckled down to work, with the Little Answers looking along side me.


    The Big Answer preferred to lounge about!


    I have to admit, it was quite a struggle to find the right questions. But in case you’re wondering what they were here they are:

  • What has antennae, wings and is beautiful?
  • Who do you find in Ancient Egyptian tombs?
  • What does Cadburys make?
  • Name a nematode that might live in your gut
  • Name a part of a flower
  • What’s my (M’s) favourite herb?

  • And are you ready for the really really BIG question?

  • What is 165 divided by 3?
  • I especially liked the big question. It really reminds you how different the world can see when you’re a kid!

    Even if I struggled to find all the questions in the library, we had so much fun with this activity. Any game where the kids are in the know and the adults are clueless is always popular in this home! Plus, along the way we got to practise research skills and giggle a great deal. What could be better?

    Music we listened to whilst making our little answers included:

  • There Are More Questions Than Answers by Johnny Nash
  • The Dewey Decimal Rap
  • What’s The Answer? by Gene Harris & The Three Sounds
  • Other fun activities to try out alongside reading Little Answer include:

  • Playing Sausages! Great for a quick giggle… go on, give it a go!
  • Printing your own fabric to match the dress worn by Daisy in the book. Here’s a how the Artful Parent did child friendly fabric printing.
  • Making a snail friend for your little answers. Older children might enjoy making these ones from old tights or sweaters, whilst everyone will love eating these ones!
  • Reading Tim Hopgood’s BIG! (here’s my review) or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, both of which pair perfectly (though in different ways) with Little Answer.
  • What are you the answer to? What questions are you looking for? :-)

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Little Answer from the author.

    3 Comments on 42? Sausages? On the meaning of life and Tim Hopgood’s Little Answer, last added: 4/17/2014
    Display Comments Add a Comment


    Balloon Trees, the new title from Sylvan Dell, written by Danna Smith and illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein, reveals that the rubber that makes up balloons, balls, tires, shoes and many more things actually comes from trees! What other surprising things do you think trees give us?

    The house you live in may be made from wood from trees; that’s obvious, but did you know that that house is filled with gifts from trees also? Do you like that your parents are less grumpy in the morning when they have their coffee? You can thank the coffee arabica tree for that, a 20 foot evergreen that grows in warm climates of the world. A cup of hot cocoa has made a long journey from cocoa trees along the equator to reach your kitchen. Maple syrup, cinnamon, fruits, nuts, and many more delicious items also come from trees.

    Ever wonder how jelly candies get so goopy and great? Check the ingredients and you’ll find “gum arabic” in the list. Gum arabic is hardened sap from an acacia tree, and it’s used in foods like desserts to lend its goopy texture to them. It is also a key ingredient in glues, paints, and many other products that manufacturers want to make ‘slimy,’ ‘goopy,’ or ‘jelly.’

    “Cellulose” is part of the ‘skin’ of trees, and when manufactured it can become “Rayon” clothing to make our own skin warmer. Cellulose is even an ingredient in foods and beauty products, lending its texture to them to make them ‘thicker’ or ‘heavier.’ When fat is removed from some “diet” or “fat-free” products, cellulose is often added to try and make the food ‘feel’ the same in a person’s mouth as before. 

    Trees also give us many kinds of medicine, such as aspirin, and even the first medicine for fighting malaria, “quinine.” If you’ve read our book, The Most Dangerous, you know how harmful the mosquito-spread disease malaria can be. Without the discovery of quinine from Peruvian trees, malaria would have harmed that many more people, and maybe even changed world history! Soldiers in WWII that fought in the Pacific jungles took quinine everyday, and it helped the building of the Panama Canal, and the Dutch and English to build their historical empires!

    Of course, this is only the beginning of the gifts that trees give us. Say “thank you” back, by planting a tree, or at least reading a Sylvan Dell book under the shade of one!

    0 Comments on as of 3/15/2013 4:11:00 PM
    Add a Comment
    8. Toys in space [said like the Muppets' "Pigs... in... spaaaaace"]

    Toys in Space by Mini Grey is our kind of book, all about stories providing comfort, where what is a ‘story’ and what is ‘real life’ become beautifully blurred.

    It starts with an observation about family life which is tiny but which resonates loudly with us; it being summer holidays here and lots of time spent out in the garden, on more than one occasion it has happened that some of the kids’ toys have been left outside over night.

    So a great start – we open Mini‘s latest book and the girls already think it is about our home (or so easily could be). Then a tiny bit an anxiety is introduced; the toys are a little scared by the night and what it might bring. Anxiety is ratcheted up to another level of worry when the toys are beamed aboard an alien space ship…

    This worry is transformed into sympathetic concern when the toys discover the alien is only looking for his very own very toy which he has lost. Will the toys be able to help the alien? Will he be reunited with his own Cuddles? And will the toys make it back to their own garden?

    Without giving away the details, the emotional arc we went through, which started with “delightful recognition >> anxiety >> worry” then continued “hope >> happiness >> relief >> great satisfaction (with a giggle)”. A perfect journey for a picture book!

    As well as the thrilling emotional ride this book takes you on (with just the right amount of nerves for young children), this book scores highly for its adorable cast of characters. Having fallen in love with Traction Man and Scrubbing Brush, I did wonder if any new characters from Mini Grey could find a similar place in our hearts, but the crowd here are great and surely offer wonderful opportunities for more stories in the future featuring the same cast (What do you say, Mini?).

    The visual narrative in the book is perhaps more complex than many picture books you’ll find on the bestsellers’ list, with a Jack Bauer / 24 style split screen take on events running concurrently. I like the richness this brings, and although my kids had absolutely no problems understanding how events are unfolding I wonder if some parents who are not confident readers might be put off by this.

    I hope not, because Toys in Space is an exciting and heart warming story about losing (and finding) your favourite toy and is bound to delight children far and wide.

    Hoctopize – the alien in search of his lost Cuddles

    My girls were very keen to act out Toys in Space as soon as we’d read it for the first time. We gathered their favourite toys together, but didn’t have a suitable alie

    4 Comments on Toys in space [said like the Muppets' "Pigs... in... spaaaaace"], last added: 8/20/2012
    Display Comments Add a Comment
    9. Highlight

    The highlight of their trip to the city wasn’t the city. It was Balloons!

    A work in progress. I feel like its not quite there yet, but I can’t figure out what’s missing. Somethings off, somethings missing, but what? Any suggestions?


    and hope everyone has a very safe and


    See you all in 2012.

    It’s going to be a great year.

    Add a Comment
    10. happy birthday...to ME!:)

    just a quick little sketch done for ME...for my birthday today! so hard to believe the 40 is around the corner next year! ugghhh....

    0 Comments on happy birthday...to ME!:) as of 1/1/1900
    Add a Comment
    11. The magic of balloons

    One of the contributors to last week’s popular post 50+ picture books every child should be read was an author/illustrator much enjoyed in our home – Tim Hopgood. One of the very fist books I reviewed on Playing by the book was his award winning Here Come’s Frankie, which is still the book I pick up if I’m in a wonderful mood and feel like dancing, or a terrible mood and need cheering up. Our Big Blue Sofa, however, is probably one of my kids’ top 10 picture books (even if my review of it makes me cringe; who of you would display for all the world to see the detritus found down the back of your sofa!)

    So when I saw that Tim had a new book out I knew it was something I would want to read and review here. UnPOPpable, published last month, captures all the joy and wonder a simple balloon can bring. Kids will love this book as they will recognise themselves in it – the delight at playing with a balloon, squeezing it, holding it, the loss but also awe as it floats up into the sky, and the magic and squealy delight that comes when the balloon finally does pop.

    The story is told with just a few bare words on most pages making is an enjoyable book for even the youngest children to listen to (and great for slightly older siblings to read to their toddler brothers and sisters). As an adult reader it’s a really fun read-aloud – there are plenty of opportunities to get into the spirit of things with loud popping noises.

    Tim Hopgood’s illustrations are exuberant; even those depicting the black night sky and space feel bright and vibrant, and without wishing to give anything away, the big bang finale is bursting with energy just as it must have been back when time began.

    I hope you’ll find an opportunity to give this book to a child with a helium balloon – I guarantee you will make someone very happy indeed!

    Inspired by UnPOPpable we got up to some good old fashioned play with balloons. The girls drew silly faces on them and then we rubbed the ballons on our hair to charge them with static electricity. Once charged we could stick our balloons pretty much anywhere we liked – on the walls and on the ceiling. It seemed like magic to the girls!

    Taking the magic to the next level I challenged the girls to stick a knitting needle in a balloon without popping it. Of course balloons ended up popping left right and centre, but then Mummy stepped in with the sort of magic that only mummies possess, and sure enough, with

    3 Comments on The magic of balloons, last added: 4/7/2011
    Display Comments Add a Comment
    12. Thanksgiving Balloons and NaNoWriMo update

    I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! We went to see the balloons being blown up for the parade (pictures below), then had a big beef dinner (not a turkey fan), and a relaxing weekend. What did you do for Thanksgiving?

    On to the real purpose for this post: balloon pictures! When you try to take pictures of the balloons while they are being blown up, you’re at the mercy of how the balloon is positioned and how many people get in your way while you are aiming the camera. These three pictures were taken with my cell phone and came out okay, although pics from other years have turned out better.

    Hello Kitty

    Hello Kitty

    Kool-Aid Man

    Kool-Aid Man

    Wimpy Kid

    Wimpy Kid

    So just how big are those balloons, anyway? They’re HUGE! Here’s a picture I took of Buzz Lightyear in 2008. Three people happily posed for scale … okay, they weren’t posing for me, so I blurred out the faces, but it’s still a great picture to show the scale of the balloons.

    Buzz Lightyear

    Buzz Lightyear

    You might be wondering how they manage to find space to blow up all those balloons. What they do is close off the two streets on either side of the American Museum of Natural History and line the balloons up along each street. Here’s a picture from 2008 that shows Horton in between Shrek and some holiday balloons.

    Balloon Line Up

    Balloon Line Up

    Here’s another example. Remember the Kool-Aid Man picture above? Here’s the wide screen shot that shows him sandwiched in between Sponge Bob and a football and another balloon.

    Balloon Line Up 2

    Balloon Line Up

    If you want to see the balloons next year, be prepared for lots of people. The crowd is always wall-to-wall, even before you get anywhere near the balloons, and especially once you get there. It’s inadvisable to bring small dogs and strollers to this event, although some people bring them (it’s an easy way for a pet, child or adult to get injured in the crush of the crowd). Here’s a picture of the 2007 crowd. It’s a little blurry, so it’s hard to see past the first couple of rows, but it’s all people, as far as the eye can see (and no balloons in sight yet).

<div class= 1 Comments on Thanksgiving Balloons and NaNoWriMo update, last added: 12/2/2010
    Display Comments Add a Comment
    13. 1,014,261 not counting these

    Right. Maddy has a whole new hairdo consisting of a fringe (which Americans inexplicably call bangs), or bangs (which the English mysteriously call a fringe), and she looks oddly like the Coraline puppet from the Henry Selick film, while I have, er, not quite as much hair in my eyes as I did this morning. Stopped off at DreamHaven (http://www.dreamhavenbooks.com/) after the haircut and signed a pile of stuff for them (it'll be up on www.Neilgaiman.net soon enough).

    Also bought a few books, which considering how much time I've had recently to read, and how much I have sitting in piles waiting to be read (I seem to be reading everything I can find about Bert Williams right now) is madness. Still, I picked up, with joyful expectation, Avram Davidson's Adventures in Unhistory, Diana Wynne Jones's The Pinhoe Egg, and Kim Newman's The Man from the Diogenes Club. It's nice to have books on the To Be Read Pile you know will be good. A Charles Vess cover drew my eye, and I found myself getting the paperback of Herminie Kavanagh's Darby O'Gill, and I wrapped up the shopping expedition with a copy of M. John Harrison's Viriconium (not to read, just so I had a copy with my introduction in).

    And I just got to see some site statistics (courtesy of Dan Guy who has made the Webelf her Clouds -- the first is up at http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/labels/ and is really rather fun. Hurrah for you helpful people out there reading this) and I learned that as of the last post, I'd written One Million and Fourteen Thousand, Two Hundred and Sixty One words on this blog.

    I wish I'd known that 14,261 words ago. We would have had a party. With balloons.

    0 Comments on 1,014,261 not counting these as of 3/13/2007 11:45:00 PM
    Add a Comment
    14. another birthday post...

    Strange things keep turning up in the right hand side of the page. (If you're reading this on a feed, you might want to click over to http://journal.neilgaiman.com/ and refresh a few times. I'm just saying...)

    Hi Neil, I was just wondering, why don't you have comments turned on on the blog? I'm sure there would be tons everyday. Still, it would be fun to read other's comments and such. Just wondering. Love the new pics on the blog today. Oh and HAPPY BIRTHDAY BLOG! Hope your'e around for at least 7 more years.

    Thanks and I love this blog (and you too!),


    Because seven years ago, when it started, things like comments were unheard of, outside of a couple of the secret blogging laboratories on the Moon, and when, a few years back, Blogger introduced them, I was happy with the way things were - mostly because I knew the volume of stuff that comes in on the FAQ line, could only imagine the volume of comments we'd get, and knew how horribly interesting a good comment place can be. (Making Light is the best example, where the original post is the tip of an iceberg, and then things get really interesting or strange -- each comment thread can be a good day's reading, filled with interesting stuff.) Which meant, I suspected, that if I turned on the comments I'd ever get any actual work done again.

    Hi, Neil.

    I know you watch Boing Boing and that's where I found this, but I wasn't sure if you caught the post since you're been in "The Graveyard Book."


    Some authors hoping to plan a sci-fi convention that focuses on young adult. :-) Makes me all warm and fuzzy, really.

    Tina @ ALA

    Good to know. I think it's a great idea. (Also, I was pleased to hear that Fourth Street is returning.)

    If the snow effect you're talking about is the same one I saw at 3000m in the Haute Savoie (which makes it sound more impressive than "on a skiing holiday"), then it's called diamond dust. Single ice crystals formed in very low air temperatures, like being inside a frozen cloud.

    It takes something special to make a dozen lads on a booze/wintersports holiday all shut up and gawp, but that did it. On a sunny, blue-sky day too, the air just sparkled.

    It sounds like a local version of that. Right now we've got an "arctic front" with 45 mph winds gusting the just-fallen snow around in blinding howls, and I'm not looking forward to dogwalking...

    Hey Neil! Any chance of getting a direct link to the original post for what comes out of the oracle?

    We talked about it a while ago, and then forgot. I'll ask Da Goblin. In the meantime you can always cut and paste it into the site search engine at http://neilgaiman.com/p/Search
    and unless it's something unusual (I just tried it and it gave me a question mark) it should be easy to see where it came from.

    Has the Oracle ever said anything other than "You have to actually shake it?"

    I am starting to lose faith in its power.

    You didn't read the instructions at http://www.neilgaiman.com/oracle, did you? I'd particularly refer you to the bit that says "don't just click on it. Shake it." If you click on it, it will say "You actually have to shake it". Only when shaken will the curtain between past and future be lifted, and only then will the oracle pronounce oracularly.

    Mr. Gaiman,

    First, thank you very much for your blog. It is a delight to read each day--particularly so when you describe just how much work you put into your writing.

    I was wondering, though, about where you write. You have talked about your pens and paper and your ink, and I have seen many references to the small cabin in which you write, but I was wondering if your could (if you haven't already) describe the writing shack. I'm always curious about the conditions in which writing is produced, and the idea of a writing shack fascinates me. Do you always try to write in the same place? Before you had a writing shack, did you find similar places to write? Do you find that you grow attached to the place itself and that writing in other conditions (i.e. places, pens, papers) is difficult?

    Thanks, again, for sharing all of this with us, and I apologize if my questions have been asked and answered elsewhere.



    While I was typing this the sun came out. I may take a few photos of the gazebo at the bottom of the garden, which is where I'm currently doing a lot of writing, mostly because it's the easiest place to write with a large white dog, and post them. The rest of the writing is occurring in the small hours of the morning on a sofa.

    I can write pretty much anywhere, in truth, although I like going places I've not been before. I like travelling, in moderation, and I like being in new places, and I especially like being in new places to write.

    Meanwhile, here's a ten-year-old-photograph of me in the Patagonian town they named after my kind...


    The Mysterious Thing Post will go up tonight.

    0 Comments on another birthday post... as of 2/9/2008 3:50:00 PM
    Add a Comment
    15. Illustration Friday: balloon

    I missed everybody last week because I had to go out of town and I hope everyone that celebrated Thanksgiving had a very nice one. Have a wonderful extended weekend as well. My submission for Illustration Friday's "balloon" is another die-cut gift tag for a happy birthday greeting.

    Homespun Gifttag copyright 2002 Valerie Walsh

    0 Comments on Illustration Friday: balloon as of 1/1/1900
    Add a Comment
    16. Illustration Friday - Balloon

    please click on image to view a larger version

    0 Comments on Illustration Friday - Balloon as of 1/1/1900
    Add a Comment
    17. The Twenty One Balloons

    Professor William Waterman Sherman has just been fished out of the Atlantic Ocean by the crew of the S.S. Cunningham. They found the Professor floating among the detritus of some twenty deflated balloons. Obviously the Captain and crew of the ship were anxious to know the Professor's story, but he simply refuses to tell insisting that "This tale of mine shall first be heard in the auditorium of the Western American Explorers' Club in San Fransisco, of which I am an honorary member!" (p.11)

    The Professor is then whisked cross country in none other than the President's very own train. Everyone, it seems, is awaiting the details of the Professor's round-the-world balloon trip.

    Once the Professor is ensconced in a comfy bed on the stage in the auditorium of the Explorers' Club, he begins to tell his tale. And quite a tale it is! A tale including crash landings, shark infested waters, secret island habitations, diamond mines, international food, and escape plans!

    This is a Newbery blast from the past of the very best sort. The pacing is perfect, the story is action packed, the people of Krakatoa and their "gourmet government" are hilarious, and the Professor is a great storyteller. William Pene du Bois definitely understood what kids want in a story. Readers will easily be able to see this turned into a film of the Willy Wonka variety if only in their minds.

    Irrepressible fun!

    0 Comments on The Twenty One Balloons as of 1/1/1900
    Add a Comment
    18. Balloons


    1 Comments on Balloons, last added: 4/10/2009
    Display Comments Add a Comment
    19. Balloons


    2 Comments on Balloons, last added: 4/10/2009
    Display Comments Add a Comment
    20. Grocery store find

    One of the fun things about doing design work is that you never know when you might stumble across one of your designs in a store. I was in the grocery store the other day. I really wasn't in the mood to go grocery shopping but I knew ketchup and saltines for dinner wasn't going to cut it for dinner. As I slogged through the last aisle I was surprised to see the bakery department was decorated with mylar balloons that had my froggy design on them. I covertly snapped a photo on my cell phone. People probably thought I was a kook taking photos of the scones.

    1 Comments on Grocery store find, last added: 6/6/2009
    Display Comments Add a Comment

    Craving Street Art?

    flying street art

    The Sky Zonkey

    We created this little zonkey and wrote a short note on his tummy. It read:

    You Found Me! I was attached to balloons and set adrift from Apex, NC. Please take a photo of me and email it to: zonkeystreet@gmail.com

    We took the little zonkey outside and then, as noted, set him adrift on the wind..

    flying street art

    We're hoping someone will find him and report back...

    flying street art

    He flew pretty high...

    flying street art

    UP, Up, up...

    flying street art

    over the powerlines..

    flying street art

    and then he was gone

    See more at Zonkey Street!

    Check back soon for more street art projects including:

    floating street art

    Floating Street Art

    Name the Zonkey

    Zonkey Street Art

    Or click here to read about the Adventures of Zonkey

    Ian's Website

    1 Comments on , last added: 6/6/2009
    Display Comments Add a Comment
    22. Death Wish

    posted by Neil
    I went to Los Angeles, had a sort of a working holiday, came home, and am writing. Working out a lot with the trainer, got a new trampoline. The cherry tree is covered in cherries, and the wild raspberries (red and black) are out in the woods, and I find them when I walk the dog.
    Nights here are filled with fireflies. Steve Brust came over for dinner tonight and brought his puppy, and we talked about stories and writing until late. It's a good world.

    That's about it for excitement at this end. Lots of people have written in asking stuff about me and Amanda, and I don't really know how to answer them. Either they're really nice and pleased for us and encouraging and don't need answering, or they're the kind of things that leave me deeply puzzled, and to which the only responses are "Isn't that a bit personal?" or "Probably none of your business I'm afraid," or even "Why would you write things like that?"

    Hello Neil,

    Why don't you blog more often?

    Just a death wish I guess. Your blog is a wonderful thing to read.

    I have a rare case of skin cancer and your blog cheer me up!

    Mostly because I have less to say right now, I think. Or at least, I hate repeating myself. The blog's eight years old, and over one million three hundred thousand words long. That's a lot of things. People write me lots of questions still, but so often they're questions that have already been answered on the blog, usually at some length -- the kind of things that make me think that I should spend time I could spend writing again (say) how you get an agent in, instead, organising things and getting a really useful FAQ up and running, or just a way of finding things, particularly advice on writing.

    Obviously, I'm sorry you have a rare case of skin cancer, and I would be just as sorry if it was a common sort of skin cancer. So here, to cheer you up and fulfill your dying wish: a blog, and a link to an interview http://www.wmagazine.com/w/blogs/editorsblog/2009/06/29/neil-gaiman-on.htm and also to an amazing Daily Telegraph piece in which a bunch of writers and artists suggest books for younger readers http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/5720639/Summer-Reading-for-Children-Adventures-to-enchanting-worlds.html.

    Todd Klein, letterer extraordinaire has the fourth in his series of prints out. The art is by J. H. Williams III, and you can see it here.

    Back in November I was interviewed by Chip Kidd at the 92nd St Y. (I talked about it on the blog at the time.) The whole talk, with Karen Berger's introduction and all, is up now on YouTube, and is embedded here for your pleasure. It's an hour and a half.

    And finally, there are now more than 666,666 people following me on Twitter. So we had a party. It's still ongoing, the party, over at http://bit/ly/666party and to join in all you have to do is upload a photgraph of you and a Balloon. And once 600 people showed up at the party, the webgoblin made this: a mosaic.

    0 Comments on Death Wish as of 7/4/2009 5:53:00 AM
    Add a Comment
    23. The Best High School Senior Pranks

    *Senior pranks can be cause for trouble within the school or law.  Make sure the prank is appropriate and doesn’t harm any person, property, or animal.  I am not held responsible for any of the punishment, damage, or any other causes of these pranks.  Trespassing, vandalism, or any other crime is not acceptable in the process of carrying out a prank.

    Fulfilling the Prank

    Image Source

    A great idea for a senior prank is to fill an office, classroom, gym, or car full of balloons, popcorn, packing peanuts, or any other item that consumes up space.  This is a hilarious prank that is pretty harmless. 

    Dixie Cups

    Image Source

    This classic prank will also create problems within the school.  Buy 700-1000 Dixie cups or how many you find appropriate.  Fill them up with a little bit of water, but not to much.  And place them all next to each other but very close so that you cannot step between the cups without knocking them down.  Make sure you start on the opposite side of the room and make your way backwards toward the exit!

    Bouncy Halls?

    Image Source

    Order and Buy thousands of bouncy balls, most likely online.  Get a good group of friends and distribute them amongst each other.  Plan out a certain time in the day where everyone is spread out throughout the school and then just make it rain bouncy balls!  This prank would definitely cause chaos and confusion, but would be hilarious. 

    Saran Wrap

    Image Source

    An easy prank would be to saran wrap other student’s cars.  Juniors would be the primary target seeing they are the other grade that can drive.  Faculty may be a risky idea, but they would be an option.  This may be one of the more expensive pranks, but it deserves to be on the list.


    Image Source

    Forking the school yard would be another senior prank.  Students would go to a store and buy hundreds of forks, and during the middle of the night they would stick them into the school’s courtyard, lobby, or football field.  This prank would be a risky one seeing that it could be considered vandalism.  A vulgar message may cross the line. 

    Just Classic

    Image Source

    This classic prank is known all over.  I don’t think I need to explain, but I will.  Buy a bunch of toilet paper rolls and just go crazy.  You can never buy too much toilet paper.  Throw them all over the school’s building, trees, and anything else that works.

    Camping Out

    src=”http://www.outyourbackdoor.com/images/articles/122511_dalmac.tents.jpg” alt=”" width=”190″ height=”142″ />

    Image Source

    This prank involves getting as many seniors as possible and camping out for a night in the parking lot or any other good area.  This would be a fun prank that seems pretty harmless if everything goes right.  Grilling out, chilling, and playing some sports would make this a fun night.

    School for Sale?

    Image Source

    This prank involves putting as many for sale signs as possible in the front lawn of your school.  This would be a pretty humorous prank not to mention harmless.  Another option is to put a real estate ad in the local newspaper. 

    Vaseline Doors

    Image Source

    For this prank you need to get a group of seniors, and while class is in session this group needs to run around with numerous jars of Vaseline and rub it all over door handles and lockers.  This will definitely cause students to be mad and will leave a mark in your school’s history.

    Better Post-It Note It

    Image Source

    This final prank is pretty self-explanatory.  You need to get a whole group of seniors and buy a bunch of post-it note packages.  Then during school sometime or after when no one is in the hallways cover everything with post-it notes.  Completely yellow-out the school hallway and it will look flawless.

    Add a Comment