Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I'm Flyin' High....: Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

“There is nothing to see on my street,” laments Sebastian.

Never mind that Sebastian is seated on the highest peak of his roof, forbidden territory according to his parents. It's just the same old, same old, down there as far as he is concerned. Bo-ring!

Sebastian needs a change of view and of viewpoint, so he rustles up a large cardboard box, some rope, and various and sundry items of Granny's bedding and builds himself a hot-air balloon. Furnishing it with an umbrella, books, and baseball bat, Sebastian casts off to float through the murky, foggy night.

Sebastian is not the first storybook boy to succumb to ennui and declare "Nothing ever happens on my block!"* Still, his course is mostly laissez-faire, as he meets up with a similarly bored bear and shares his pickle sandwich with his passenger, until a gusty wind forces a hasty landing of a nearby cottage roof, shredding the balloon to, well, shreds.

"Oh, dear!" said the three sisters who lived inside. "If only we could find our knitting needles..."

They do, and the knitting sisters soon have the balloon shipshape, air-worthy, and re-launched, and the voyagers ride on, reading, stopping to ride a rickety wooden roller coaster, and enjoying the novelty of the view.

... until the wind picked up and it was time to go.

With understated wit and whimsy and retro-styled illustrations done in charcoal, paint, and pastel crayon for texture, Caldecott artist (for his A Sick Day for Amos McGee) Philip C. Stead's Sebastian and the Balloon (Roaring Brook, 2014) offers a dreamy fantasy flight with much to see along the way.

".. .another beautifully rendered picture book full of whimsy, heart and delight." says Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review.

*For a perfect deadpan case of exceptional ennui, see Ellen Raskin's vintage classic, Nothing Ever Happens on My Block,

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