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I Have A Balloon

Owl has a balloon. Monkey does not. What will happen next? Hint: this is not a book about sharing.

I have a balloon. You have a balloon.

Let's make a deal.

I Have a Balloon
By Ariel Bernstein

Owl has a bright beautiful shiny red balloon. Monkey does not—but oh, how he wants Owl's. Owl does not want to give it to Monkey. So he tries to find something that Owl wants: a teddy bear, a robot, a picture of TEN balloons. Owl does not want any of these things. But then, Monkey offers him…a sock!

Hmmmmm…Owl is intrigued thanks to Monkey's compelling sock sales pitch. Will Monkey strike his deal with Owl and will they make their trade?

I loved author Ariel Bernstein's fresh look at negotiation and compromise and I think you and your young readers will too. 

Published by Paula Wiseman Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), I Have A Balloon will also be available to read on iPadKindle and Nook apps and devices.

I Have a Balloon will be released on September 26, 2017. You can pre-order today.


★ Bernstein’s debut featuring an owl holding a balloon begins with a spoiler alert on the jacket flap: “This is NOT a book about sharing.”

It is, however, an honest, humorous depiction of how one might cling to or covet possessions—behaviors that both children and adults will recognize. The story starts simply. Sitting on a branch in the woods, Owl proclaims the titular sentence to a nearby monkey. As the primate offers observations, the owl incorporates the adjectives into longer declarations: “That is a shiny red balloon,” says the monkey. “I have a shiny red balloon,” Owl agrees. Desperate to have the object, Monkey zooms through the pages offering trades, but neither the teddy bear, sunflower, robot, ball, etc., do the trick. Magoon’s digital caricatures provide the emotional content that will elicit identification and laughter. His funky monkey and staid owl are entertaining foils, and the would-be trader’s pratfalls recall Warner Bros. cartoons. It is ultimately a star-studded sock with a hole in it that gives Owl pause. Here there is more text as each character imagines wearing the sock on different body parts and using it for puppet performances. Then it is Owl who turns on the charm to no avail. They are each left with the metaphorical shoe on the other foot, until a raccoon wielding an ice cream cone appears.

With an open-ended, wordless conclusion inviting predictions and possibilities, this tightly paced narrative soars above its message-driven counterparts. —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

★ An owl and a monkey confront jealousy, the fickleness of want, and the influence of other perspectives in this high-energy story from debut author Bernstein and illustrator Magoon (I Will Not Eat You). Swinging into the opening scene on a vine, Monkey is enraptured by the red balloon Owl is holding. Initially, Owl seems ambivalent about the balloon, but Monkey’s praise (“The only thing I’ve ever wanted, since right now, is a shiny, big red balloon”) leaves Owl unwilling to part with it, despite Monkey’s offers of a teddy bear, sunflower, and other items in exchange. But Monkey’s single “sock with a star and a perfectly shaped hole” piques Owl’s interest with its possibilities. Written entirely in dialogue, Bernstein’s story never diverts focus from the characters’ id-driven wants. Magoon’s digital illustrations slyly reflect the changing power structure—Monkey spends much of the book on the forest floor, looking up at Owl, but they swap positions when Monkey’s sock becomes the object of desire—while bringing big laughs through pratfalls and other physical comedy. —Publisher’s Weekly starred review. 

Owl is proud of his shiny red balloon. Sadly, Monkey does not have one, and it is all he’s ever wanted. The balloon matches his tie, and it would make him so happy to have it. Too bad Owl won’t trade it for a cute teddy bear or a tall sunflower. Monkey is persistent, but Owl won’t budge. Perhaps Owl would prefer to have a robot, a picture of 10 balloons, or even a bowling pin. Owl isn’t interested in any of these. Then he sees Monkey’s sock, which has both a star and a perfectly round hole. Think of all of the neat things that can be done with a sock like that. Will Owl break down and make a trade with Monkey? And will both be happy in the end? This might not be the best choice for parents seeking a book about sharing. However, it is entertaining and the ending is humorous. Although the words may be few, they say all that needs to be said. The illustrations of the two main characters are simple but animated, especially Monkey. He has a hard time hanging onto a branch by his tail, soars up to the sky with his robot, and looks cool in a fez and sunglasses. Even though the message of sharing is absent, this is still an amusing option for all. VERDICT A definite purchase that will be checked out again and again. —School Library Journal, Barbara Spiri, Southborough Library, MA

I Have a Balloon

On Social Media

I visited London and launched the #londoonballoon photo tour! Here's one example:

On the Road

I HAVE A BALLOON in great company at ALA Midsummer '17 in Chicago.

I HAVE A BALLOON in great company at ALA Midsummer '17 in Chicago.

Behind the Scenes

Here are some development sketches I created while working on I Have a Balloon. Click on the thumbnails to expand and read more about each.