cover image The Day Ray Got Away

The Day Ray Got Away

Angela Johnson, illus. by Luke LaMarca, Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-689-87375-1

When a yellow parade balloon announces, "This is the day," the other balloons call him a dreamer. A pointy sun balloon with a wide, toothy smile, Ray breaks free of his ropes during a parade, floating up to the moon and leaving chaos in his wake. Johnson (Wind Flyers) adds welcome bits of droll humor to this unlikely story of following one's dreams. When the warehouse door opens, "the other balloons held their breaths. (What else were they gonna do?)" Although one of the balloon handlers mentions, "We were due for a balloon uprising," Johnson never explicitly states why "a balloon like Ray, who had been good for years," wants to escape. Yet it's abundantly clear that, even for someone filled with helium, true freedom is irresistible. In celebratory acrylic paintings, LaMarca (The Curious Demise of a Contrary Cat) imbues the balloons with appropriately buoyant character—from muscly, rotund superheroes who are always flexing their muscles to a spunky "new kid" airplane, whose wink and smile to readers at the end of the book suggest he's learned a thing or two from Ray. Ages 5–up. (Sept.)