cover image Sebastian and the Balloon

Sebastian and the Balloon

Philip C. Stead. Roaring Brook/Porter, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-59643-930-6

Stead returns to elements of A Home for Bird and Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat in this story of a spontaneous journey, motivated by boredom. “There is nothing to see on my street,” laments Sebastian, observing his drab neighborhood from the steep roof of his house. Two page turns later, the boy has built a spherical hot-air balloon “from Grandma’s afghans and patchwork quilts” and sets off. Each time Sebastian lands, he meets someone and shares a pickle sandwich; soon, a bear, a stork, and three elderly sisters have come aboard. Together they travel to a rickety wooden roller coaster, which they repair and ride “until the wind picked up and it was time to go.” With a retro palette of cyan, rust orange, and mustard, Stead’s moody charcoal-line illustrations recall Ray Cruz’s 1970s illustrations for Judith Viorst’s Alexander books. The low-key story is infused with melancholy (Sebastian never smiles) yet offers a degree of comfort as Sebastian and his fellow lonely hearts band together on a journey with no real destination in mind. Ages 3–7. Agent: Emily van Beek, Folio Literary Management. (Oct.)