Illustrated by Luke LaMarca
Simon & Schuster, 2010
$16.99, ages 5 and up,40 pages.
How do you keep the sun down on a bright and clear day, especially if it's been tethered to the ground for years?
Well, if it's a sun called, "Ray", an enormous parade balloon, and "today's the day," there isn't much you can do but watch it slip away.
(And if you're like me and enjoy seeing a balloon get free, if only to imagine how far it might go, maybe you smile and blow a bit of air his way.)
Just in time for the Thanksgiving Macy's Day parade comes a sweet, simple story of a trusty old helium balloon that tires of being obedient, takes to the sky and never looks back.
The day Ray got away, the morning sun painted the sky orange-red as balloons gussied themselves up in a warehouse and one fretted about cramped conditions backstage.
The Big Fat Cartoon Cat and the Superheroes watched their tummies swell with helium, as the Moose groused about where to put his antlers, which stuck out from his head like wings.
The new balloon, a zippy little jet plane, was doing what all new recruits do, whirring about the hanger-sized room and jockeying to be first in the parade.
And Ray? Well, he woke with a smile, as he always did, given the huge toothy smile permanently printed on his fabric, and he quietly rose to the ceiling of the warehouse, as air pumped into him from below.
Gazing out the big windows of the warehouse, the patched-up fellow declared, "This is the Day," but was it really? All the other balloons thought Ray was dreaming. After all, he'd never tried to cut loose before.
Still, when it was time to be led out, rope by rope by rope, they all wondered if Ray would break free and every one of them held their breath, though one could say they had no choice but to suck it in. Holding air, after all, is what they do.
Sidewalks flanked by towering buildings were packed with fans and not one of the fans was disappointed with what they saw. Each balloon strutted above the street, holding its position, allowing itself to be led.
The superheroes soared with arms stretched before them or flexed their bulgy arms, the tuxedo-clad cat smirked, and the Moose, despite his gangly antlers, didn't once get hung up on a tower.
But then, everything changed. A shout rang out. Cords began to snap and a handler yelled that Ray was loose. "Try to grab his foot, er, ray!" he shouted so loudly you could see right back to his Adam's apple.
On camera, handlers confided to reporters that they'd heard rumors of a break-out, an uprising was due. Then the parade slowed to a dismal close; it was time to put the rest of the balloons away.
But why, wondered the handlers, was it tougher than ever to pull them in?
Smartly illustrated in a cartoon style, much the way real-life parade balloons are designed, this exhilarating book makes you wish you could float away, just once, and touch the sky.