Skip to main content

Mathilda and the Orange Balloon by Randall de Sève, illustrated by Jen Corace

Mathilda and the Orange Balloon by Randall de Sève, wife of New Yorker artist Peter de Sève, with pictures by the magnificent Jen Corace is a rare picture book. Celebrity Authors take note: This is exactly the kind of book you are trying (and failing) to write when you take pen to hand, or fingers to keyboard - a story about believing in one's self and the limitlessness of imagination.

I almost feel like I shouldn't reveal any of the plot of Mathilda and the Orange Balloon at all because it is so pure and simple wonderfully told that it deserves to be discovered on one's own. And, as I mentioned above, the theme is a common enough one in picture books. But, don't let this dissuade you at all. As someone who has been reading picture books for decades now, out loud and to myself, I find that I am still amazed by the author who can tell a complete story and convey a unified idea, in a matter of sentences. Maurice Sendak's classic Where the Wild Things Are is often noted for this quality, as is Kevin Henkes' masterfully simple A Good Day, which every child under the age of four should own.

But, I will take on the challenge of sharing the plot of this book without giving it away while at the same time, hopefully shedding some light on what makes it great. Mathilda the sheep lives in a grey and green world where her flock mates, as sheep are wont to do, all have an attitude to match their monochromatic surroundings. You know, however, that there is something special about Mathilda because she has a bell tied around her neck on a lovely ribbon, perhaps signifying her sense of determination, wonderment and joy, like many toddlers I know. These qualities allow her not only to appreciate the orange balloon that floats by her (let loose from the fairgrounds we see in the distance?) but to run with it, both literally and figuratively. Well written by de Sève, Mathilda and the Orange Balloon is equally well illustrated by Corace. Corace's artwork brings the words to life, but also tells a story that goes beyond the text. And, Corace's illustration style is perfectly matched to de Sève's writing style - both are simple and elegant, yet rich and satisfying.

Little PeaLittle Oink

Ever since I read Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Little Pea, which was also the first picture book Jen Corace illustrated, I was hooked - both by the illustrations and the topsy-turvy story. Thankfully, this dynamic duo has written two more thematically similar books - Little Hoot and Little Oink. But, Corace's illustrations and artwork are so deliciously imaginative, both familiar and mysterious, cozy and a bit threatening, and always beautiful. I just had to include some of her independent work here...

Иллюстрации художницы Jen Corace

Finally, Randall de Sève has written two other picture books, Toy Boat, richly illustrated by Loren Long and The Duchess of Whimsy, illustrated by her husband! Toy Boat was a great story time book last summer and I was thrilled to see a photo of the model for the toy boat of the title, crafted by Loren Long's brother! I am truly impressed, both by , Randall de Sève's writing talents and the artistic talent that she has been paired with. I would love to know exactly how an author is matched with an artist!


Brian James said…
These look great. I grew up down the street from Jen, it's nice to see her getting the attention she deserves.
Tanya said…
Wow! That is so cool! She is a magnificent artist. I think that Jen, along with Carson Ellis, could become the Edward Goreys of the21st century - their work will be around for a long time!

Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…