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The Remember Balloons

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James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.

But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!

Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

48 pages, Hardcover

First published August 28, 2018

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About the author

Jessie Oliveros

3 books52 followers
Jessie grew up watching Kansas sunsets, and she’ll always have wild sunflowers and gold-tipped cornfields in her heart. She spent her college-life climbing mountains in Utah and striving for higher vistas. After a fulfilling career as a registered nurse, Jessie hung up her stethoscope to grow children and stories. She loves root beer floats, autumn, and running in the rain. These days you can find her in the Texas hill country with her husband and their five kids.

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5 stars
1,575 (76%)
4 stars
408 (19%)
3 stars
85 (4%)
2 stars
3 (<1%)
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1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 654 reviews
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
February 2, 2019
Such a gentle, loving book that explains memory loss via a simple, but vivid metaphor. My kid was concerned why the dog had only one balloon though. To think of it, I am bothered a little by this too...
Profile Image for Sarah Reul.
Author 13 books37 followers
July 2, 2018
Well, this one made me cry uncontrollably, but it was totally worth it. The concept of memories and stories being shared between people, and the ache of not being able to hold on to them as they slip away… so beautifully rendered in this book, between the comfortably flowing words and the illustrations in tones of grey, highlighted with the transparent colors of the balloons. One of my favorites for 2018.
Profile Image for Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow.
Author 7 books140 followers
May 9, 2018
This is such a beautiful book. The story is poignant yet simple. The use of balloons makes it easy for children to understand the loss of memory in an older relative. The images, with the spare use of color, really complements the story of the book. I want to look at the pictures again and again and reread the words. My 4-year-old seemed mesmerized too as I read it to him. The Remember Balloons is certainly a memorable book and one to cherish.
Profile Image for LaDonna.
174 reviews2,453 followers
February 3, 2021
Be prepared to shed a few tears with this one. Jessie Oliveros, along with the illustrations of Dana Wulfekotte, weaves a beautiful tale about growing older and the impact it can have on one's family. Not to give it all away, but, if you have not figured it out, balloons represent ones memories. You can just imagine what happens as you get older. The Remember Balloons chronicles the relationship between James and his Grandfather. Aging is not easy on anyone, especially one's immediate family.

Read it for yourself.
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,125 reviews104 followers
March 13, 2019
I really have enjoyed the metaphorical and colourful balloons that author Jessie Oliveros uses in her The Remember Balloons to indicate and describe memories (and how James' grandfather, not only has the largest number but also the most colourful balloons in the family and is therefore also the main teller of tales, passing his balloons, passing his memories onto others, until Grandpa starts having issues with his balloons, with his memories, and to the point that one day, he has no more balloons left in his repertoire, that basically all of Grandpa's memories have become lost).

A sad and poignant (even rather depressing) story Jessie Oliveros' The Remember Balloons has been to and for me, but with a mildly hopeful ending (namely that since young James has been one of the main recipients of and listeners to his grandfather's memories and stories, he can now and like his grandfather used to do, share and pass them on, perhaps even return them, give the balloon memories back to his grandfather, return them to their original source). And this ending (albeit it might also be a bit wishful thinking), it does indeed seem to take at least some of the potential sting and pain out of the author's narrative (out of The Remember Balloons) albeit without in any way denying or making light of the sadness and frustration that age-related dementia and syndromes such as Alzheimer disease can and do inflict and cause (also wonderfully and imaginatively aesthetically presented with and by Dana Wulfekotte's evocative and emotional accompanying illustrations, in so far that most of the pictures are black, white and grey hued, whilst the balloony memories are all bright and colourful, indicating both their significance, their importance, but also demonstrating visually how painfully sad and depressing their disappearance and loss from the grandfather's reach have been for everyone, for the entire family).
Profile Image for La Coccinelle.
2,245 reviews3,563 followers
September 16, 2019
Well, there's a depressing picture book. Don't get me wrong: it's pretty good. It's just so sad.

Despite what the synopsis says, this isn't a book about simply getting a little forgetful as you age. Grandpa has full-blown, rip-roaring Alzheimer's, to the point where he loses all of his memories. The point at which he loses the silver balloon--representing a shared experience with his grandson--is gut-wrenching. However, there's a little bit of hope at the end, and about as much of a happy-ever-after as a story like this is going to get.

I really like the metaphor that's used here. Balloons represent memories. It's not explicitly stated, but as the boy explains that he has more than his baby brother, and his parents have more than him, and his grandfather has more than all of them combined... well, it's easy to see what the balloons represent. (It gets even easier when the boy explains what's in those balloons.) The fact that even the dog has a balloon made me smile (and wonder what that one precious memory is all about... although I'm guessing it probably has something to do with food). As Grandpa's Alzheimer's takes hold, he starts to lose his balloons. The boy tries to chase them, but because they're not his, he can't really catch them. He has to just watch them float away. Eventually, though, because Grandpa told him the stories of what was in those balloons, the boy ends up with a few new ones in his own bunch... which he can then share with his grandfather.

The illustrations are simple, but effective. Pretty much everything is black and white, except for the balloons and the scenes depicted inside them. It really helps highlight what the reader is supposed to focus on.

Overall, this is a sad book, but it's a nice metaphor about memories and it could help children who are trying to understand what's happening to a family member who might be suffering from Alzheimer's.

Quotable moment:

Profile Image for Arezoo Gholizadeh.
Author 20 books82 followers
August 5, 2021
مدت‌ها بود کتاب کودکی نخونده بودم که اینطوری من رو تحت‌تاثیر قرار بده. با چند تا بادکنک رنگی و دو تا شخصیت اصلی نوه و پدربزرگ، مفاهیم عمیقی رو پوشش داده بود، مثل خاطرات، آلزایمز و مرگ. کتاب عجیبی بود!
Profile Image for Beth Anderson.
Author 7 books57 followers
June 9, 2018
This tender story about an aging grandparent experiencing memory loss makes a very difficult time of life comprehensible for a child. Memories, just like the balloons used to represent them, are shared and sometimes slip away. The story doesn’t skip over the frustration or anger or sadness that comes with memory loss, but lets the reader move through these emotions until finally finding the joy held in shared memories and the responsibility of transferring them to others along the way. It’s a beautiful metaphor and a vital story for children, as well as their parents, as they deal with a loved one whose memories are fading. It truly touched my heart and gave me goosebumps.
Profile Image for Jillian Heise.
2,287 reviews482 followers
September 27, 2019
Having had to watch as my grandmother suffered through Alzheimers for years and ultimately passed away last year, this one hit me hard. I'll likely have to read it many more times myself before I can read it aloud to a group of kids. But this book is a beautiful way to represent the power of shared memories with loved ones, and what is lost as that awful disease progresses. This is a must-have in any classroom/library, especially important to be pulled out and shared when any kids are going through this with a loved one.
Profile Image for Dani ❤️ Perspective of a Writer.
1,512 reviews5 followers
June 28, 2019
Check out more reviews @ Perspective of a Writer...

Picture books are near and dear to my heart. For several years I read them with my nephew who is autistic. We don't read and draw together anymore but when the perfect picture book comes along I feel a need to revisit those times with him. He identifies with children of color and he would have adored The Remember Balloons!!

I loved right off how beautiful Dana Wulfekotte's art was and applaud the diversity found in the story. The gorgeous tonal quality to the art really set off the colored balloons perfectly. And I loved how the diversity with in James' family deepened the story adding a sense of unity to the theme of aging. It feels like a book that was written by someone who understands what a summer spent in the southern US is like. And the art brings that story full circle. Giving the story a dreamy summer feel for what is a heavy and difficult topic to explain to a child, age-related memory loss.

The Remember Balloons is a story about family, togetherness, memories and service. It's achingly beautiful how the idea of memories is explained in such simple terms. Then James shares with us why these balloons, these memories, are so important! I just loved this so much. Because I think its so important that children understand that time spent together is the best gift between two people. He shows the reader how he felt spending time with his grandpa and then sharing that memory.

But The Remember Balloons doesn't stop there! No, it goes on to empower James!! He doesn't just have to accept that Grandpa is loosing his precious memories. He doesn't have to dwell on how sad it is that Grandpa doesn't remember the times they spent together. No, he has a way to help Grandpa remember! Even if just for the moment by sharing those moments back with Grandpa he can do that service for him.

Needless to say The Remember Balloons is a TOP NOTCH picture book. It's perfect for children and adults with elderly family, neighbors or friends who are struggling with age-related memory loss like dementia or Alzheimer's Disease. It teaches them how to understand and sympathize with these struggles. It's also a lovely story for all children to teach them how to relate to others in sensitive situations. I highly recommend this gorgeous book for all readers!!

BOTTOM LINE: A Gorgeous Look at the Importance of Memories

You can find this review and many others on my book blog @ Perspective of a Writer. Read my special perspective under the typewriter on my reviews...

Please like this review if you enjoyed it! *bow* *bow* It helps me out a ton!!
Profile Image for Ryhnn~.
62 reviews11 followers
January 9, 2023
نویسنده سعی کرده بود به صورت نمادین، فراموشی و آلزایمر رو به بچه‌ها توضیح بده.
سوال اینجاست که من چرا باهاش بغض کردم؟(:
Profile Image for Alex  Baugh.
1,954 reviews108 followers
October 1, 2018
Using balloons to a metaphor for memories, young James tells readers he only has a few balloons, unlike his grandpa who has more balloons than James, his little brother, and his parents put together. grandpa has lived a long full life, and James loves hearing about the memories in his balloons. For memories that they share, they each have the same color balloon, like the time they went fishing together. Then, one day, grandpa starts having a problem with his balloons. One would get stuck and he would tell the same story over and over, even though he had just finished it. Or grandpa's balloons would float away and he didn't even notice it. Eventually, grandpa has no more balloons. James is very sad to see this happen, but then his parents point out all the new balloons he has, balloons that once were his grandpa's are now his to share. Memory loss in grandparents caused by age-related dementia or Alzheimer's disease is difficult to explain to children, ever when they see it happening as James does here. I thought that using balloons to represent memories is one of the best way to explain what many grandchildren are probably witnessing in their own grandparents. Each of grandpa's memories is depicted in a different color balloon, and it's an idea kids can understand, after all, what child has witnessed balloons floating away. This is a poignant story, sensitively told, and with a hopeful ending as James becomes the bearer of his grandpa's memories to share with his family.
Profile Image for Becky.
5,206 reviews103 followers
October 5, 2018
First sentence: I have lots and lots of balloons, way more than my little brother. "This one's my favorite," I tell him, pointing to the balloon filled with my last birthday party. When I look at it, I can see the pony again. I can still taste the chocolate frosting.

Premise/plot: The balloons in the story symbolize a person's memories. James, our narrator, has many balloons though not as many as his parents and his grandpa. But that changes over the course of the book. His grandpa loses all of his balloons--his memories. This upsets James greatly. But then he notices that while his grandpa's balloons are gone, he has plenty of NEW balloons. Every single story his grandpa shared with him--every single balloon--is now his. His to remember. His to share. His to cherish.

But Grandpa has been having problems with his balloons lately. One will get caught in a tree, and he'll tell me the same story over and over. "Let me tell you about the Christmas I went to Aunt Nelle's farm," Grandpa says, even though he just finished telling me about it. Other times, a balloon will float right out of his hand, and he won't even know it.

My thoughts: I love, love, love, LOVE, crazy-love this one. It is incredibly good. It is sweet, bittersweet, and thought-provoking. It is on a sensitive topic; one that might be difficult for children to understand. (It may be "easy" for adults to grasp what Alzheimer's disease is mentally at least, but it's far from easy to process it in reality.)

This book celebrates FAMILY. I love that. The boy is obviously close with his whole family, but he is especially close with his grandfather. You don't always see that in picture books. It's obvious that these two have a lot of shared memories.

This book also celebrates STORIES. I really love that. Stories are gifts. Storytellers are gifted. Stories create bonds; stories celebrate what matters in life. The good. The bad. The ugly. The hilarious. The sweet. The more you hear a story, the more it becomes YOURS. Stories definitely shape/mold/transform our own memories, our own sense of self, of who we are, of where we belong.

I thought about my own balloons while reading this story. As soon as I read the book, I made my mom read it. Soon after she was, "I have a balloon I want to give you, but I'm not sure of its color." She then started telling me a story about how my sister told the nurse that her mama was going to be giving HER a baby.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10
Profile Image for Linda .
3,706 reviews42 followers
October 29, 2018
Jessie Oliveros does a terrific job of telling about Alzheimer's Disease in an easy-to-understand way for young readers. She uses the analogy of balloons as memories and at first the boy telling the story shares he has way more "balloons" than his little brother. His favorite is the one filled with his last birthday party. His mom and dad have more than he does, but his grandpa has more than all of them together, with marvelous stories. As the story moves along, Grandpa sometimes tells about one balloon twice, and then he begins to forget those stories. They simply float away. The boy is shattered, but his parents help him realize that now Grandpa's balloons belong to him that he can share. Dana Wulfekotte illustrates the story with a limited palette except for those beautiful memory balloons.
Profile Image for Eden.
509 reviews209 followers
July 25, 2019
Children’s books oftentimes have the most hard hitting stories. The Remember Balloons is no exception. James and his grandpa’s story is beautiful and sad at the same time.

I love this story because it encourages the reader to think about their personal experiences while reading the story of someone else. It also teaches the reader empathy and brings up the conversation of dementia/Alzheimer’s/how old age affects different people.

Dana Wulfekotte’s illustrations are the perfect pairing for Jessie Oliveros’s story. I’m really glad this book was introduced to me and that I bought myself a copy. I’ll be using it to prompt writing in my high school classroom. <3
Profile Image for BrookesEducationLibrary.
457 reviews46 followers
December 5, 2018
This really is an exquisite book, so tender, so heart-wrenching and so very sad. It covers the difficult topics of older generations losing their memories and how children deal with this. In this case through all having their own memory filled balloons, the older you are the more balloon memories you've accumulated and what happens as you start to forget your memories and lose your balloons. A difficult read but highly recommended picture book.
Profile Image for Beverly.
5,166 reviews4 followers
March 6, 2019
This is a tender, sweet story about a young biracial child who tries to help his Grandpa remember important events in his life with imaginary balloons. Although not specified, the grandfather is probably suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The illustrations in pencil, colored pencil, ink and gouache are interesting--most of the illustrations are black, white and grey, except for the brightly colored balloons that hold those important memories.
Profile Image for Nancy Kotkin.
1,400 reviews19 followers
November 25, 2019
A little boy struggles with his grandfather's memory loss, and learns to accept it by sharing his grandfather's memories back with him. A touching story and a very effective way to introduce Alzheimer's/dementia to young children. The simple illustrations use lots of white space, but also extend the text by further clarifying the concept of memory. This picture book is a stellar example of expertly blending written words with art to create a memorable story.
Profile Image for Kelly.
8,120 reviews12 followers
October 3, 2018
I had no idea what to expect when I started to read this book. It quickly becomes clear what the "Remember Balloons" are and what they represent.

This is a beautiful book. With some picture books, you can feel the lightheartedness. With this book, there is a pervasive pulling at the heart.

Beautifully handled book about memory.
166 reviews2 followers
August 19, 2019
I wouldn't normally put this book on my read shelf. But this story touched me on a level I couldn't ever imagine. This book was so beautiful and explained Alzheimer and Dementia in a way that was just amazing. Thank you Jessie Oliveros for writing this amazing book. If you ever run into this situation with a loved on and you need to explain it to a child I would 100% recommend this book.
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,826 reviews283 followers
February 28, 2023
James has a lot of balloons filled with memories but his grandpa has even more. But his grandpa's balloons begin to drift away until they are all gone. How will James deal with the loss of all his grandpa's memories?

A deeply poignant story of family love, memories, and sharing with others.
Profile Image for Suzan.
790 reviews
August 3, 2022
Picture books can be fun and entertaining, but they can also be profound and deeply moving. Such is the case with this beautiful book. Dementia and Alzheimer's can be hard to explain to children when they experience it with a loved one. This book doesn't sugarcoat the pain and challenges of memory loss, but it tenderly explains it in an easy to understand way, brilliantly using balloons as a metaphor of what happens to the memories of loved ones affected by dementia. Together, the text and illustrations make for a beautiful and tender story--one that deeply touched me. Picture books aren't just for children.
June 27, 2021
Be prepared to cry! This sweet children's book literally gave me chills. While it is sweet and sad all in one, I feel this could be an extremely beneficial book for children who have a relative going through alzheimer's, dementia,or some memory troubles.
23 reviews1 follower
February 5, 2020
Genre: Challenges/Issues- Family Situations
Awards: Schneider Family Book Award
Audience: Ages 5-9

Summary: A young boy watches his grandfather lose his balloons, or memories, and has a hard time processing and understanding what is going on. His feelings are hurt, but he learns to have patience and realizes how important sharing stories with family is.

a. The main character, a young boy named James, is struggling with his grandfather losing his balloons, or memories.

b. This would be an excellent book for children and families who are experiencing a time when an elder relative is going through dementia or Alzheimer’s. It would be a convenient book to have in nursing homes and hospitals. These places would be an appropriate place for the book because children visiting their grandparents might be confused and take their loss of memory personally, or not understand how to take it at all. This book would allow the children to better understand the struggles and sickness their relatives are going through.
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