Allison's Book Bag

The Blue Baboon in the Big Balloon by Steve and Sarah Mostyn

Posted on: August 12, 2014

Two baboons who live with a green cat, a trip to the moon where two raccoons are friends with a panda, and a cow whose moo reminds the baboons that it’s time for tea. From the creative minds of Steve and Sarah Mostyn comes the picture book The Blue Baboon in the Big Balloon. Its whimsical tone will make you smile. Unfortunately, some of the rhymes are awkward, and the illustrations need a lighter background.

Although of lesser quality, The Blue Baboon in the Big Balloon made me think of Curious George by the Reys. Where else can you find a monkey who swims in the ocean, rides on balloons, and escapes from jail? And where else but in The Blue Baboon in the Big Balloon can you read about baboons who drink tea and mice who eat rice? Steve and Sarah Mostyn developed their storytelling craft through the inspiration of their children, with whom they sit weekly to brainstorm new ideas as well as expand upon old ones. You can tell how much fun the family had together, when you read of a mite living on a kite and fighting a troll named Dwayne. Their fun probably equates to the fun which the Reys surely had in writing their tales about a plant who bit people, a kangaroo who lacked pockets, and a penguin who travelled the world after he ran out of adventures to share. I could see families reading The Blue Baboon in the Big Balloon and being equally inspired to compose their own Round Robin Story, whereby each family member adds to and expands upon one another’s ideas.

Again, although of lesser quality, The Blue Baboon in the Big Balloon also made me think of some of Dr. Seuss’ earlier stories. Picture books are a place where imagination can soar. One can indulge in a nonsensical plot, such as found time and time again in the Dr. Seuss books, and make priceless fantasies. Yet it takes skill to create a simplicity and rhythm that reads well aloud. Both To Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street and The Blue Baboon in the Big Balloon starts out with lines which a little child could read. As one continues to read the two, both also are as equally weird, but the Dr. Seuss books more clearly sustain a flow which doesn’t trip the tongue, unlike these lines from The Blue Baboon in the Big Balloon: ““Oh what a sight to see, the orange mite who lived on a kite, Dwight wearing tights, Matt the cat chasing the family of mice that liked to fly kites and eat fried rice, and a blue balloon flying in a big balloon.” There’s also less repetition and more depth in works by Dr. Seuss.

My other quibble is with the design. While I enjoyed the large cartoonish illustrations, the backgrounds of blue, purples, and black took away from the whimsical tone. Some of the animals portrayed wore bright colors such as pink, red, and orange. In a story about such silly stuff a panda who sings while holding a banana, I expect the pages to sing with color. Also, given that picture books will be probably handled often, the absence of a hardcover edition is problematic.

This debut picture book from Steve and Sarah Mostyn has charm. It could be the first in a delightful family-created series. As a standalone, however, it isn’t memorable enough for me to recommend it.

My rating? Leave it: Don’t even take it off the shelves. Not recommended.

How would you rate this book?

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