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Children's Fiction Imagination & Play

Once Upon a Balloon

by (author) Bree Galbraith

illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Oct 2013
Imagination & Play, General, Siblings
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Mar 2015
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2013
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2013
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 3 to 5
  • Grade: p to k
  • Reading age: 3 to 5


Theo is brokenhearted when he accidentally lets go of the string of his party balloon. As he watches it float out of sight, Theo wonders where his balloon might have gone. Luckily, his older brother Zeke knows everything about everything. Zeke explains that it is a little-known fact that all lost balloons end up in Chicago, the Windy City. Then he tells Theo about Frank, who is responsible for collecting all the balloons in the world. Theo is so touched by Frank's story that he decides to send him a message of hope the only way he knows how.

A unique story filled with the magic and whimsy of childhood imagination, Once Upon a Balloon will delight young readers and reawaken the child in all of us.

About the authors

BREE GALBRAITH is a UBC Master of Creative Writing graduate and author of award winning titles, Once Upon a Balloon (Orca 2013), and Milo and Georgie (2017). Usha and the Stolen Sun is Bree’s third book, and several more follow in the coming years, including the Wednesday Wilson series (Kids Can Press 2020-22). She lives in the heart of Vancouver with her family, where when she’s not writing, she’s definitely outside enjoying the wonders of the west coast.

Bree Galbraith's profile page

Isabelle Malenfant nació en Val d'Or, Quebec, y ahora vive en Montreal. De niña, a ella le gustaba dibujar y tocar instrumentos musicales. Ella tocaba flauta, además de piano, bajo, guitarra y violín. Sus asignaturas favoritas en la escuela fueron arte y biología. Estudió arte en la universidad y se licenció en Diseño Gráfico en la Universidad de Quebec, en Montreal.


Isabelle siempre ha disfrutado creando personajes y escribiendo cuentos. Antes de comenzar a ilustrar Pablo encuentra un tesoro, buscó fotos de los vertederos y de las personas que trabajan allí. Su mayor desafío fue representar las piezas de basura sin que se viera repetitivo. Después de experimentar un poco, decidió usar lápices, para crear manchas que lograran el efecto de un entorno sucio.


Lo que más disfruta del proceso creativo es idear personajes y ponerlos en escena. ¡Lo que más le gusta es ensuciarse las manos!


Isabelle vive con su pareja, sus dos hijas, un gato y un hámster enano. Cuando no está escribiendo o ilustrando, le gusta esculpir, coser, leer, escuchar música e ir al cine cuando puede.


Su consejo para los aspirantes a autores e ilustradores es divertirse y no preocuparse por las reglas.


Isabelle Malenfant's profile page


  • Short-listed, Chocolate Lily Award nominee
  • Short-listed, Chocolate Lily Book Awards
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens

Editorial Reviews

"This imaginative tale displays a charming sibling relationship, somewhat reminiscent of Marie-Louise Gay’s 'Stella and Sam' series, that will leave the reader wanting more. The delightful text is told with gentle humour, and Bree Galbraith’s ending is upbeat and clever...The illustrations, done in watercolours, coloured pencils, and pastels, are as appealing as the story. The childlike, whimsical drawings suit the playful text...Highly Recommended."

CM Magazine

"An imaginative story with creative and quirky details told through the eyes of a child, is one that students will not forget."

Michigan Reading Journal

★ "Galbraith demonstrates an intimate understanding of a child's inquisitive, innocent nature...The fantastical storyline is enhanced by Isabelle Malenfant's whimsical illustrations. With a hint of Quentin Blake and a dash of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Malenfant captures the story's spirit, exemplified by a particularly striking illustration of a grey chicago enlivened by colourful balloons that drift among the skyscrapers. Once Upon a Balloon playfully teaches a couple of important life lessons. Children will be delighted as Theo persists (and succeeds) in trying to help Frank, and adult readers may be reminded of something too easily forgotten: that a childlike sense of wonder is something to be treasured."

Quill & Quire, starred review

"The artwork, done in watercolor, colored pencil, and pastels, is as droll as the text...This story is for every child who has ever let go of a balloon and wondered where it went. Zeke's fanciful story is a gift to his younger brother, strengthening the bonds between them. It is a fine choice for storytime and a welcome addition to all libraries."

School Library Journal

"This sweet story is beautifully illustrated and will captivate young children. The magical, yet simple tale will appeal to both young and old, and will make a great read-aloud. Friendship, kindness, and loyalty are the lessons children and adults will take with them, and the book will be read over and over again to recapture its quiet joy."

Library Media Connection

"The artist captures the fun that is inherent in such a charmer of a story. Using watercolor, colored pencils, and pastels, she creates memorable images that match the tone and delight of this homage to a child's innate ability to suspend belief when the situation calls for it. Bravo, Zeke!"

Sal's Fiction Addiction blog

"Galbraith's Zeke tells the story in a voice so like a real older sibling that readers will be captivated and believe, as Theo does, that the lost balloon is in a happy place...Malenfant's illustrations...layered over soft, swirling backgrounds...bestow a dream quality on Zeke's imaginative tale. Between the story and the illustrations functioning so perfectly together, Once Upon a Balloon is a magical story that leaves young readers with a sense of security and contentment."

Resource Links

"A lighter-than-air answer to that eternal question: Where do balloons go?...Malenfant uses a deliberately childlike style to illustrate this sweet flight of fancy, which celebrates storytelling, the bond between siblings and the wonder of a serendipitous connection, all at the same time."

Kirkus Reviews

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