NetGalley Devours: World on a String by Larry Phifer, Illustrator: Danny Popovici

Last week, Lindsey devoured World on a String. Have you read and reviewed this title too? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter! #NGDevours
Check back soon for another children’s book review from Stuart, NetGalley’s newest Concierge!

World on a String by Larry Phifer, Illustrator: Danny Popovici
Storytime Works/Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Member; Pub Date: Jun 4 2013
World on a String

Description: Picture book that offers a uniquely uplifting perspective on loss. World on a String is the story of a young boy, Charlie, who finds and befriends a big red balloon. Soon, Charlie and his balloon become best friends. They play together. They go to school together. They do everything together. Then, one night, Charlie’s balloon comes untied in a thunderstorm. At first, Charlie is very sad. He imagines that his friend is lost, tangled and all alone. However, by remembering the happy times they shared, Charlie is able to shift his perspective, deal with his loss and, ultimately, he imagines his balloon as a very important part of the starry sky. [From the publisher]

Review: I stumbled across World on a Stringand instantly did what we’re all told not to do—judged it by its cover, but in a good way. I was intrigued and wanted to see more, and since this IBPA member title is currently available to READ NOW in the NetGalley catalog, was able to download it right away. The illustrations hooked me by the second page, and …I found myself relishing in the little details and inherent movement of the artwork. Then I started to read the text—sweet rhymes that I knew would easily appeal to my two-year-old daughter. I did a complete read-through in just a few moments (this is a short picture book, after all) but ended up surprised at how quickly the story touched me.

Like so many children’s books, we as adult readers are lead knowingly into a lesson, but happy to watch it unfold. Of course little Charlie has tons of fun with a red balloon—who wouldn’t? (I’m putting my own balloon-popping phobia aside for the moment.) Of course it’s larger than life to him (He spun it around like the world on a string), as all best playthings are—and we understand how easily it transforms from just something to fly and bounce to someone to hug and put to bed. When Charlie whispers I love you and admits You are my favorite thing, it’s not just our hearts that are warmed—the balloon itself spins around as if to say “thank you, and I agree.” Great times are had between boy and balloon, and the child in us wants to ignore the inevitability of what’s to come. But tragedy strikes, as often happens in life, and no matter how Charlie reaches up and calls out, it’s too late. We mourn briefly with Charlie until he remembers the balloon in all its glory, and imagines it now flying higher than ever before. I won’t describe the last few pages, because I hope you’ll get the chance to experience the poetry for yourself. A truly beautiful way to handle loss for a child’s mind.

So, I loved the illustrations and the story had literally choked me up, but I was curious what my 2-year-old daughter would think. After telling her she had “a new book to read on mommy’s computer,” I opened Adobe Digital Editions and told her the title of the book. She took one look at the cover and said “I like that one.” As I read the story, she pointed to the balloon, and especially laughed at the page where Charlie gives the balloon a bath. She got concerned when the boy and balloon were separated, and the stormy imagery on those pages prompted her to say “I don’t like that part.” But on the last page, she gave an unprompted and pleased “yay!” before saying “I wanna read that again.” It’s true my girl loves to read, but it’s equally true that if she doesn’t like a book the first time around, it’s hard to get her to pick it up again. So I’d say World on a String passed the test with flying colors.

On a final note, I wasn’t surprised (but was definitely pleased) to see that World on a String began as a Kickstarter project which was fully funded back in October. I’ll be looking for the app when it becomes available, and would love to see the printed version (pre-order a copy for yourself here). But for now, I’d encourage anyone with a small child to enjoy a preview via NetGalley.

-Review written by Lindsey Rudnickas, Digital Concierge


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