Thursday, 25 July 2013

World on a String by Larry Phifer and Danny Popovici (Storytime Works / IBPA)

We've seen quite a few children's picture books that deal with the subject of grief and loss. It's a subject that is extremely difficult to get 'right' in a book that has a target audience who need to see a subtle approach, almost an allegorical one perhaps.

Larry Phifer's "World on a String" with illustrations by Danny Popovici deals with the subject delicately and rather beautifully it has to be said. When young Charlie finds a balloon in the middle of the forest while out walking one day, he embarks on a journey of discovery, learning life lessons about friendship and companionship. A fairly lonely little boy, the Balloon becomes Charlie's surrogate friend / sibling, as he has fun with it, twirling and whirling it around on its string.

Soon the pair are inseparable. Everywhere Charlie goes, the balloon goes too. But as any child knows, keeping a tight hold on the string isn't always possible - and one day during a thunderstorm the balloon becomes untied from its string and flies up into the big black sky, never to be seen again.

Charlie is so sad at the loss of his 'friend', but thanks to his memories of the great times they had together, the balloon is still with him, nestled in a colourful corner of his mind.

There's a killer line in the book that goes...

"I miss you, friend" he whispered into the sky.
"...but I know your light was meant to fly."

...Which had both of us almost bursting into tears. A really touching moment.

Larry chose to write the book in rhyming couplets. We've talked extensively about the need to hone, and hone, and hone again any book that rhymes and at times I tripped over my tongue reading this aloud - and that's really the only negative thing I'd have to say about the book. It's beautiful to look at and the core theme is delicately dealt with and rather touchingly portrayed.

"World on a String" is available through the Storytime Works website and will also soon be available in physical format from Barnes and Noble too.

Charlotte's best bit: Charlie's happy memories of his fabulous bouncy friend.

Daddy's favourite bit: A touching and nicely subtle way of describing loss and grief to children. Some of the rhymes need tweaks and tucks here and there to help the rhythm and flow, but overall it's a very nice book indeed.

(Kindly sent to us in digital format by Larry Phifer / Storytime Works)