Written by Randall de Sève, Illustrated by Jen Corace
Balzer + Bray, 2010
Mathilda’s world was small.
The plot in a nutshell: A sheep’s view is changed by an orange balloon.
Mathilda is surrounded by only green and gray things so when an orange balloon floats by, she is transfixed by it. She asks what it is and the other sheep tell her it’s an orange balloon and she tells them that she is an orange balloon, too. They argue that she will always be a sheep but then she asks them to describe an orange balloon and as they do, she shows all the ways that those same attributes can apply to her. She imagines herself as an orange balloon and is happy. And the other sheep realize they can imagine, too.
When I started this blog, one of the guidelines I set for myself was not to overuse the word, ‘charming,’ Books like this one, from author Randall de Sève make that super difficult, because charming really is the best word. Mathilda is an absolutely adorable character who is inspired by the sight of something bright and new in her drab world. The book’s text states that ‘something inside her woke up.’ I think that makes this book relatable to so many people for many reasons. I can think of a few different times over the course of my life when something stirred me in a similar way.
Jen Corace’s illustrations shows us the literal interpretations of Mathilda’s imagination, so when her fellow sheep describe orange as fierce, like a tiger, we see Mathilda transform into a tiger and then become the sun when they describe orange as warm. And while we know this is all her imagination, we also know that how you see yourself is very powerful, making this a really good way to encourage young ones to own their self-esteem. The final pictures show us what some of the other sheep imagine for themselves, which shows how contagious a positive attitude can be. I really loved this book.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that your perception of yourself can be whatever you want it to be if your imagination is strong enough.