Books Picture Book Challenge 2011 Picture Books Reading Themes When Words are Not Enough

Of Balloons and Museums in Washington DC: You Can’t take a Balloon into The National Gallery by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Preiss Glasser

Our Wordless Picture Book Special for March and April 2011

Our second book in the balloons and museums series is  You Can’t take a Balloon into the National Gallery. Here, we take a short trip to Washington DC and see the sights, sounds, and the lovely National Gallery of Art through the stunning artwork and wordless storyline as created by the sisters Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Preiss Glasser.

My very own copy of the book which I discovered years ago

The book that started it all. I bought this book around five years ago while I was still in the Philippines and like most new parents, I initially didn’t know what to make of it, given its wordless nature. When my husband and I “read” it though to my daughter, I realized its boundless potential for conversation, reader engagement and games on who among us would be the first to pick out the subtle differences between the artwork from the museum and Glasser’s version of life-imitates-art scenes/episodes from the book. My husband ordinarily does not enjoy story-time, but for this book, he was ‘with us’ throughout – which I believe shows how effective this book is (hardyhar).

I love the columns in this museum
The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC - click on the image to be taken to the websource

Series of Serendipitous Events with an Orange Balloon in Flight across Washington’s Landmarks. In this book, a new character is added to the grandmother-granddaughter duo – the cute younger brother with the curly hair joins the museum trip this time around. Having visited the Metropolitan Museum in New York, our little girl knows that she “can not take a balloon inside the museum” – thus, she requested the well-meaning red-haired lady – who makes her living taking photos of people with (no less than) George Washington himself outside the museum – to kindly hold on to her orange balloon. Little does the lady-photographer know the trouble that she’s in for being the balloon’s nanny for a few hours.

Better tie the balloon strings securely my dear, or it'd wreak havoc in the streets of Washington DC

As our little girl explores the National Gallery, a museum caretaker accidentally bumped into our lady photographer which caused the latter to topple over her George Washington lifesize cardboard cut out which then caused the balloon to fly off into the air. Series of unfortunate events, yes. And for the sharp-eyed teacher, may also assist children into figuring out cause and effect. Similar to the first book, we are taken to the streets of Washington as the comical balloon-chase essentially mirrors the paintings and artwork seen inside the museum.

Our headstrong orange balloon (that simply can not stand still in the wind) takes us initially to the Washington Monument where the posse of balloon-chasers climb up all the 898 stairs to reach the top (with the elevator being out of order of course).

Washington Museum - how beautiful - click the image to be taken to the websource.

Then it flies off into the White House – most naturally – followed by a mix and match of various individuals who are now deeply committed into ensuring that the balloon is secured and safe in the clutches of our now-frantic lady-photographer.

The White House. Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Over and above the places the balloon takes us to, it also gives us a sense of the people in Washington DC: the hippie animal rights activists (wearing radical signs such as: “get bogged down in nature, not in legislature” – hmm, they rhyme), the all-American beauty queen with her parasol, waving around in the Cherry Blossom Parade; the journalists/newspaper reporters, and the Congress in session where there is absolute mayhem.

‘Faces from History’ and Art Woven into Life’s Fabric. The sisters Weitzman and Glasser introduced an additional concept in this book which I believe most teachers would also enjoy sharing with their students (and mommies/daddies with their own children). They ingeniously scattered historical figures in the winding streets of Washington DC and the challenge is to spot as many of these ‘faces from history’ as you can. If you have a sharp eye, you would see Benjamin Franklin, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, even Martin Luther King Jr. milling about as the people slip, slide, and somersault to get ahold of the flighty and willful orange balloon. An author/illustrator note at the last page of the book reveals where these faces are alongside a summary of their contribution to the city of Washington and the history and lore of the United States.

What I enjoyed the most though is their traditional way of weaving life and art together into some seamless fabric of their own making. Here are some of the book images that really struck me:


Simply because I am an Impressionist fan - we see here the striking resemblance of the lady on the left to Edouard Manet's 'The Railway,' 1873 (page 19 of the book), said to be a Gift of Horace Havemeyer in memory of his mother, Louisine W. Havemeyer - as seen from the acknowledgments page of the book
I also enjoyed this one immensely. Here, Glasser and Weitzman likened the Congress in session with George Bellows' 'Both members of this club,' 1909 (page 31), Chester Dale Collection. How apt really.

Whether or not the little girl gets her balloon in the end – and the other journeys that the balloon has taken before it gets back to its rightful owner, I shall leave for you to discover.

My Museum Experience Part Two. And so I find another excuse to share more photos from De Young Museum, taken December of 2010 in San Francisco. Hope you like them.


This image really caught my attention. It's like she had a perennially disapproving look in her face. Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942) 'Little Lamerche,' ca. 1900 Oil on canvas.
Perfect for those who love tulips. George Hitchcock (1850-1913) 'Tulip Culture,' 1889
This is one of my favorites. Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935). 'Easter Morning (Portrait at a New York Window),' 1921.
"Ancestor skull. Southwest Coast, Asmat people 20th century. Skull, beads, feathers, fiber."

You Can’t take a Balloon into the National Gallery by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Preiss Glasser. Puffin Books Published by the Penguin Group, Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2000. Bought my own copy of this book.

PictureBook Challenge Update: 53 of 72

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

6 comments on “Of Balloons and Museums in Washington DC: You Can’t take a Balloon into The National Gallery by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Preiss Glasser

  1. Pingback: Of Balloons and Museums in Boston: You Can’t take a Balloon into the Museum of Fine Arts by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Preiss Glasser |

  2. I like the idea of visiting a museum without a balloon after reading your review. Haha. It seems that balloons are dangerous than what we expected. Those paintings looks great!


    • myragarcesbacsal

      Hello! Thanks for dropping by. I was actually thinking of touring the Singapore museums after this post.

      Yup, the paintings are beautiful. How I wish I could have taken photos of the Impressionist Masterpieces, but strictly a no-no, unfortunately. That was a real treat.


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