If you’re a museum nerd and you have a daughter/son/niece/nephew/cousin that you want to brainwash, this is the book for you! You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Preiss Glasser is a beautifully illustrated tale that seamlessly integrates art in a museum with the hustle and bustle of every day life.
Published in 2000, the book tells the story of a young girl visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When she tries to bring her bright yellow balloon through the front gates, she is stopped by a security guard. Instead of taking the balloon away, he instead ties it to the railing of the staircase outside. Satisfied with this arrangement, the little girl and her grandmother hurry inside.
As soon as she leaves, a pigeon swoops down and carries the balloon away, promptly followed by the enraged security guard. As the guard attempts to retrieve the balloon, we get a glimpse of everyday New York City scenes: people walking dogs in central park, enjoying tea at a cafe, and enjoying a theater production. What is so ingenious about this book is that it connects these tableaux to actual works in the Met’s collection.
For example, just as the security guard passes a woman walking dogs in Central Park, we see the little girl in the museum eyeing Jean Honoré Fragonard’s “Lady with a Dog.”
And as the balloon makes it way through a contemporary theater production and ensuing chaos, we see the little girl and her grandmother observing Jackson Pollock’s “Autumn Rhythm.”
Pairing works of art from a variety of time periods and styles with recognizable scenes of city life, helps the art become digestible for young readers (it is recommended for children ages 4-8). In addition, the story itself uses a comic book-like layout, with absolutely no words. The readers of the story, presumably children, have to make their own connections using contextual clues.
“Loaded with pizzazz, this wordless story takes readers on a great balloon chase that encompasses some of New York City’s most celebrated sites.”
Overall, this delightful tale of art & life is entertaining for readers of all ages. I would recommend it for those within the museum field as well as those just looking for a dynamic and illuminating addition to their story time lineup.
The book is available for purchase on Amazon.