World On a String by Larry Phifer and Danny Popovici
Publisher: Storytime Works
Published: June 3, 2013
Source/Format: Purchased | Hardcover
World On a String by Larry Phifer is, above all, a story about friendship, and the way some friendships have the power to shape our lives into something big and beautiful and somehow better. In this story, we meet Charlie and his red balloon – a balloon lauded by the entire town as being the “brightest red and the roundest round.” Charlie adores his balloon, taking it with him everywhere he goes and making sure to let the balloon know, again and again, just how much it is loved. Even as the story gets darker, Charlie’s love is a light and his faith is a reminder that, despite loss, we can still find hope in our memories.
World On a String does focus on friendship, but it is also a beautiful depiction of grief and how children and adults alike can find solace in the face of grief. After finding and loving his balloon, Charlie loses him one night in a storm. The next few pages deal with Charlie’s inability to understand his pain. The book asks big questions about what comes after such a loss and how we move from sadness to a sense of understanding and acceptance. Though he still deals with his pain, Charlie begins to think of the good memories he shared with his red balloon, and imagines him elsewhere – in a sky where the stars are balloons that hold up the world. The illustrations that accompany the book, beautifully executed by Danny Popovici, depict these experiences, struggles, and dreams in a perfect and poignant way. We feel each emotion as Charlie feels them, and throughout, find ourselves faced with the same questions. How do we deal with our own losses, and how, at the end of the day, can we accept them with grace? Charlie accomplishes this feat, whispering to the sky where his balloon floats, “I love you. You’re my favorite thing.” And then he watches that balloon, “spin around like the world on a string.”
World On a String proves that children’s books can deal with big issues in a lovely and subtle way. It is a story that never condescends, simply gives a name to a feeling we often ache to avoid. World On a String by Larry Phifer is wonderful and important book, and will be for years and years to come.