Wordless picture books are sometimes considered just for young children who aren’t reading yet or for those who can read some, but aren’t really independent yet. Those are great groups for many of these kinds of books, but You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum (by sisters Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Preiss Glasser) is a book that will appeal to readers—and non-readers—of all ages.
The story begins with a grandmother and her granddaughter climbing the steps to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The young girl tries to enter the museum holding a bright yellow balloon, but is stopped by a guard who seems to tell her she can’t bring her treasure inside. The guard eventually agrees to tie the balloon up so the girl can retrieve it at the end of her visit, but a pesky pigeon unties the string and the balloon is off, leading the guard on a series of crazy adventures around the city.
As the balloon flies away, the book tells two stories side by side: that of the grandmother and granddaughter in the museum and that of the balloon and everyone who ends up chasing it. What makes this story so fun is how the stories parallel each other. When the museum visitors are looking at “Portrait of a Lady with a Dog” for instance, the guard is chasing past a female dog walker. When the balloon floats over a fountain in the park, the young girl is shown with John Singer Sargent’s “Spanish Fountain”. All of the eighteen works of art included in the book are really housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and they are all listed at the back of the book, which is helpful since some are not as well-known as others.
The illustrations in this book are full of detail and will be interesting for children of all ages to scour. Most of the book is done in pen and ink with splashes of color for emphasis. The pieces of art included look just as you would see them in real life, which makes them jump off the page. Robin Glasser has done an amazing job of making the characters’ actions mimic the artwork and it’s fun to see how they match up in the details.
You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum can be just a fun book to look through for young children or it could be a great introduction to New York City landmarks and art from the museum for older children. If you enjoy this story, which I think you will, you can also look for the companion books You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the Museum of Fine Arts (set in Boston) and You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the National Gallery (set in Washington, DC).