The Red Balloon - Thao Lam
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The Red Balloon

The Red Balloon

The Red Balloon

When I was in elementary school every spring the skies would be filled with colourful little dots. I don’t remember what the annual fundraiser was for, but it was pure joy to watch hundreds of balloons being released into the skies. Weeks before the event students were asked to sell raffle tickets. On the day of the event each raffle ticket was than attached to a balloon and the whole school would gather in the playground to release their balloons, hundreds of balloons taking off to parts unknown. Over the next few weeks some of the raffle tickets would return mailed back to the school by people who discovered them when a balloon drifted their way. The students those raffle tickets were returned received prizes, but the best prize of all were the letters and notes that were mailed back with the raffle ticket; stories from far corners of the world. Keep reading…

The Red Balloon was originally created as a short film before it was adapted into a children’s book. It was directed and written by Albert Lamorrisse in 1956. I haven’t seen the film but it seem like Doubleday (the publisher) took the screenplay and added film stills to make the book. Unfortunately not everything transfers well into this medium; they weren’t able to capture the cinematography or the musical score, both which I was told played a major role in making the film a success. The Red Balloon was awarded the Palme d’Or Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and an Oscar for best original screenplay.

The film, which has a music score but almost no dialogue, is told as a narration in the book. On his way to school one day Pascal discovers a large red balloon. As Pascal plays with his newfound toy, he realizes the balloon has a mind and will of its own. It begins to follow him wherever he goes. Together the pair wonders the street of Paris, receiving strange looks from adults and unwanted attention from the neighborhood bullies.

The photographs in the book were taken during the filming movie The Red Balloon. There are a generous number of photographs in the book; about 5% of the photos are in colour while the rest are in black and white. I actually prefer the black and white photographs; the colour photos seem to date the book even more, and the photo quality is kind of poor. Albert Lamorrisse used his own children as actors in the film. His son Pascal Lamorrisse played the main character and his daughter Sabine played the little girl.

The Red Balloon, a children’s book review by Thao Lam

Author and Director Albert Lamorrisse

(1922 – 1970)

Albert Lamorrisse was a French filmmaker, producer and writer. He was born on January 13th, 1922 in Paris, France. Albert started out as a photographer before he began directing short films in 40’s. It was during the filming of his documentary Le Vent des amoureux (The Lovers’ Wind) that Albert was tragically killed; his helicopter went down while he was filming in Iran.

A Jeopardy moment for all the board game geeks out there, according to Wikipedia Albert Lamorrisse was the creator of Risk. Originally published in France in 1957, it was titled La Conquette Du Monde. It was eventually rebranded by Parker Brothers as Risk and sold in the United States.


Publisher Doubleday Books for Young Readers (July 18, 1978)

ISBN-10 0385142978

ISBN-13 978-0385142977