Friday, September 1, 2017

Review: The Girl with the Red Balloon - Katherine Locke

The Girl with the Read Balloon 
Katherine Locke
Series: The Balloonmakers, #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Girl with the Red Balloon tells the tale of Ellie Baum, a teen who inadvertently time travels back to 1988 East Berlin via a magical red balloon. While there, she learns that there is an entire network of balloonmakers, who are using their magic to fight oppression by giving the gift of freedom to selected passengers.

Well, that was a magical adventure, but that ending!!!! There I was, some tears escaping my eyes, and  then that's all Locke gave me. Well done, Katherine Locke. You have left me totally wanting. Kudos to you.

My little outburst after reading that last sentence. 

I shelved this book on my fantasy shelf, because it involved time travel, but with any time travel book, we also have some historical content. Most of the story takes place in East Berlin, and I was in love with this idea of the balloonmakers helping East Germans over the wall, because my family, who were in West Germany, actually offered their home to those escaping the East.
"If you give a girl a magic balloon, she'll rage against the machine."
But, Locke didn't just focus on the oppression of those behind the Iron Curtain, she also wove in the genocide of the European Roma and Jews during the Nazi regime of World War II. The character, Benno, was a Jewish teen, who was relocated from Berlin to the  Łódź Ghetto in Poland during WWII, and the chapters that were from his point of view, were often painful. They tell starvation, slave labor, sickness, death, and despair, but there were also these shreds of hope and beauty too.
"If you give a girl a red balloon, she'll believe in magic and memory."
I totally fell in love with Ellie, Kai, and Mitzi. Each character was individually strong, but they were even better together. I adored the dynamic between Mitzi and Kai, and I immediately shipped Ellie and Kai.  I found myself very invested in their relationship. I don't know if it was this idea of trans-temporal romance or that I, myself, was so in love with Kai. He was so complicated, loyal, brave. He risked his life, so that others could enjoy freedom. He gave up his wants and desires, and assumed a life behind the Iron Curtain, in order to protect his sister. Just, wow!
"If you give a girl a red balloon, she'll never want to let go."
This book took me on a historical journey with a magical twist. It made me laugh, cry, swoon, and smile. I rooted for good, raged against evil, and was left curious for the next book.

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book

Do you have a favorite historical fantasy?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. This one sounds really good. I enjoy time travel quite a bit and this one travels to a time period that I do like reading about.

    On a completely unrelated note, my younger sister was obsessed with a french movie about a girl with a red balloon. The title really threw me off a bit.

    1. I think I know what movie you are talking about. It's an older movie called The Red Balloon.

      The magic in this book is very cool, and I liked the two views of Germany they chose too. I just wish there had been a little bit more closure in the ending, considering these characters will not be in the next book (according to Lockhart)

  2. I've seen this one about and I definitely want to read because history! Also, it's set during the time of the Berlin wall and just... it sounds good. I have seen several good reviews and who doesn't like some good old time travel, right?

    1. I liked it. My chief complaint is wanting to know more.

  3. I loooooved this book so much! The first chapter had super underwhelmed me, but oh, it got SO good! I was crying and laughing and just so in love with it! I am glad you liked it too, great review!

    1. Definitely a slow start, but it really took off. You can say the word Holocaust, and I will cry, but Locke shared some really touching moments. I liked when it all started to come together, when I finally realized the significance of the wartime flashbacks.

  4. What an original plot this is, at such devastating historical time. This is just such an impressive book!

    1. I am a total fan of the combination of historical events Locke selected to focus on, because they play a big role in my family history. I definitely enjoyed this book, even if I didn't get all the answers I wanted.