i think “the girl with the red balloon” was ok
I enjoyed the book, but these were some of the thoughts I had after reading it. I suppose I am more of an optimist and was a little bummed that the heroine was more of a pessimist. The whimsical thought of grabbing a balloon and it whisking you off to another place or time is fun, but only inspired horror for the heroine. Adjusting to living in a different time period and culture could be full of humor and curiosity, but was overwhelmingly full of angst and loneliness for her. Discovering magic is real and that you have some talent… Read more »
I understand Ellie. I’ve been in Eastern Germany 1986 for a few weeks in summer. It’s an oppressing regime. Life was drab, boring and full of weird ideology (a lot of billboards praising socialism). I would say, it’s not surprising that she experienced horror.
Have you ever heard of culture shock? The explanation I heard of it says that different cultures have their own rhythms and music that a stranger doesn’t hear, and consequently is out of step with. I imagine that adding the time difference would intensify the feeling of wrongness, isolation and awkwardness.
I just finished the book, and immediately looked for #2! It’s not available from my library yet, but I read the synopsis online. I was disappointed that it doesn’t involve the same characters, because I need to know what happened!
Hi Diane! There’s a bit of an answer in GIRL for those who need closure…if you read the last chapter again, and then go back to the first chapter, I think you’ll see a familiar face. I hope that helps! It was important to me to leave that ending as it was (trying not to type spoilers here for anyone who hasn’t finished yet!) so I wanted to write another Balloonmakers book in a different time period, instead of a direct sequel. I hope that you can request that your library get THE SPY WITH THE RED BALLOON! (That ending… Read more »
Thank you for this reply. It really gave me a sense of closure to the book that I was missing. It made the unknowns and what might have been come together satisfyingly. I really enjoyed the book. It resonated with me. The Holocaust and other associations have always been very significant for me.
Thank you for this tip! I just finished the book and feel much better about the ending now. I hope you’ll consider continuing the story sometime. I’m so curious about how everyone moves on from these events, how and if they’re changed, how or if they approach life differently.
Thank you, I went back and reread chapter 1. Great tie in and thanks for the hint.
I’m glad I read this board and saw your hint. It does give a bit more resolution. Thank you.
Thank you so much for joining this discussion and for the tip to reread Chapter 1 after finishing! I had certainly missed that puzzle piece! I really enjoyed the book, thank you Katherine!
Amazing. That is all the closure anyone needs. Super creative and well thought out story. Congratulations.
This was such a great book in my opinion. Some of my favorite books leave me wanting more and going back to read and discover hints interwoven throughout the text. I loved it. I immediately went back to the beginning to reread the first chapter again after finishing. I was also excited to see your hints, cannon or not. I enjoyed how you wrote about the Berlin wall. It is not a time period talked about as often to my generation but i feel it is important to learn about. It definitely opened My eyes a bit and has made… Read more »
I enjoyed the book but would have found it much more enjoyable and satisfying with a better ending. A part of me can understand why you felt the need to end it this way. However, I feel you directing us to the first chapter as closure is really upsetting. It only says that Kai sees her again. She hasn’t picked up the balloon. Won’t that set her in a loop? ARRGHHH!!
Thank you for that tip. I just reread a Chapter One and it made me smile.
Thanks for the info about the first chapter…I had not caught that at all. I would love a story about high of their lives after the return…
Thank you, Katherine! Your hint made me love your story even more. 🎈
Hi all, I’m the author! If you have any questions for me directly, let me know on this thread and I’ll try to answer them!
Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!
Wonderful book. Keep them coming. Fairy tales knit together and transform our deepest stories!
Is El’s ability in magic ever expanded on in a different book? I feel that is she visited both time periods multiple times, kind of acting like a bridge, would be cool. Of course that could change history.
Hi Trevor! It would be cool, but Ellie’s story in The Girl with the Red Balloon is complete from my end of things. I think she can act as a bridge, as you say, without actually hopping back and forth…the events in the book will affect everyone in all those times pretty deeply.
About halfway through I think – in the nightclub scene- enjoying it quite a bit, but don’t want to read too many comments to avoid spoilers! 😉
One of my favorite scenes to write!
I loved this story. I remembered things that were happening for me in 1988. I remember discussions in school about the wall and my teacher was a big Springsteen fan so I even remember the concert as part of that. I love the idea of magic helping those escape. Have you considered applying the magic to a modern day story? The next gen? As you said so eloquently in the book there are “dozens of braves all over the world where people stood up to tyranny and oppression”
I haven’t thought of applying it to a contemporary story yet, and I think this particular series is complete now that The Spy with the Red Balloon is out, but I love the idea that readers may think of modern times where balloons would and should be used. 🙂
I was intrigued by the colour Red for the balloon.
It is a colour used in many invocations to represent many ideas in society… strength, destruction of life, rebirth- Phoenix that arose from the ashes, a symbol from the Soviet Republic that was seen to be repressive by the western world, a colour that appears in most world flags. A colour many emotions can be attached to – rage, love, remembrance.
I would like to know if your choice of balloon colour was a long thought out choice
Hi, Cynthia, it was. It was a definitely call back to the song, 99 Red Balloons and from there, to the use of red in Communist bloc countries in Eastern Europe (and around the world, but as it has other traditional meanings in East Asian countries, I’m going to specifically mention the location.) Additionally, as they’re using blood magic, I wanted the equations, written in blood, to blend in with the balloon.
Thank you for sharing the tought process behind the choice for the colour red for the balloon.
I knew that song had to be a factor!
Loved the book! While I definitely am with the others about the ending, I’m interested to know how much time, if any, you think passes between when Ellie leaves and the present? Also, would Ellie tell her grandfather about Garrick? It seems heartbreaking in either case.
While it’s not in the book so I’m not sure this is canon, it’s much more of my canon, I like to think that no time passes? mostly because I wouldn’t want to cause Ellie’s family, and particularly Benno, more pain than they’ve experienced already. And I would hope that Ellie would tell Benno about Garrick. She would definitely only tell him, not the rest of her family.
I think she would come back to the same time but a second later and would therefore not appear in the picture that Amanda took with Ellie’s cell phone.
And then I think Ellie would put it all together and go looking for the guy at the wall.
Yes! Because if she came back at the same time she left, really she would have missed him when she came back. (As he saw her at the wall BEFORE she grabbed the balloon, so she wouldn’t have been “back” and able to remember him at that meeting). For my own closure im going to go with your suggestion and that she went and found him…and they lived happily ever after hahaha
Hello! Loved the book, it’s so cool that you jumped into the discussion! I just saw that tip about the first chapter, how fun that you can be involved with us! I know I’m late to the party but I really enjoyed the book – and while I like the bit of mystery of how things ended up, I loved the peak back at the beginning!!!
It was interesting enough for me to read the whole book through in a day, but not my favorite book. An interesting mix of history and fantasy. I wouldn’t recommend it to others, especially youth (though only 25 myself, there was too much swearing and other behaviors that are made to seem normal, but I wouldn’t advocate). I also wish the ending was more rounded. It leaves you feeling empty and depressed. The focus of the book is really on the main character’s relationships; the plot (history and magic) are more secondary. That’s probably why the ending is rough, it… Read more »
I tend to agree with this. I figured out who Benno was and the middle aged guy in chapter 1 fairly quickly. I would have liked more resolution in the present. It feels like it’s missing something because the focus of the story was so character driven then there was nothing. Overall, though the book was good. I asked the library to purchase the second. I would like to see how the author develops the world building and as a writer in general.
Oops. I think I left my comments in the wrong section. I loved this book!. I was heartbroken with the honest and mature (as in understanding) love expressed by these teenagers. I am not that self realized, even now! The imagery hit true to the soul of the scene. I found it not preachy or condemning but rather hopeful with the promise of learning and doing better in the future. “Bear Witness”. This story sticks with you like burr. I enjoyed the way the three time-scapes were laced together giving us bits in pieces, hinting at connections. Chapter 32 made… Read more »
Part way through not disappointed so far.
This book is amazing! I didn’t know if I would entirely liked it because history has never been my favorite, but this book explains everything wonderfully. I love the way the many characters were all kind of intertwined somehow. Since I’m still in school it took me a few days to finish, but if I wasn’t I would have finished it in one day because of how capturing the book is. The Girl With the Red Balloon is an amazing book and I can’t wait to read the second. But I do have questions. What happened to Ellie when she… Read more »
I really enjoyed reading “ The Girl with the Red Balloon”. I currently live in China and though not as openly oppressive as East Germany there is still that undercurrent. I enjoyed the concept of a balloon being what could save a person. The writing was well done and the story line interesting. Having said that I felt Benno and his story was more of an afterthought and could have been fleshed out more. I also would have like to read more about day to day life in East Germany and about the Romani people and their treatment during the… Read more »
But did she get back to her home time and place? How were her present day relationships affected by her travel? Her present day actions? I saw the comment that there was a bit of circling in the first chapter and so reread, but it’s still not enough closing for me.
And it’s killing me not to know if she even remembers what happened to her! If she returns to the same time/place, and lets it slip that she”remembers” this happening, she’d be placed in a mental institution…
And then re-reading chapter one – it seems like he doesn’t recognize or remember her at all. Love would make it impossible not to show some of that, I think …
I always know I enjoyed a book when days after reading it a scene drifts back into my mind and I find myself dwelling on it. I experienced that with The Girl with the Red Balloon. And while I enjoy bingeing a series as much as the next person sometimes I am appreciative that I can imagine my own scenarios for what would happen if El seeks Kai out when she returns to the future. Or will El be more understanding of her grandfather. Will El find her face on a milk carton and have to try and explain to… Read more »
I thought it was pretty good. It seemed a bit longer than necessary and the ending was very saddening, but overall not bad.
I liked the triple timeline and three points of view. I have a weakness for YA books – most of the ones for 16+ work well for adults as well. And when Mitzi and Ellie start arguing over comparing the Holocaust to the East German regime, and the nature of evil, the story deals with topics worthy of the most “mature” books written. It took me a while to deal with a child’s little red balloon being the repository of so much magic. “Seriously?”, I thought. But, OMG, when the balloons were wracking up their body count it was the… Read more »
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I read it in few hours. Historical fiction is amazing because it makes history real. So much has been written about WWII and the Holocaust that there can’t be many new perspectives. I think we, as Americans, sometimes forget that Germany was divided long after the war ended. I was a young adult when the wall came down. But I only have vague memories of that time. It’s good to be reminded of forgotten history. While it would be nice to have a resolution to the story, the loose ending makes you focus more on… Read more »
I enjoyed the book. Certai siations and language wasn’t enjoyable. Overall, I would enjoy a sequel. After reading a response by the author, I will go back and read the first chapter.
I want to add to what I stated earlier about the book. I loved how Ellie came to understand her grandfather better and realized his story of the red balloon and the girl in purple really happened.
I was born and grew up in the GDR ( I was 20 when the wall came down)
The whole book was a deep disappointment, too many stereotypes and clishés. I actually was quite bored reading, I heart and saw the same ideas about life in communism too often. Its like reducing Canada to igloos and residential schools.
And quite boring somehow, or maybe just because she is trying so hard to tell a horror- story
This is an interesting comment, Julia, and I appreciate your perspective as someone that lived in that time/place. I actually appreciated learning more about life in East Berlin at that time – I was 8 when the wall came down, and remember very little, so this was one of my only looks inside and I needed some stereotypes to start with. I should just study history, but historical fiction is a much more fun way to learn. If you would recommend any other novels that take place in that society which are more accurate, that would be great.
Thanks for sharing!
I enjoyed the book quite a bit. I was a young adult when the “wall came down,” so perhaps it was more real to me. Fun twists and turns, and the ending was quite satisfying! Good job, Kathryn!
Finished and so appreciated this book. IAM working with oral histories of Jewish Iowans, some of whom were Holocaust survivors.mThis book desk after horrendous reality of Loss. I’m still digesting the truths and lessons for me from having read this. Magic, time, science….
Just finished the book and must say I loved it! I don’t know how I’d react to unexpectedly time traveling back to 1988 East Germany- probably not as well as Ellie did.
Although I was hoping for more in the ending, I am thrilled that there is another book.
I am not a young adult. I read this perfect book because I was in Berlin in October 89 – visited the East, November 9, 89 – climbed over the Wall and walked the East then came back through checkpoints Charlie; December 89 when celebrating and difficult changes were happening.
I have been haunted for years by the memorial in the west to people who died just a few months before the wall fell. They were escaping in a hot air balloon.
Thank you to the author for this book. I enjoyed it. In 1988 I was a clueless 16 year old girl with no clue to life outside of my bubble. I enjoyed the story of the book, but I also read it with memories of that time in mind. My only disappointment was the ending. 🙂 I wanted to know more. Did the balloon work? Did she make it back to her time? The same point in time or 6 months later? On a side note – I went back to re-read it and I smiled at that little surprise… Read more »
I love how the balloon itself symbolizes hope in situations where hope is sometimes key to survival. The Berlin Wall came down when I was twenty two, so I grew up with it as a “normal” part of my history. It was interesting to revisit this time period and consider what it was like from the perspective of those living under the communist regime. I enjoyed the teenage girl’s point of view. It kept things from becoming too heavy and dark despite the weighty subject matter. (She also made my 1980’s fashion choices seem pretty outlandish 😅). Some wonderful dialogue… Read more »
Loved the book! The romantic in me would have loved more closure at the end. What did Kai have in his letter?! Did she recognize the “man” in ch 1 at all?? Does she have any recollection of what happened? I took it to be that no time has passed but she doesn’t remember what happened, so would she grab the balloon again and the time “loop” start again?? Or would she have known not to grab the balloon “again”. For me to feel closure I feel like i need to know if she can remember and if so, how… Read more »
I appreciated the suggestion to rerad the first chapter. Was there significance to what he said? Did he recognize her?
It seemed to me like he traveled there to see her, so I thought he recognized her but that she did not recognize him.
According to the rules he would not have been allowed to say or do anything to change history.
I WANTED him to say that he wanted to remember ELLIE exactly like that, but I interpreted it that he couldn’t say anything about recognizing her, so he just said the wall (and in that, he was meaning the wall torn down with Ellie beside it).
But who knows 🤷🏼♀️.
Lacey’s right! What he says is an echo of what he says to her at the end of the book, similar word choices, but yes. He sought her out.
Liked the story, a good read, different, unpredictable. Would have liked the end to be different.
Svs meant fantasy not paranormal- cant seem to change it
I really like the book and this was one of my favorite lines, “Fear was the foundation of all types of Walls, including the one to my right. “-Ellie
It was and is such a true statement and how we are held captive.
I was intrigued by the main idea of Aurora and AshAsher and group trying to get people out of East Berlin and Eleanor going back because of her DNA. I identified with the quest for freedom. I looked forward to chapters about Benno.But I felt like there was too much else thrown in – too much emotional stuff between Ellie and Kai. Bruce Springstein in East Berlin? Really? I didn’t see enough backstory to help me understand why Aurora had changed or exactly what was happening with going back in time. I copied several quotes like – “In a way,… Read more »
I found this book to be very good. What a neat way to look at a horrible time in our history.
I thoroughly enjoyed fantasy meets historical fiction- crossing genres works. The characters and their struggles to make a difference under East Germany’s oppressive regime brought the time period alive for me. Unlike many other readers, I enjoyed how the book ended. Truly great writing leaves your mind tied up with the characters, wondering about “what if’s “.
Oh I loved this book so much! Not many adult novels captivate me like this. Though I would like to see what happened when she got home. Like if her relationship with her family and grandfather changed. Oh and if Kai is still alive. I’m on the hunt for book two!
I enjoyed the book; the magic was believable and the story was realistic-at least as far as one with magic can be real :-). I wish there’d been one more chapter, so that we could read that Ellie landed safely (or not), and what happened after she landed. One thing that bothers me though, is how long it took for everyone to realize what Aurora was doing. It took the deaths of a number of people (& why did 16 die all at once?? That was never explained, plus it seemed like some of them came from the U.S.? How… Read more »
I will start the book soon!
I wonder how the book was chosen for this program. I thought it was very predictable and even trite. The whole plot was evident from early on.
This is a cool idea. Perhaps a better book could be chosen next time.
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I agree and also the second war book in a row
Still reading it. A few comments from one who lived during the time. Remember listening to a Yankees game on my radio in bed when they broke in and announced the start of the building of the wall! Sinking feeling.
Later, while in the Army, stationed in W Germany…my boss had been assigned to the Berlin Brigade. You could drive into E Berlin if you had US plates. He was curious how far he could drive. They stopped him at the Polish border! That may be why he was no longer in the Berlin Brigade.
The book was written well, though I would not recommend it if you wanted to read a truly and amazing book.
I truly loved the book though at first glance I wasn’t sure I would. I happened upon the Big Library Read yesterday and finished the book today, reading it at every chance I could!! I cheated a bit and peaked at the discussion first so I knew there was someone to pay attention for in the first chapter but I got so engrossed it slipped my mind so I still went back and reread it. What a beautiful mix of so many genres I enjoy!!! Will be on the lookout for the next!!
An engaging story with vivid and likable characters. I enjoyed the mystery and found the reveal to be satisfying (I did at one point wonder if Sabina was the one behind it all, but the actual solution works better to tie the storylines together). I would have liked a final chapter where Ellie returns to her time and talks with her grandfather – given that this is the initial tension introduced in the first chapter, it would have made a nice symmetry to see if that tension was resolved.
It’s 12:30am but I couldn’t put the book down. I only started reading it earlier this week and just had to finish it once I realizes how close I was. When this book first came up on my Libby app, I was intrigued by the cover I liked to read the plot line. Being from East Germany, I just had to read it. Although, I was at first a bit turned off by the magic, I quickly became wrapped into the stories. My mom is Polish and her family came to East Germany when she was 16 to escape from… Read more »
I enjoyed the book and the plot. I thought the book is thought provoking and brings up the Holocaust in a timely manner in a time we need to remember, hoping it will never happen again.
Well, I was disappointed by the ending. So many unanswered questions. Most importantly did Ellie make it back to her own time alive. I did read your reply to Diane. You suggested she read the first and last chapters again. I recognized that it was Kai at the wall in Ellie’s time as they stood side by side. What I don’t understand is how he must have recognized her yet didn’t attempt to warn her or at least follow her around to make sure she didn’t touch the balloon. Or perhaps he made a conscious choice not to so they… Read more »
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Although I’m left with so many questions about the characters, it’s driving me crazy! Lol. What did the note from Kai say? Was it still there? Did she come back to the exact time? Did she see Kai after that? Arghhh?!? Lol. I realize I’m left with many questions but…the importance is in the asking. I believe that’s the point Karen was making with this ending. And Karen, to you personally, thank you for bringing to light some of the other places in the world where these same injustices are taking place. When I read… Read more »
I finished the book and then re-read the first chapter to gain closure. But I really do wonder when Ellie gets back- how much time has passed, did anyone realize she was missing, how her grandfather takes the news when she tells him what happened to her, how her growth in the past has changed her in the present, does she end up using her magic somehow in her present time, and what did Kai write on the dove he gave her before she went back to her present time???
Thanks for sharing this story!
One question: what did he write to her in the dove he gave ellie before she went back to her time?
I absolutely loved this story.. i fell in love with the characters, im so sad the story is over. Please consider writing part 1.5 hahaha or a spin off of one of the charcters.
Im a school librarian, on monday im ordering this books for my school… such an addictive story!
I had the same question….I want to know what Kai wrote in the paper dove.
Is there a significance to the spelling of the word “God” throughout the book? Sometimes it was capitalized, other times not. But often, it was typed out G-d. It didn’t seem consistent.
I believe this has to do with who is speaking and how the term is being used. In Hebrew tradition it is spelled G-d but when referring to an entity it’s god lowercase as in “a god is among us” as opposed to “Our G-d is among us”.
I did not know that about Hebrew tradition. Thank you 🙂 That makes more sense.
I want to go back and learn more about the Berlin Wall now. I have a little souvenir piece that stores were selling right after it came down.
I loved the ending. It felt like a way to bring love and completion to what would also be an extremely difficult/conflicting moment. My heart was pumping! But… whatever became of the little dove note?!?
I really liked this book, it reminded me of this book the cloud and the wallfish. Both set in East Berlin. I think the contrast of living in a socialist government to the innocence of young people just trying to grow up. I thought it was really good and original. It’s important to remember the past history, it helps to progress.