Written by Danna Smith
Illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein
Where does rubber for balloons and tires come from? Balloon Trees follows the process of harvesting latex from rubber trees, to shipping, chemical processing, vulcanization, and distribution of balloons. Dana Smith’s simplified prose may be a bit deceptive, for the ideas within Balloon Trees are anything but “simple”; her research and collaboration with rubber manufacturers is combined in this book to make a non-fiction description of the route balloons take from beginning to end. The extra information in the “For Creative Minds” of Balloon Trees also gives resources that allow teachers and students to take learning beyond the pages of Balloon Trees. Laurie Allen Klein illustrations are nothing short of stunning; the colors and textures bring to life the process of balloon manufacturing. Each illustration has a beautiful green bird that seems to be observing the different steps of balloon manufacturing, and in many of the illustrations, the bird imagery is echoed subtly, almost as a bonus seek and find.
After reading Balloon Trees aloud with a third grade class, be prepared to research answers to more questions that students may have because this book provides just enough information to inform students about balloon manufacturing and to pique students’ appetites to understand the greater concepts of rubber use and manufacturing. In the back of the book, there are several ready-to-use resources, such as a sequencing game and a true or false comprehension quiz about rubber. Balloon Trees also gives readers access to myriad free online resources at Sylvan Dell’s website. These resources are an asset to any busy teacher who wants to give the best information and tools to students on their journey as life-long learners. This book is a natural fit in any third grade classroom library.