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Today's Balloon (Version 2)

Different color balloons go on adventures with a young child.

Photo of Robert Smith

Written by

A green balloon came yesterday.

     I asked it, “Do you want to play?”

So out we ventured for a walk,

     On down the steps and round my block.

We came upon a maple tree,

     And up we floated through its leaves.

There, high upon a branch we found

     A nest of sticks, all shades of brown.

So in we climbed and nestled deep,

And soon had drifted off to sleep.

A red balloon comes by today.

     I ask it, “Do you want to play?”

So out we venture for a walk,

     On down the steps and round my block. 

We meet the fireman’s dog named Dots.

     His tongue is pink, his fur has spots.

He yips and barks and licks my face

     And welcomes us into his space.

So in we climb and nestle deep,

And soon we're drifting off to sleep.

A blue balloon may come my way.

     I’ll ask it, “Do you want to play?”

Then out we’ll venture for a walk,

     On down the steps and round my block.

We’ll climb a playground slide, so high 

     That letting go we’d touch the sky.

And far above the city crowd

     We’ll spy a comfy cotton cloud.

Where in we’ll climb and nestle deep,

And soon be drifting off to sleep.

Balloons will fill my dreams tonight

     With wondrous shapes of colored light.

What might tomorrow's color be,

Should one but chance to visit me?

Describe the intended vision for your early childhood book manuscript in 1-2 sentences

This story takes the child's point-of-view as each day brings a new balloon. Each balloon is a new color and joins the child for a new adventure in their urban neighborhood.

Share your suggested book title

Today's Balloon

PLEASE USE THE VERSION OF THIS QUESTION AT THE TOP OF THE SUBMISSION FORM: Share a draft of your manuscript (250 word limit, not including title).

Please see manuscript, above.

How has this book been informed by early childhood language development research and evidence? (response minimum 250 Characters)

This story utilizes a number of techniques shown to help young children learn reading skills while providing easily navigable words and phrases for language or time-challenged care-givers, including: 1. Cadence that encourages a 'sing/clap-along' reading performance 2. Repetition of phrases that start and end each book section (day) 3. A circular story that provides a repeated pattern for each new day, and a final wrap-up section that anticipates follow-on adventures

Please describe any familiarity you may have with Philadelphia and its residents? (optional question)

I have experienced Philadelphia only through my elementary school studies about America's early history of Independence and various films.

How have you crafted this manuscript to resonate with and/or reflect the experiences of those living in urban contexts? (optional question)

'Today's Balloon' joins a child and their balloon as they venture around their urban neighborhood- a world of densely packed streets sprinkled with trees, playgrounds and a firetruck dog. This story explores yesterday, today and tomorrow, exposing readers to verb tenses to facilitate learning the language. It allows for cross-generational recognition and enjoyment by using a common, brightly-colored balloon as the child's companion and vehicle for adventure. It remains gender and race neutral by telling the story from the child's point-of-view.

Location: Country


Location: State or Department


Location: City


Website URL (optional question)

Tell us more about you / your team

I am an Industrial Designer, author and filmmaker currently working for an engineering services company, running a writers Meetup and writing a novel. I have worked with my close friend and team member, Pam, an artist, seamstress, sculptor and author, to write and illustrate other children's books. I've submitted ideas for other OpenIDEO challenges, acted as a Community Prototyper and met many of the Chapter organizers and OpenIDEO staff. Pam and I are seeking representation for our literary works.

Provide an example visual identity for a look and feel you might like to achieve. ( (optional question, 3-5 visuals)

I can imagine this book illustrated either through Pam's and my technique of fabricating actual props and sets and then manipulating the final photographs (though with simpler shapes and less background detail), or as hand-drawn illustrations.

Multiple Choice - Have you been previously published (online, self-published, and print included)?

  • Yes

If yes, please list titles and publications.

Bold Old Troll (self-published, Apple iBookstore) Thermondaloo (self-published, Apple iBookstore)

Do you have an agent?

  • No

How did you hear about the Challenge? (optional question)

  • Someone in my network (word of mouth)

What best describes you? (optional question)

  • I am/we are creatives, writers, or artists


Join the conversation:

Photo of Courtney Ghosh

I love how fun this book is to read out loud. The rhythm of the words flow in such a carefree way. With that said, it might be even easier to keep it in the same tense to help the reader anticipate the flow and what comes next. Maybe it would challenge a child to memorize the almost sing it. What do you think of matching the color of the items they run across with the color of the balloon they are playing with. That adds a bit of a challenge with your rhyming, but it would challenge the reader to identify all the "blue" things. To learn their colors.

Thank you for sharing your ideas. There is going to be a rise in balloon prices. :)


Photo of Robert Smith

Hi Courtney Ghosh ,

Great comments!

I like the idea of matching the balloon colors to items in the illustrations. Currently the green balloon goes with the maple tree, red with the firetruck and blue with the sky, so the story already supports that direction...

The idea of reverting back to a single tense echoes another reader's suggestion and I'd be good with that.

Yay balloons ,)

Thanks for reading! -Robert

Photo of Oren Tuchin

Hi Robert,
I think this is a very lovely story, and echo Angie Caro 's sentiments on universality. My only suggestion would be to make all the stanza's start with "A ____ balloon came by today." I think the other tenses's (minus yesterday) may be a little complex, and I also think that since the child falls asleep at the end of each scene, there is plausibility that the next stanza starts on a new day.

I hope this helps. Good luck with this!

Photo of Robert Smith

Hi Oren Tuchin ,

I appreciate your thoughts on this!

I started with all the stanzas in a single tense and then modified it to explore the concepts of yesterday, today and tomorrow. I'll revisit that decision...

I see you're from Philadelphia, were you raised there and does this resonate with your upbringing in the urban environment? I'd appreciate your insights!

Thanks for reading, Robert

Photo of Oren Tuchin

My pleasure. I was born in Los Angeles, and have lived near or in big cities all of my life. I loved balloons as much as the next kid, and got the opportunity to play in trees and go to playgrounds. As a father her in Philadelphia, I see all that you write with my son as we walk around town. He always points out the fire station, and runs around at the various playgrounds. He not quite at the age where he can climb trees, but he'll be there soon ;)

Photo of Marty lapointe-malchik

A delightful concept! I love the balloons as companions for the child exploring the city. A balloon is such a simple graphic shape that should make for some fun spotting it and naming its color in the illustrations. Best of luck in the challenge!

Photo of Robert Smith

Hi @Marty lapointe-malchik
I appreciate your comment!
I do hope we get the chance to pair up with illustrators to see their interpretation of our stories.
Good luck to you as well and thanks for reading! Robert

Photo of Itika Gupta

Reading through the ideas, I came across another Tim Rogers  who is also exploring the idea of exploring the city with a fellow object. Connecting you Robert Smith  and Tim Rogers  to provide a couple lines of feedback to one another’s manuscript submissions.
Happy connecting!

Photo of Dawnnbooks .

I read this and felt myself float away like a balloon too!

Photo of Robert Smith

Hi Dawnnbooks . 
I’m glad that’s coming through the manuscript. It’s interesting working just with words since ultimately so much of the impact will come from the illustrations!

Thanks for the comment- Robert

Photo of Dawnnbooks .

Yes choice of words are very critical.
Your welcome.

Photo of Robert Smith

Hi Itika Gupta ,
Thanks so much for working to get a formatting text field for our manuscripts! They help us share our vision.

Photo of Itika Gupta

No worries at all Bob :)
Thanks for all the effort you're putting into beautifully shaping the manuscripts :) :)

Photo of Pam Gray

Hello Mr. Smith,
Very clever use of the balloon to introduce a universal child's point of view and the setting. In my experience reading to infants and toddlers, the word repetition and the rhymes are useful tools.

The block format did make it hard to see your intent with the prose and I look forward to reading this again with the couplet and section breaks. It did have a nice reading rhythm once I got going. Nicely done!
Pam Gray

Photo of Robert Smith

Hi Pam Gray ,
I appreciate your confirming thoughts about word repetition and rhymes!
I'll wait to see if the formatting can be updated.
Thanks for the comment! Robert

Photo of Itika Gupta

Hi Robert Smith Welcome to the Challenge Community!
Its so good to see your submission Bob :) Love how a neutral and universal object like a balloon plays a role of a friend and companion in the story. You have truly written it from a child's point of view.
Since your final readers will be from the age group of 0-3 yrs, it may be interesting to tweak the manuscript to make it simpler, more catchy and engaging for your readers. You can learn more about early childhood development and tips and tricks on writing for this age group in the “Challenge Resources” listed at the end of the Challenge Page.

Photo of Robert Smith

Hi @Itika Gupta, Good thoughts, I’ll dig into the Resources!
On a technical note, is there any way to add space (carriage returns and blank lines) to our submissions to separate rhymed couplets and sections? I was a bit surprised to see all the text come out in one block.
Thanks for your comments! Robert