“The Girl with the Red Balloon” is the first installment in Katherine Locke’s historical fiction, young adult “Balloonmakers” series. It follows a girl named Ellie Baum who finds a floating red balloon during a class trip to Germany, which transports her back in time to 1988 in East Berlin, Germany.
Amidst the dangers of being in East Berlin, Ellie befriends a group of people referred to as “Runners.” The group helps others cross over the Berlin Wall to West Berlin with the use of magical red balloons crafted by Balloonmakers. As she lives among the Runners hiding from the police, Ellie tries everything in her power to find a way to travel back to her own time period before she accidentally alters the past and can not return home again.
Along with Ellie and her love interest Kai’s narrative, the novel also follows the point of view of a boy named Benno, who is living in a ghetto in Poland in 1942. While the story centers mostly around Ellie traveling back in time to East Berlin, the plotline delves further into the past to show Benno’s life during World War II. It showcases the horrors of both time periods that eventually intersect with one another.
Ellie is a strong-willed Jewish-American girl coming to terms with her religious identity and accepting who she really is when going back into the past. She is a resilient, selfless and well-rounded female lead that is sure to inspire readers of all ages. Her striking personality comes right off the pages of the story, and her narrative is relatable enough that anyone is sure to find themselves reflected in her character.
“The Girl with the Red Balloon” is an atmospheric and emotional story. It shines a light on one of the darkest parts of history while also weaving in magical elements to create its own spin on a traditional historical fiction novel. Locke mastered the art of creating vivid historical settings and a striking group of diverse characters of Jewish and Romani descent that will leave a lasting impression on readers.
This story discusses self-identity, relationships, religion, hope, race and war in a wondrous and insightful way. It also highlights the importance of relationships of all forms and how love can help transcend time and leave an imprint on one’s heart.
“The Girl with the Red Balloon” will open readers’ eyes to pieces of history that must never be forgotten and leave them breathless with the powerful story.