I read Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm to my oldest daughter over and over in the early 2000’s, and now I’m doing the same thing with my youngest girl. Truth be told, in the interim, I probably read this book 10-12 times by myself. It’s for children 4-8, but honestly, both girls loved it at 2 because of the wonderfully engaging artwork–colorful, detailed, and comical yet realistic. I have to admit, the colors, especially on the pages where balloons are growing in Harvey Potter’s field draw me in, too. I mean, who doesn’t love colorful balloons?! It’s the same reason I love the grocery store–all the bright colors of the boxes and cans and wrappers. What’s inside has to be good if it’s so pretty on the outside. (Advertisers would have to love me.)
The story is extraordinary, too. It’s magical realism for children, with enough of a subtle exploration of a mysterious or darker side of people to satisfy adults. Our young narrator, a little girl, is fascinated with Harvey and does a bit of creeping around to watch him and see how he grows balloons, and there’s some eerie stuff that can be made fun if you read aloud to your kids and like to be silly when doing so: a lot of Harvey dancing around at night with a glowing stick and yelling, “Eeeeeeeeee Ya-Ya-Yayayayayaya! There’s also a grumpy old farmer named Wheezle Mayfield who’s against Harvey from the start and skeptical of the balloons that grow from the earth. In the end, it’s a story about believing in magic and about trust. The language is rich, the narrative drive is dynamic, and, by golly, there are balloons growing out of the earth!