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MacAulay, Craig
Illustrated by He le ne Desputeaux
Toronto, Annick Press, 1993. 28pp, paper,
ISBN 1-55037-340-4 (paper) $4.95,
ISBN 1-55037-341-2 (library binding) $14.95.
Distributed by Firefly Books. CIP

Subject Headings:

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7

Reviewed by Alison Mews

Volume 22 Number 2
1994 March / April

Although entitled  Ten Men on a Ladder, this book is more about Marcy, who will go to any lengths to retrieve, her baby sister's errant balloon. Marcy purchases a special balloon as a present for her (unnamed) baby sister, who is overjoyed and subsequently inconsolable when the balloon vanishes out the window.

At this point the story turns into a tall tale, as Marcy begins climbing the tall ladders outside her apartment building to ask an unusual assortment of working men, who are polishing, washing, and painting in groups of three, if they have seen the balloon. At each trip up a ladder, Marcy is followed by the previous men, so that by the time she reaches the chimney sweep at the top there are nine men following her.

There they find the chimney sweep upset because the chimney is blocked. Marcy, of course, solves both their dilemmas by dislodging the balloon from the chimney. The balloon is then swept, washed, polished and painted back to its former glory by the sympathetic men and presented to baby sister. Before going to sleep, however, Marcy slips into baby sister's room and ties the balloon onto the crib... just in case.

While the story initially reads in a straightforward manner, the voice of an exaggerated Munsch-type read-aloud sneaks in when Marcy and her father get in the car to search the whole city for a lost balloon, and the father blows up twenty balloons to appease his crying child. This trend continues as Mary's question and the responses from the men cumulate during her progression up the ladders. Children who enjoy Robert Munsch books will be similarly attracted to this book, especially as the illustrations are themselves so attractive.

Hèléne Desputeaux has chosen vivid hues of fuchsia and green for her pictures, and the colour separations are excellent. The people have a rather flat cartoon quality, which suits the text, and the addition of sleeping birds to the characters' heads and other comedic images extend the absurdity of the story.

Alison Mews is the Coordinator of the Centre for Instructional Services, Faculty of Education, at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, Newfoundland

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