Mary Cummings
Agent for Kids Books


Tweaking the Ending of picture book I HAVE A BALLOON

Ariel Bernstein’s I HAVE A BALLOON is the first project I did with this wildly talented author of picture books and chapter books. I immediately loved the manuscript, but wasn’t happy with the ending:


Monkey: All I’ve ever wanted, since right now, is a sock with a star and a perfectly shaped hole. It makes me so happy.

Monkey: Maybe…we can trade later.

Owl: Okay.

Monkey: We can play now.

Owl: We can play now. Let’s go play.

Monkey: Okay.

Monkey: I have a sock.

Owl: I have a balloon.

 

Here’s what I wrote to Ariel:

 

Hi Ariel,

I do love the last two lines of "I have a sock." "I have a balloon." But, I've been doing my pondering, and don't think the manuscript is perfect yet.

 

From the get go, I've been captivated by Owl's description of the sock: of seeing it as a wondrous object, and helping Monkey to realize it as such. It's not a con job, nor a booby prize. The sock is just as truly marvelous as the balloon. (And you've done something truly marvelous by coming up with this!).

 

So: is Monkey still wanting to trade at the end? It feels to me like he isn't thinking about that any more. He's attained connection with Owl, and happiness with the sock, which is what he actually wanted. So, are you sure you want to be talking still about trading? It seems to lessen the impact of what came before.

 

Perhaps they can just simply play together, content and delighted with what each has?

 

Maybe it was happy accident that you went from two frogs to an owl and a monkey - but you really hit on something there. The characters are individuals, but also archetypes. Owl is wise and calm. Monkey is curious and distractible. They find balance together.

 

(Though I'm not suggesting an illo note, some possible visual interpretations come to mind that reinforce for me this idea for the text. Maybe Monkey jumps up onto the branch with Owl, and we see his sock waving on his tail, just like Owl holds up his balloon. Or, Owl flys down from his perch, and he and Monkey meander off into the sunset, with the balloon on his wing and the sock is on Monkey's ear or tail.

 

Could you ponder and play around with this?

 

Reply:
Hi Mary,

I understand your point about the ending. I don't always think of ideas this quickly but your point about Monkey feeling happiness with the sock at the end made me realize that Owl and Monkey are at peace with their own possessions and thought of a way to show it. I've attached the new version but you can also quickly see the change below. I'll definitely play around with it some more although this feels like it could work. I think your ideas for possible illustrations are great and I promise not to add them as art notes!

 

Monkey: All I’ve ever wanted, since right now, is a sock with a star and a perfectly shaped hole. It makes me so happy.

Owl: You have a sock.

Monkey: I have a sock.

Monkey: You have a balloon.

Owl: I have a balloon.

 

This is the ending that editor Sylvie Frank at Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers went with. What’s interesting is that illustrator Scott Magoon added a visual twist at the end, keeping the sense of desire and dissatisfaction in play. Take a look at the book and you’ll see what I mean!


Used with client permission

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