Written by: Annahita De La Mare
Illustrated by: Jennifer Kirkham
For ages: 3-8 years
Topics Covered: Girls Outdoors, Family, Love, Adventure, Friendship, Feminism.
Summary: The second installment of the book series about the adventurous and kind cousins-Rosie, Hannah, and Alice! These girls are problem-solvers and active do-ers, they are always ready to get creative and have fun. It’s refreshing to have characters like this be available to be role models for young children.
This time, the girls decide to make a trip to Africa to see some wild animals. Passing the time while a rainstorm passes, the girls pack a picnic lunch and prepare for their flight. After the rain stops, the trio becomes a quad as even Roger the cat joins the crew in the balloon! After a long flight over many different beautiful landscapes, the balloon lands to a chorus of scared zebra’s farting. Giggling, the pilots disembark and approach a giraffe. Roger and the giraffe become fast friends, and the girls enjoy their encounter. Unfortunately, when they try to fly home they discover that the balloon won’t budge! Knowing a thing or two about flying, the girls realize they have to wait for the air to cool down before the balloon will be able to lift off. After a yummy picnic lunch, the girls fall asleep and wake up to Roger yowling at a lion! Jumping into action, the group gets into the basket and Alice sprays the lion with water. Safely in the air, Roger is properly congratulated for his alerting of the perilous visitor. What a rainy day!
- Where would you travel first if you had a hot air balloon?
- Who are the people you hang out with most in your family?
- Do you have any cousins close to your age, like our main characters?
- What would you do if you woke up from a nap and there was a lion looking at you?!
About the Author & the Illustrator:
We were lucky enough to interview Annahita earlier this summer! Here are some excerpts from that interview:
Hi! My name is Annahita, I was born in the UK to an Iranian mother and Welsh father. I moved to Switzerland 11 years ago to be live with my German husband, and together we have two girls (5 and 6 years old) who haven’t got a clue if they are Swiss, German or British 🙂
A: I am passionate about naturally inclusive children’s books. I believe that fear and prejudice grow out of a lack of knowledge and exposure, and I feel that books are a wonderful way to broaden children’s minds, and introduce them to topics or people that they may not necessarily come across in their daily lives. I also believe that girls should be FAR better represented in children’s books. They need more inspiring role models in positive fictional stories that they can go to sleep dreaming about.
I am also working on re-writes of the traditional princess fairy tales, trying to keep the original magic and delight of the original stories, but just changing silly storylines being all about meeting a prince and getting married. In all of my books I ensure that the characters in the story are a mixture of skin colours, because I believe it’s important not just for children of colour to see themselves in the pages of books, but for white children to see themselves in the pages of books, alongside children of colour with equally important roles in the stories.
Here is some information from her successful Kickstarter campaign:
“My children have been given many books about great women from history over this past year. It’s wonderful to see so many stories of strong and diverse women on the bookshelves. Some publishers have even tried to make versions relevant to younger audiences by reducing the text and using more illustrations. But these stories are still filled with themes which are hard to explain to young children, such as starvation, world war, segregation and sexism.
I know I don’t have to read every word, but I find myself censoring so many of the words that the sentences and the stories no longer make sense. They will learn these themes in school, and when they do, they will have many excellent books to explore the roles played by courageous women during these important periods in history.
But for the younger audience? It’s still incredibly important that younger children are hearing stories about brave and adventurous girls; girls that take risks and work through challenges; who work together as equals and aren’t labelled “tomboys” or “different” just because they handle a screwdriver or climb a tree. But I want these stories to be positive, happy and care-free. I want them to be stories that they can go to sleep dreaming about.
I tried to find stories like these, but they were so few and far between that after reading each of them the requisite 100 times, even my young children started to ask why there weren’t more!
So I started dreaming up new stories. It began with ideas and notes scribbled on scraps of paper, in notebooks, on my computer, on my phone. Eventually the Hot Air Balloon Stories began to take shape…three cousins playing hide and seek, discovering a broken hot air balloon and dreaming of places they could go…
*All* I needed was to find someone to bring to paper the illustrations that I see when I close my eyes. She wasn’t easy to find, but find her I did. When I received that first beautiful illustration from Jennifer Kirkham, I knew she was the perfect person to take the Hot Air Balloon Adventure Stories to the next level.
The under-representation of girls and the complete lack of diversity in children’s books has been a subject of concern for decades. Yet still today, as aware and concerned as we are of gender bias in every day life, children’s books are twice as likely to feature male lead characters than female lead characters. Even today, when 32% of school aged children in the UK are Black, Asian or “other Ethnic Minority”; only 1% of children’s books published in 2017 had main characters that were anything other than white.
In the picture book market for younger children – where seeing oneself in the characters of a book is so important – the traditional publishing industry continues to focus on non-human characters. It is easy to understand why; change the language of the text in a book about a cat, monster or potato and it becomes sellable in any country. But a study of the University of Toronto last year confirmed that children do not learn behaviours or morals from stories with animal characters.
Don’t get me wrong – my children and I absolutely adore many of the wonderful animal (and vegetable!) stories out there. They deserve a place on the bookshelf because they are fun, wonderfully told and beautifully illustrated stories. But studies show that girls start to doubt the brilliance of their own gender at six years of age. We HAVE to balance the bookshelves of younger children with enjoyable stories which clearly carry the message that girls are confident, capable and brilliant. Even if they fly into the odd tree every now and again…”
Jennifer Kirkham is a British freelance Illustrator and graduate of the Glasgow School of Art. She credits her love of drawing to the portion of her childhood spent in East Africa, where the local wildlife provided endless inspiration and artistic challenges.
Now based in the North East of England, Jennifer shares a studio with her cat Heath and dog Scout. She works with a mixture of digital and traditional tools, and gets through an awful lot of podcasts.