May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Experts across the world recognize that the pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of people of all ages. More than ever, this is a time to be open about loss, depression, and anxiety.
Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia joins us today as we reflect on how we may be empathetic to others. Her most recent book, Balloons for Papa, is a beautiful story of a child bringing hope to his father during troubling times. It’s a reminder that each of us, no matter our age, has something to give. It’s a reminder that hope is there if we are only able to take the time to see it.
Visually stunning, Balloons for Papa is a story that comes straight from the heart. The day is gray and so is Arthur’s father’s spirits. However, Arthur knows just the thing to brighten both—balloons! These bright spots of color are the perfect visual metaphor for Arthur’s joy for life and his innate child’s understanding of what is needed. Told in beautifully spare language, Balloons for Papa will warm your heart.
A perfect book to help discuss mental health, depression, empathy, loss, and hope with young children.
Arthur’s gloomy father rushes him through the park every morning, through gray and rainy weather. Arthur just wants a bright balloon from the park’s vendor, but Papa always says no. One morning, the balloons magically appear at their doorstep, and Arthur figures out the perfect way to bring the sunshine out—and Papa’s smile back—even if only for a few moments.
Brimming with affecting and poignant words, beautiful black-and-white illustrations, and bursts of color on every page, Balloons for Papa sends the message that even in the worst situations, there is light and love.
Two of Liz’s own experiences informed and inspired her writing of Balloons for Papa. In one, her son reached out to her during difficult times. In the other, it was her daughter that brought hope. Liz joins us today from Iowa—where she lives with her children, husband, and dogs—to tell us What Was On Liz’s …
Mind as She Wrote Balloons for Papa: Children and big feelings. BALLOONS FOR PAPA began with a simple childhood want – a balloon, but it evolved into a story with a much deeper meaning. Children are generous, compassionate souls and capable of big feelings, just like adults. The balloons symbolize those powerful feelings, connections, and light that children have and are willing to share so freely with the grown-ups in their lives.
Most Inspirational Moments: Inspiration is everywhere, but for me – it is the quiet, small moments that bring the most inspiration. Our world has programmed us to operate at a breakneck pace. It can be demanding, relentless, and exhausting. When I slow down – inhale and exhale – and take the time to listen…look…feel. That is when the most inspirational moments strike.
Go-To List for Coping with the Pandemic:
- Outside. Outside – Our whole family loves the outdoors, but it became even more true when we were locked down. Together, we planted and tended our garden. Together, we did our work outside. And together, we took long walks several times a day. But our big pups drew the line after the third walk. 🙂
- Family – Everything was suddenly turned upside down in our lives – as was true for everyone. With all the uncertainty a pandemic brings, our immediate family being at home became the glue that held us together.
- Flambé and Fun Food – Cooking at home after constantly being on the go took some getting used to. Luckily, my kids are creative cooks and began spicing up our dinner menus, which on some nights included a fabulous chocolate banana flambé! (Caveat: Fourth walk needed on the nights with flambé. 🙂 )
Reasoning for Changing the Title of Her Book: The original title was ARTHUR WANTS A BALLOON and still is the title of the UK edition. But when HarperCollins acquired the North American rights to ARTHUR, my US editor, Luana Horry asked if I would be open to changing the title. The team at HarperCollins felt BALLOONS FOR PAPA made it more inclusive for all children who may be going through a similar experience as Arthur.
As I mentioned, ARTHUR WANTS A BALLOON, was originally published in the UK by Trigger Publishing. They specialize in books related to mental health and wellness. In June of 2020, my UK editor, Alli Brydon contacted me to let me know that one of the Big 5 publishers was interested in acquiring the North American rights for ARTHUR. Needless to say, I was over the moon and couldn’t be happier that BALLOONS FOR PAPA found its North American home at HarperCollins.
Kitchen Table (I hope it’s cookies. 😉 ): Haha! My kitchen table is a hodge-podge of newspapers, the latest book I am reading (right now, it is A PLACE TO HANG THE MOON by Kate Albus), my computer, an empty coffee cup from my husband, and random textbooks, mechanical pencils, and calculator from my high schooler. And, if I am stuck on a part in a story I am writing – there might just be a plate of warm cookies. I am a stress baker. 🙂
Dreams for Her Next Book: My dreams are filled with a nonfiction picture book that utilizes my background in audiology. It has been a wonderful challenge to meld my scientific mind with my writerly mind. And as a wise author friend recently reminded me – art and science work beautifully together – hopefully that resonates in the story I am creating.
Iowa Street: Today on my street – there is a sidewalk covered in colorful chalk hearts, a neighbor hugging another neighbor, dogs barking, fragrant flowers, children’s laughter, and garden-fresh rhubarb baking in a warm crisp. This past year has been so hard for ALL of us. It is wonderful to finally start to exhale and drink in all the feelings of relief, celebration, and hope.
Thoughts: Mental health. I think as a country we are starting to make strides in mental health and wellness, but we have a LOOONG way to go. There is still a stigma that surrounds mental health and that needs to stop. It affects every part of our society. Now more than ever I think parents, especially, struggle to juggle all that life throws at them. I know, I do. We run through life, checking all the boxes, but many times we forget to check the box for our own mental health. Many years ago, I was a new mom with a loving husband, two beautiful children, a wonderful life and… I was depressed. I struggled with it. Why couldn’t I make it go away? Why couldn’t I fix it? I hid it and didn’t talk about it. Our mental health is as important as our physical health. Many battle in silence every single day, afraid to ask for help. That’s why it is so important that the conversation continues long beyond Mental Health Awareness Month. It is my hope that BALLOONS FOR PAPA helps provide that opportunity between a child and a parent to start talking and keep talking.
Thank you so much for having me on your lovely blog, Sandra!
It is for me to thank you, Liz! And, yes, I absolutely agree that we need to get beyond the belief that we should be able to fix our mental health on our own. Sure, folks with diabetes might try to improve their situation by reducing stress, improving diet and increasing exercize, but nobody thinks twice if they their bodies need the extra help of medication. The same should be true for depression and anxiety. We should encourage and affirm asking for help and celebrate the fact that there is a panoply of options when it comes to addressing both our physical and mental health. Thank you for Balloons for Papa and the springboard for conversation it gives parents and teachers.
If you would like to order Balloons for Papa, click on the book below.
Please also put then end of June on your calendar when agent Victoria Wells Arms will be stoping by to tell us What Was On her wish list for submissions.
If you would like to know more about me and my writing, please visit sandranickel.com.