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About The Book

A 2019 Schneider Family Award Honor Book!

What’s Happening to Grandpa meets Up in this tender, sensitive picture book that gently explains the memory loss associated with aging and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.

But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!

Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

About The Author

Photograph © Sarah Brown Photography

Jessie Oliveros grew up watching Kansas sunsets, and she’ll always have wild sunflowers and gold-tipped corn fields in her heart. She spent her college-life climbing mountains in Utah and striving for higher vistas. After a fulfilling career as a registered nurse, Jessie hung up her stethoscope to grow children and stories. These days you can find her in the Texas hill country with her husband and their four kids. You can visit her at

About The Illustrator

Photograph © Sangjun Chon

Dana Wulfekotte is an animator and children’s book creator. She was born in South Korea, raised in New Jersey, and currently lives in Queens, New York, with her boyfriend and two pet rabbits.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (August 28, 2018)
  • Length: 48 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781481489164
  • Grades: K - 4
  • Ages: 5 - 9
  • Lexile ® 490L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

*** "James and Grandpa's shared heritage and stories of their loving family shine. What is clear is that their memories matter—to them and ultimately to readers. A moving and meaningful way to talk about a situation many families will face." - Kirkus, starred review

"Oliveros never sugarcoats the difficulties of dementia, but young listeners are most likely to note this mixed-race family’s gracious understanding of Grandpa’s troubles, as well as the joy they take in retelling his tales." — Booklist

"[The] distinctive look, combined with the simple, plaintive prose, offers genuine poignancy." - Publisher's Weekly

"This touching title is perfect for one-on-one sharing, but keep the tissues handy." - School Library Journal

Awards and Honors

  • Kentucky Bluegrass Award Master List
  • South Carolina Picture Book Award Nominee
  • Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best
  • Black-Eyed Susan Book Award Nominee (MD)
  • Wisconsin State Reading Association's Reading List
  • ALA Schneider Family Book Award Honor Book
  • Show Me Readers Award Final Nominee (MO)

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this illustrator: Dana Wulfekotte