Water Balloon

Water Balloon

4.2 28
by Audrey Vernick
     
 

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Marley’s life is as precarious as an overfull water balloon—one false move and everything will burst. Her best friends are pulling away from her, and her parents, newly separated, have decided she should spend the summer with her dad in his new house, with a job she didn’t ask for and certainly doesn’t want. On the upside is a cute boy who

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Overview

Marley’s life is as precarious as an overfull water balloon—one false move and everything will burst. Her best friends are pulling away from her, and her parents, newly separated, have decided she should spend the summer with her dad in his new house, with a job she didn’t ask for and certainly doesn’t want. On the upside is a cute boy who loves dogs as much as Marley does . . . but young love has lots of opportunity for humiliation and misinterpreted signals. Luckily Marley is a girl who trusts her instincts and knows the truth when she sees it, making her an immensely appealing character and her story funny, heartfelt, and emotionally true.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Picture-book author Vernick (Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums) delivers her first novel, a well-paced coming-of-age story that offers a realistic depiction of growing pains. Marley's summer before eighth grade is looking pretty disastrous. With her parents recently separated, Marley will be living with her father while her mother is away, first on a road trip and then helping care for Marley's grandmother. Isolation creeps in when Marley discovers that her father has no Internet service; her two theater-camp obsessed best friends have no time for her; and, worst of all, she's forced into a job babysitting feisty five-year-old twins. Trying to reconnect with her friends, she pulls a favorite prank involving water balloons at an inopportune moment. But the family dog, a new neighbor (a friendly guy with "smart eyes, a strange light blue"), and even the twins help Marley adapt to all of the sudden changes in her world. Vernick conveys Marley's uncertain navigation of new experiences and conflicting emotions with sincerity and keen perception. Ages 9–12. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

* "Kids struggling with the challenges of identifying what changes are necessary and paying the price for those thrust upon them will be glad to see an author who gets it." —Bulletin, starred review
 
“An achingly honest story about love, family, friends, and non-friends. (Spoiler alert: There's also an adorable boy with sky blue eyes . . . )”—Lauren Myracle, New York Times best-selling author of ttyl and Shine

“Vernick's writing is beautiful, her characters well-rounded and believable, and the coming of age situations and emotions are spot on.”—Kathryn Erskine, author of the National Book Award winner Mockingbird
 
“Tender and true, anchored by heartbreak and buoyed by love, Water Balloon is a sweet summertime celebration of the unforgettable moments that change everything. ”—Cynthia Leitich Smith, New York Times bestselling-author of Tantalize, Eternal, and Blessed
 
“A funny, poignant, beautifully written story about family, first love, and the joy and pain of girls’ friendships, reminiscent of Lynne Rae Perkins’ All Alone in the Universe. I was really caught up in the world Vernick created; in Marley's own words, ‘it is amazingly, fantastically real.’ I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!”—Joanne Rocklin, author of One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street
 
“Tweens will relate to this heartfelt story of a girl who is struggling to navigate the many changes in her life that seem to greet her at every turn.”—Lisa Schroeder, author of It’s Raining Cupcakes
 
“Marley Baird is a lovely protagonist with an engaging voice, and readers will wish they could be her best friend and help her cope with all of life’s uncertainty, aggravation, and heartache.  They will recognize their own struggles in Marley’s and cheer her on as she finds her way.”—Gina Willner-Pardo, author of  The Hard Kind of Promise
 
Water Balloon is breathtakingly luminous. From the start, readers will root for Marley, an unforgettable and authentic heroine; we *know* this girl, our heart breaks with hers, we laugh with her, and we want to be her friend for life. Vernick's lyrical and astonishingly perceptive prose tells this captivating story of friendship, love, and resilience with honesty, grace, and power. This book is the real thing—I want to hug it daily!”—Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, author of 8th Grade Superzero
 
“Vernick makes a very auspicious fiction debut here with her breezy, briskly paced tale, well-portrayed characters, authentic relationships and keen ear for realistic dialogue. . . . preteen female readers will eat this up and learn a wise and wistful thing or two about friendships, including when and how to walk away and start new ones. . . . a harbinger of more good novels to come from this author.” —Kirkus Reviews

"Put this book on your "must-have" list. It won’t stay on the shelves long."—School Library Journal, starred review

"Vernick conveys Marley's uncertain navigation of new experiences and conflicting emotions with sincerity and keen perception."—Publishers Weekly

VOYA - Lucy Schall
Thirteen-year-old Marley works through a confusing summer of divorced parents, changing friends, and job responsibilities to discover new friendship, young love, and personal strength. Feeling angry and betrayed over the divorce, she moves into her father's new home for the summer while her mother travels. Her best friends are involved in a theater camp. Because of financial constraints, her father arranges a babysitting job for her with five-year-old twins, and he has no computer or cell phone. Marley's anger and confusion escalate when she discovers that her father dates the lady for whom she babysits, and her friends consider her a boring and immature embarrassment. Jack, the boy next door, offers her new friendship and a budding romance. Recognizing that some of her problems start with her own attitude, she manages the twins, offers her father support, and parts with her fair-weather friends, as well as childhood rituals. Many middle school and junior high girls will identify with the difficulty of making personal transitions while parents are doing the same. Sometimes Marley seems too naive, a logical result of a sheltered and relatively indulged family life that accounts for her initially entitled attitude. As she matures, humor and creativity help her develop an admirable toughness. This charming and innocent story offers much for changing families to discuss and pairs well with Amy Goldman Koss's The Not So Great Depression (Roaring Brook, 2010/VOYA August 2010) and, for a little older audience, Valerie Hobbs's Tender (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001/VOYA October 2001). Reviewer: Lucy Schall
Children's Literature - Judy Crowder
Marley Baird, 13, faces the worst summer of her life. Her parents are divorced and her dad lives in another house where Marley must live, since her mother is visiting "Facebook friends" as well as staying with her grandmother who is hospitalized. Her two BFFs, Leah and Jane, have enrolled in a theatre camp and seem to be drawing apart from Marley, so no more Monopoly games or famous annual water balloon blitzes. To top off the dreaded summer, Marley's dad has gotten her a mandatory job babysitting five-year-old twins five days per week! Could it get any worse? Yep. Marley inadvertently commits the fax pas of her young life alienating Jane and Leah for good. Salvation comes in mysterious ways, however, in the form of the New York Yankees and a boy with the bluest eyes in the world, who happens to live next door to Dad. While the plot isn't particularly original, young female readers will find much with which to readily identify. Vernick's fine writing makes this a compelling read. Reviewer: Judy Crowder
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Seventh-graders Jane, Leah, and Marley have been best friends forever, riding bikes, playing their own version of Monopoly, and enjoying their annual water-balloon blitz. Then Marley's father moves out, and everything changes. She has to spend the summer with him in his new place where nothing is familiar. Jane and Leah are going to theater camp and are inseparable, and Marley's dad has gotten her a job babysitting twins. When Jane invites Marley to her pool party (complete with high school boys), Marley decides that this is the perfect time for the blitz, but she quickly realizes that she has made a mistake. Jane and Leah have outgrown Monopoly, the water balloons, and her. Luckily, there is Jack, the boy who just might make the summer memorable for Marley. The book moves along at a pace that will keep tweens interested, and the dialogue among the characters feels real. Marley's relationships with her friends and family are complex, and even the most reluctant readers will relate to her and the choices that she makes. Put this book on your "must-have" list. It won't stay on the shelves long.—Tammy DiBartolo, Rapides Parish Library, Alexandria, LA
Kirkus Reviews

Sometimes life can just wallop you in the head like the missile of the title.

So 13-year-old Marley learns when her parents separate, her dad moves out and starts weeding his garden incessantly, the relationship with her two best girlfriends starts to unravel for good—and she meets Jack, a great-looking, baseball-loving boy. Then, to top it all off, she has to spend the summer with her father in his new house and deal with the job he's lined up for her—caring for two adorable but bratty, needy 5-year-old twins, daughters of a neighbor who may or may not be Dad's new girlfriend. Readers have seen this all before, but Vernick makes a very auspicious fiction debut here with her breezy, briskly paced tale, well-portrayed characters, authentic relationships and keen ear for realistic dialogue. The sweet, swoony young romance doesn't hurt either, and preteen female readers will eat this up and learn a wise and wistful thing or two about friendships, including when and how to walk away and start new ones. The author also handles the parents' separation and Marley's learning how to cope with it and life's inevitable changes successfully and with sensitivity.

A nicely reassuring read with a satisfying ending; a harbinger of more good novels to come from this author.(Fiction. 10-13)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547677859
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
09/06/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
570,780
Lexile:
630L (what's this?)
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Brightly Colored Happiness
The blitzing began five years ago, in second grade, on one of those amazing spring days that remind you how hot summer can be. I was sitting outside, waiting for my best friends to come over. I knew we’d spend the day outside—the weather was the kind of gorgeous that makes you feel stupid if you spend a minute indoors.
   I have no idea why I had a bag of balloons in the garage, but I did. Before Leah and Jane arrived, I blew up a ton with the hose and filled this big planter behind my dad’s grill with water balloons.
   Whenever we hung out, we played Monopoly. We were inventing our own rules, our own way to play. Whoever bought Park Place had to get drinks for all players. If you landed on Marvin Gardens, the other players had to quickly come up with a new hairstyle for you. That kind of thing. These days, there’s an action associated with every space. (Except Baltic. If you land on Baltic, you can just relax.) But on that day, we were still making it up.
   So there we were, playing our evolving version of Monopoly on the wooden picnic table in the backyard. Leah was leaning back to get some sun on her face. Jane was focused on the game, like me. She had a pad next to her, keeping track of the random action we applied to each space.
   I landed on B&O Railroad, which, according to our rules, meant I had to go get pretzels for them. Instead, I went to the planter.
   Was there a minute, a pause, before I started throwing the balloons? A second when I realized that something way beyond awesome was about to take place? I wish I could remember.
   What I do remember is the identical look on their faces. I managed to hit Jane and Leah within seconds of each other, and it was as if they had no idea what had happened. Did the sky just fall? Did a bird crap on them? Did their heads explode? How could they suddenly be wet, sitting outside on a hot spring day? Almost before it was humanly possible, they were right there beside me, pulling balloons out and attacking me right back. There was water everywhere, wet everything, balloons flying, breaking apart, arms throwing and trying to deflect, voices squealing, screaming, laughing. We were running, trying to get away, running back, getting more balloons from the planter. It was wet and brightly colored happiness of the splatted, splattered water balloon variety.
   Rig raced out barking, running circles around us. My parents ran out of the house too; all the noise must have set off their Parent Alerts. Mom and Dad took it all in: how wet we were, how hard we were laughing, the red and yellow and blue and purple balloon splats everywhere. Instead of yelling at us to clean it all up, or did we realize we had nearly drenched a perfectly good Monopoly game, or even What the hell is going on out here?, my mom found one balloon that had landed unbroken and smashed it directly on my dad’s head.
   She looked so happy! Almost proud, in a goofy way. Dad had that look of wonder he always got—as if he couldn’t believe how great she was. Or how lucky he was. A look I haven’t seen in so long.
   First Water Balloon Blitz. Quite possibly the best water balloon fight in the history of mankind.

***

The next year, Jane ambushed Leah and me at the park. She had her brother and father help her hide a stash in this big bin behind the playground, and she just totally blindsided us with a water balloon attack of pure excellence.
   What impressed me most was not the total shock factor, or the way Jane made an annual tradition out of what we all had thought of as the greatest ever onetime event. I just loved the Jane way she went about it. It was so well planned. I mean, she brought the full water balloons to the park in a bucket half filled with water so they wouldn’t break. Seriously—that was taking it to a whole other level.
   Over the years, rules evolved. We came up with a points system.
   The Water Balloon Blitz can only be after school ends, and there can be only one blitz per year. Points are given in the following categories:
   Number of witnesses to water balloon blitzing.
   Number of days since last day of school—in other words, the longer you wait, the more points you get. Of course, there’s also a greater the chance of someone else bombing you first.
   Bonus points for courage—it’s a lot easier to launch a surprise balloon attack on your best friends when it’s just the three of you in a backyard than it is in a public place or when your friend’s parents might kill you.
   Which is why Leah is reigning champion. Her attack at Jane’s sister’s birthday party two years ago was a thing of great beauty. And utter surprise. Leah wasn’t exactly a follower, but she sure wasn’t a leader. She mostly went along with what Jane and I did. So for her to come up with this blitz, this most incredibly courageous blitz, well, Jane and I were nearly speechless for days. And Leah was never the same herself.
   All these older neighbors were there, not to mention Jane’s mega-uptight mother and grandmother, but Leah went all out, bombing Jane and me. Most of the other guests, too. Jane and I kneeled down before her at the end of that party. Literally.
   The weird thing is that last summer, there was no blitz. All through August, I was sure I’d score with a ton of points by waiting so long, but the days slipped by, and Jane and Leah were so busy all the time. I never blitzed them. They never blitzed me. Then seventh grade started. And life went on.
   Well, life didn’t exactly go on. My life got a little stopped for a while. Or it felt like it did, when Dad moved out. Brightly Colored Happiness
   The blitzing began five years ago, in second grade, on one of those amazing spring days that remind you how hot summer can be. I was sitting outside, waiting for my best friends to come over. I knew we’d spend the day outside—the weather was the kind of gorgeous that makes you feel stupid if you spend a minute indoors.
   I have no idea why I had a bag of balloons in the garage, but I did. Before Leah and Jane arrived, I blew up a ton with the hose and filled this big planter behind my dad’s grill with water balloons.
   Whenever we hung out, we played Monopoly. We were inventing our own rules, our own way to play. Whoever bought Park Place had to get drinks for all players. If you landed on Marvin Gardens, the other players had to quickly come up with a new hairstyle for you. That kind of thing. These days, there’s an action associated with every space. (Except Baltic. If you land on Baltic, you can just relax.) But on that day, we were still making it up.
   So there we were, playing our evolving version of Monopoly on the wooden picnic table in the backyard. Leah was leaning back to get some sun on her face. Jane was focused on the game, like me. She had a pad next to her, keeping track of the random action we applied to each space.
   I landed on B&O Railroad, which, according to our rules, meant I had to go get pretzels for them. Instead, I went to the planter.
   Was there a minute, a pause, before I started throwing the balloons? A second when I realized that something way beyond awesome was about to take place? I wish I could remember.
   What I do remember is the identical look on their faces. I managed to hit Jane and Leah within seconds of each other, and it was as if they had no idea what had happened. Did the sky just fall? Did a bird crap on them? Did their heads explode? How could they suddenly be wet, sitting outside on a hot spring day? Almost before it was humanly possible, they were right there beside me, pulling balloons out and attacking me right back. There was water everywhere, wet everything, balloons flying, breaking apart, arms throwing and trying to deflect, voices squealing, screaming, laughing. We were running, trying to get away, running back, getting more balloons from the planter. It was wet and brightly colored happiness of the splatted, splattered water balloon variety.
   Rig raced out barking, running circles around us. My parents ran out of the house too; all the noise must have set off their Parent Alerts. Mom and Dad took it all in: how wet we were, how hard we were laughing, the red and yellow and blue and purple balloon splats everywhere. Instead of yelling at us to clean it all up, or did we realize we had nearly drenched a perfectly good Monopoly game, or even What the hell is going on out here?, my mom found one balloon that had landed unbroken and smashed it directly on my dad’s head.
   She looked so happy! Almost proud, in a goofy way. Dad had that look of wonder he always got—as if he couldn’t believe how great she was. Or how lucky he was. A look I haven’t seen in so long.
   First Water Balloon Blitz. Quite possibly the best water balloon fight in the history of mankind.

***

The next year, Jane ambushed Leah and me at the park. She had her brother and father help her hide a stash in this big bin behind the playground, and she just totally blindsided us with a water balloon attack of pure excellence.
   What impressed me most was not the total shock factor, or the way Jane made an annual tradition out of what we all had thought of as the greatest ever onetime event. I just loved the Jane way she went about it. It was so well planned. I mean, she brought the full water balloons to the park in a bucket half filled with water so they wouldn’t break. Seriously—that was taking it to a whole other level.
   Over the years, rules evolved. We came up with a points system.
   The Water Balloon Blitz can only be after school ends, and there can be only one blitz per year. Points are given in the following categories:
   Number of witnesses to water balloon blitzing.
   Number of days since last day of school—in other words, the longer you wait, the more points you get. Of course, there’s also a greater the chance of someone else bombing you first.
   Bonus points for courage—it’s a lot easier to launch a surprise balloon attack on your best friends when it’s just the three of you in a backyard than it is in a public place or when your friend’s parents might kill you.
   Which is why Leah is reigning champion. Her attack at Jane’s sister’s birthday party two years ago was a thing of great beauty. And utter surprise. Leah wasn’t exactly a follower, but she sure wasn’t a leader. She mostly went along with what Jane and I did. So for her to come up with this blitz, this most incredibly courageous blitz, well, Jane and I were nearly speechless for days. And Leah was never the same herself.
   All these older neighbors were there, not to mention Jane’s mega-uptight mother and grandmother, but Leah went all out, bombing Jane and me. Most of the other guests, too. Jane and I kneeled down before her at the end of that party. Literally.
   The weird thing is that last summer, there was no blitz. All through August, I was sure I’d score with a ton of points by waiting so long, but the days slipped by, and Jane and Leah were so busy all the time. I never blitzed them. They never blitzed me. Then seventh grade started. And life went on.
   Well, life didn’t exactly go on. My life got a little stopped for a while. Or it felt like it did, when Dad moved out.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Kids struggling with the challenges of identifying what changes are necessary and paying the price for those thrust upon them will be glad to see an author who gets it." —Bulletin, starred review   “An achingly honest story about love, family, friends, and non-friends. (Spoiler alert: There's also an adorable boy with sky blue eyes . . . )”—Lauren Myracle, New York Times best-selling author of ttyl and Shine
“Vernick's writing is beautiful, her characters well-rounded and believable, and the coming of age situations and emotions are spot on.”—Kathryn Erskine, author of the National Book Award winner Mockingbird   “Tender and true, anchored by heartbreak and buoyed by love, Water Balloon is a sweet summertime celebration of the unforgettable moments that change everything. ”—Cynthia Leitich Smith, New York Times bestselling-author of Tantalize, Eternal, and Blessed   “A funny, poignant, beautifully written story about family, first love, and the joy and pain of girls’ friendships, reminiscent of Lynne Rae Perkins’ All Alone in the Universe. I was really caught up in the world Vernick created; in Marley's own words, ‘it is amazingly, fantastically real.’ I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!”—Joanne Rocklin, author of One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street   “Tweens will relate to this heartfelt story of a girl who is struggling to navigate the many changes in her life that seem to greet her at every turn.”—Lisa Schroeder, author of It’s Raining Cupcakes   “Marley Baird is a lovely protagonist with an engaging voice, and readers will wish they could be her best friend and help her cope with all of life’s uncertainty, aggravation, and heartache.  They will recognize their own struggles in Marley’s and cheer her on as she finds her way.”—Gina Willner-Pardo, author of  The Hard Kind of Promise   “Water Balloon is breathtakingly luminous. From the start, readers will root for Marley, an unforgettable and authentic heroine; we *know* this girl, our heart breaks with hers, we laugh with her, and we want to be her friend for life. Vernick's lyrical and astonishingly perceptive prose tells this captivating story of friendship, love, and resilience with honesty, grace, and power. This book is the real thing—I want to hug it daily!”—Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, author of 8th Grade Superzero   “Vernick makes a very auspicious fiction debut here with her breezy, briskly paced tale, well-portrayed characters, authentic relationships and keen ear for realistic dialogue. . . . preteen female readers will eat this up and learn a wise and wistful thing or two about friendships, including when and how to walk away and start new ones. . . . a harbinger of more good novels to come from this author.” —Kirkus Reviews

"Put this book on your "must-have" list. It won’t stay on the shelves long."—School Library Journal, starred review

"Vernick conveys Marley's uncertain navigation of new experiences and conflicting emotions with sincerity and keen perception."—Publishers Weekly

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