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Hot Air Balloons: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about hot air balloons?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to hot air balloons. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about hot air balloons.

Our list includes picture books and chapter books. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

When it comes to children’s stories about hot air balloons, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like The 21 Balloons to popular sellers like The Twenty-One Balloons (Puffin Modern Classics) to some of our favorite hidden gems like And Away We Go!.

We hope this list of kids books about hot air balloons can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book!

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Flight for Freedom: The Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape from East Germany
Written by Kristen Fulton & illustrated by Torben Kuhlmann
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

An Inspiring True Story about One Family’s Escape from Behind the Berlin Wall!

Peter was born on the east side of Germany, the side that wasn’t free. He watches news programs rather than cartoons, and wears scratchy uniforms instead of blue jeans. His family endures long lines and early curfews. But Peter knows it won’t always be this way. Peter and his family have a secret. Late at night in their attic, they are piecing together a hot air balloon—and a plan. Can Peter and his family fly their way to freedom? This is the true story of one child, Peter Wetzel, and his family, as they risk their lives for the hope of freedom in a daring escape from East Germany via a handmade hot air balloon in 1979.

• A perfect picture book for educators teaching about the Cold War, the Iron Curtain, and East Germany
Flight for Freedom is a showcase for lessons of bravery, heroism, family, and perseverance, as well as stunning history.
• Includes detailed maps of the Wetzel family’s escape route and diagrams of their hot air balloon

For fans of historical nonfiction picture books like Let the Children March, The Wall, Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon.

• True life escape stories
• For picture book readers age 5–9
• For teachers, librarians, and historians

Kristen Fulton is a children’s book author. She can always be found with a notebook in hand as she ventures through historical sites and museums. Most of the time she lives in Florida—but she can also be found traveling the country by RV.

Torben Kuhlmann is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator. Starting in kindergarten he became known as “the draftsman.” Flying machines and rich historical detail often adorn his work. He lives in Hamburg, Germany.

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And Away We Go!
Written & illustrated by Migy England
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Mr. Fox is going to the moon! Away he goes in his hot air balloon. . . . But wait! Can Elephant come too? Sure! Let’s bring along some pizza. What about Giraffe? And Squirrel? Everyone is welcome in Mr. Fox’s balloon, but look out–will everyone fit? In the tradition of classic cumulative tales like Mr. Gumpy’s Outing, Migy’s And Away We Go! is an unforgettable debut picture book from an exciting new talent.

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Halfway to Harmony
Written by Barbara O'Connor
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A heartfelt middle-grade novel from New York Times bestselling author Barbara O'Connor about a boy whose life is upended after the loss of his older brother--timeless, classic, and whimsical.

Walter Tipple is looking for adventure. He keeps having a dream that his big brother, Tank, appears before him and says, "Let's you and me go see my world, little man." But Tank went to the army and never came home, and Walter doesn't know how to see the world without him.

Then he meets Posey, the brash new girl from next door, and an eccentric man named Banjo, who's off on a bodacious adventure of his own. What follows is a summer of taking chances, becoming braver, and making friends--and maybe Walter can learn who he wants to be without the brother he always wanted to be like.

Halfway to Harmony is an utterly charming story about change and growing up.

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A Dream of Flight
Written by Jef Polivka-Searle and Rob Polivka & illustrated by Rob Polivka
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Years before the invention of the modern airplane, Alberto Santos-Dumont dreamed of flying. As a boy, he was mesmerized by the machinery on his father’s coffee plantation in Brazil and went on to study science and engineering in France. Soon his groundbreaking—and sometimes silly—inventions became the talk of Paris, especially after he set his sights on building an airship that could bring the world’s people together. His small stature and big ideas earned him the nickname “Le Petite Santos.”

This is the story of Santos’s successful race for the Deutsche Prize, and his many failures along the way. Chock-full of cool diagrams, charming Parisian scenes, and graphic novel-style spot illustrations, A Dream of Flight will have young readers looking to the sky and scheming up their own aerial inventions.

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The Twenty-One Balloons (Puffin Modern Classics)
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A Newbery Medal Winner

Professor William Waterman Sherman intends to fly across the Pacific Ocean. But through a twist of fate, he lands on Krakatoa, and discovers a world of unimaginable wealth, eccentric inhabitants, and incredible balloon inventions.Winner of the 1948 Newbery Medal, this classic fantasy-adventure is now available in a handsome new edition.

“William Pene du Bois combines his rich imagination, scientific tastes, and brilliant artistry to tell a story that has no age limit.” —The Horn Book

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  • The 21 Balloons - Relates the incredible adventures of Professor William Waterman Sherman who in 1883 sets off in a balloon across the Pacific, survives the volcanic eruption of Krakatoa, and is eventually picked up in the Atlantic.

  • Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride (Caldecott Honor Book) - The first “manned” hot-air balloon is about to take off! But what are those noises coming from the basket? Based on the (POSSIBLY) true report of a day in 1783, this si the story of (PERHAPS) the bravest collection of flyers the world has ever seen, as (SORT OF) told to Marjorie Priceman.

  • Nancy Drew #16: What Goes Up... - After Stealing a million in investment cash, a desperate robber commandeers a hot air balloon at the local exposition, only to be lost in a raging storm. The balloon was tracked to a high mountain area before going down. When Police Chief McGinnis refuses to take Nancy on the recovery effort, she and the girls stowaway with the investment bankers, also climbing the mountain, in an effort to recover their funds. Unfortunately, once the balloon is found, they learn that they've hung out with the wrong group - the bankers were in on it with the robbers!

  • Big Balloon Race - In 1957, Harper published its first I Can Read title, Little Bear, written by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Large type, simple vocabulary, chapter-like divisions, and decorative pictures made Little Bear perfect for emerging readers

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A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785
Written by Matthew Olshan & illustrated by Sophie Blackall
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

In the year and a half since the flight of the first manned balloon in 1783, an Italian has flown, a Scot has flown, a woman has flown, even a sheep has flown. But no one has flown from one country to another. John Jeffries, an Englishman, and his pilot, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a Frenchman, want to be the first. On January 7, 1785, they set out to cross the English Channel to France in a balloon. All seemed to be going fine, until Jeffries decides the balloon looks too fat and adjusts the air valve―how hard could it be? Too bad he drops the wrench over the side of the aerial car. With no way to adjust the valve, the balloon begins to sink. Jeffries and Blanchard throw as much as they can overboard―until there is nothing left, not even their clothes. Luckily, they come up with a clever (and surprising) solution that saves the day. A VOYAGE IN THE CLOUDS from Matthew Olshan and Sophie Blackall is a journey that will keep kids laughing the whole way.

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Up & Down
Written & illustrated by Don Brown
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

Swept up by the European ballooning craze of the 1780s, Dr. John Jeffries longed to become the first person to fly across the English Channel. But first he had to outwit a rascally co-pilot, keep the balloon from bursting, and avoid crashing into the sea. The good doctor’s quick-thinking solutions will surprise young readers—and keep them giggling when “lightening the load” is a relief in more ways than one. Don Brown tells this quirky true story with his usual accuracy and heart.

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