Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Water Balloon by Audrey Vernick

Today Biblio Links welcomes back prolific author Audrey Vernick

Although Audrey’s middle grade novel, Water Balloon, is the perfect summer-time read, it’s the kind of book kids will want to dive into at any time of the year. As a school librarian at a K-5 elementary school, I always have a faction of 10-year-old girls who sidle up to me and whisper, “Do you have any, you know, romance books?” Water Balloon is the book I recommend because Marley, the main character, has an innocent, wholesome crush on the boy next door . But it’s not just the middle grade romance that makes readers want to take this book home; Water Ballon is a lovely, coming-of-age story about a girl dealing with the separation of her parents (both nice people, by the way) and the loss of her best friends as they all grow their separate ways.

Here’s the jacket flap summary:

Marley is stretched as tightly as an overfull water balloon. Her parents have separated and her relationship with her forever best friends is disintegrating. To top it all off, she is forced into what must be the worst summer job in history. She is trying hard to hold onto everything she loves, but if she squeezes any tighter, something’s going to burst. Luckily, there’s also a boy in the picture with amazing light blue eyes and the ability to make baseball actually seem interesting…but young romance, too, has lots of opportunity for humiliation and misinterpreted signals. As everything changes around her, can Marley loosen her drop on the past long enough to embrace the present, and maybe even the future?

I asked Audrey about ways in which readers connect with Water Balloon.

Biblio Links: A student walks into my library and I think, That kid needs a copy of Water Ballon. Who is this child?

Audrey: That child is probably someone whose parents recently separated or divorced–a situation new to Marley, Water Balloon’s narrator. She may also be someone facing a difficult time with her friends. When I hear from readers, they are often ones perplexed by the end of what they expected to be a lifelong friendship–a situation so common in that transitional middle-school age, and so deeply painful and hard to accept. They often ask about a sequel–they seem to feel a need to know if Marley’s fractured friendships ever heal. 

Biblio Links: I can see why readers want to be reassured that Marley will be okay! I was 100% invested in this character, and she felt as real to me as one of my students.

If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using your book in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see?

Audrey: If the classroom were of the outdoor kind, and the teacher was a gamer, you might encounter a brilliantly-conceived water balloon fight, but that’s not altogether likely. If you were to peek at just the right time, you might find yourself privy to a very frank discussion about adjusting to newly separated and/or divorced parents. Or perhaps a thoughtful, delicate conversation about being aware of the way friendships evolve and change over time, and what to do when a friendship goes bad.

Students might also discuss the joys and horrors of baby-sitting, as Marley spends her summer caring for a pair of slightly crazed five-year-old twins, who provide a bit more horror than joy.

Biblio Links: Another place where I can see Water Balloon being used is in a book club or friendship group that guidance counselors often run.

Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?

Audrey: My website contains information about my books and school visits and provides discussion guides for a number of my
On my (occasional) blog, I interview authors and illustrators:
The teaching books website offers links to many interviews I’ve done:

Biblio Links Thanks for stopping by, Audrey!

Audrey: Thanks so much, Natalie!!

 Check out Audrey’s picture books, Bark and Tim,  Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? and Teach Your Buffalo To Play The Drums, and picture book biographies She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story and Brothers At Bat.

Click here for smashing  reviews (including two starred reviews!) of Water Balloon.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Clarion Book (Houghton Mifflin)

Publication Date: September 6, 2011

ISBN-10: 0547595549

ISBN-13: 978-0547595542

Interest Level: Ages 9 and up

Number of Pages: 310

Thanks to Shannon Messenger for hosting another Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!


12 responses to “Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Water Balloon by Audrey Vernick

  1. I was a girl like that–interested in romance (but wanted it innocent and sweet)!

    And what great questions and answers in the interview!

  2. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    Glad you enjoyed the interview, Barbara! I’ve recommended this book to lots of girls, and I’ve been told that the book cover is perfect, because it doesn’t “look like there’s romance in it.” 🙂 The romance plays only a small part, though–it’s mostly about Marley’s deteriorating friendship with two BFFs and how she deals with that on top of her parents’ divorce–great fodder for discussion.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I loved reading Water Balloon. I think the dog may have been my favorite character, or maybe the twins, or maybe… That’s the mark of a good read, when the secondary characters pull you in almost as much as the main character!

    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      So true, Jeannie, and every one of those characters in Water Balloon rang true. I also liked both parents, which doesn’t always happen in books where a character’s parents divorce, so this would be a good book to hand to a kid in a similar situation.

  4. Ooh–this sounds thrilling! Love it 🙂 AND, I love those sweet crush stories. Sometimes, I think those were the best times.

    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      I love those stories, too, Melanie! I think those times seem best only when viewed from a distance–maybe not so much up close. 😉

  5. Pingback: June Carnival of Literature: Practically Paradise by Diane R. Kelly

  6. So glad to come across this. The title got buried in my ever-growing TBR list and I’d forgotten how much I want to read it. It sounds wonderful!

  7. It is wonderful, Ruth! Definitely worth a move to the top of your TBR list. 🙂

  8. Thanks for introducing me to Water Balloon. So many of my students have parents that are going through divorces (5th grade seems to be a poular year for this). I will read this book because it sounds perfect to recommend to students who are going through the same thing. Thanks~

    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Glad you enjoyed the review, Stephanie. I know you’ll love the book even more. 🙂 I really like that there was no “bad guy” in the divorce and no high drama–it was simply a marriage that didn’t work–sad for the main character, but she really couldn’t blame either parent. Hope you students enjoy it!

  9. Pingback: Bogart and Vinnie: A Completely Made-up Story of True Friendship by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Henry Cole | Biblio Links

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