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The Twenty-One Balloons (1947)

by William Pène du Bois

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,650552,452 (4.02)79
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.
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Audiobook performed by John McDonough

This is a classic of children’s literature, for which du Bois was awarded the Newbery Medal. It’s a fantastical adventure story featuring Professor William Waterman Sherman, who leaves San Francisco on Aug 15, 1883, in a balloon, with the intention of going across the Pacific Ocean and enjoying some solitude. Three weeks later he’s picked up in the Atlantic Ocean clinging to wreckage. Once rescued he insists on being transported to San Francisco where he will tell his tale – once and only once – to the Western American Explorer’s Club.

What a fun story! Professor Sherman, despite his apparent forethought and preparation for any eventuality, still manages to run afoul of several unanticipated problems … from seagulls to sharks to volcanoes. His time spent on Krakatoa is extraordinary and hard to believe; even in his telling of it, Professor Sherman seems amazed and incredulous.

The illustrations (also by du Bois) help by providing a visual representation to go along with some of the detailed descriptions of the various inventions. I think parents and teachers would have a great time allowing children to explore their imaginations, while explaining the realities of science. But I WOULD like that bed with endless clean sheets! (And having already cut and polished diamonds handily about would be pretty nice as well…)

John McDonough does a marvelous job of reading the audio version. His dramatic performance lends a sense of awe, amazement, excitement and danger as the scenes require. ( )
  BookConcierge | Sep 27, 2020 |
I read this aloud with my son for the Level 4 Building Your Library curriculum. It's a quirky, somewhat bizarre story about a group of people who settled on Krakatoa in the years before it exploded. The book has kind of a Babar/Curious George feel to me, not in the language so much as in the somewhat cartoonish atmosphere. The beginning was slow, and we almost gave up, but before long we were both engaged in the story and looking forward to seeing what happened. Well, we knew what would happen to Krakatoa, but we were curious about what happened to the characters living there.

The biggest complaint my son has with the book is that the drawings of people are a little terrifying.

Overall, it's not what I'd consider great literature, but it's an enjoyable read.

( )
  ImperfectCJ | Jun 28, 2020 |
I liked reading this book for two reasons, and I didn’t like the story for one reason. I liked this book because the plot line was extremely interesting and made me want to continue reading in order to see what happens next. The plot line covers the story of a retired teacher who is taking a year long trip in a hot air balloon, and ends up crashing at the island Krakatoa. Here, there are multiple wealthy families who are running a diamond cartel on the island, with many strange rules and traditions. The second reason that I enjoyed this book was because of the unique characters who lived in this society. They each had names that were only an initial, like Mr. F or Mr. and Mrs. D. Additionally, the children of these families were extremely creative and seemingly created their own world of fun by making their society into an amusement park with hot air balloons and other rides. The only reason I did not like this story was because sometimes it did not seem entirely realistic. I think that a lot of the plot is interesting because of how crazy it seems, but it does get a little confusing when we consider that Krakatoa is in fact a real volcanic island, and then at the end of the story this island is in the Pacific ocean, when in real life the island is in the Indian ocean. The main message of this story is about society, and shows how despite even the most perfect circumstances, nature will always be a factor.
  mvanem1 | May 7, 2020 |
The Twenty-One Balloons follows William Waterman Sherman as he attempts to fly across the Pacific Ocean. Instead of completing his journey, he becomes stranded on the mysterious island of Krakatoa. On the island he finds a unique Utopian society with incredible wealth and unusual customs.

At first glance, this was similar to Around the World in Eighty Days. One difference that sets this apart from 80 Days is the main character is not just finding familiar destinations but an undiscovered society. I didn’t like this as much as Eighty Days, but it was still a good classic children’s read. ( )
  BookishHooker | Dec 16, 2019 |
A more absurd , inane version of Around the World in Eighty Days. ( )
  Tess_W | Jul 28, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
William Pène du Boisprimary authorall editionscalculated
McDonough, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weinman, BradCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my wife with love
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There are two kinds of travel.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The ISBN 0140303588 belongs to Ruth Sawyer's Roller Skates, not The Twenty-One Balloons.
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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.

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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.

Available online at The Internet Archive:
https://archive.org/search.php?query=t...
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