Review – The Twenty-One Balloons
  • Posted:
  • July 14, 2010

This summer I decided to read three different Newbery titles. The first was The Giver by Lois Lowry. The second was The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois.

Professor William Waterman Sherman has taught children for many years. He tires of it after several decades and takes up ballooning instead. One day he retires and sets sail around the world in a flying home with a giant hot-air balloon attached to it. The plan is to be airborn for a solid year. Unfortunately, some seagulls alter that plan. Sherman has to set down on a small island in the Pacific. The island turns out to be Krakatoa, and inhabited. Sherman then enters into one of the strangest, and most blissful, periods he has ever known.

The book was pretty good, albeit a little young for me to be gaga over. It’s interesting that it’s written by a French American author in 1940 – whatever (the award was given for 1947). The book is heavily steeped in socialist politics in a very positive light, and this is pre-communist 1950’s red scare. Were this written a few years later would it be subject to the same kind of scrutiny that fueled that time of fear in our country? Would it have been politically overlooked for the award?

Politics aside though, this book is very appealing for an action, survival novel. I described it today as a communist, desert island survival adventure manifesto novel for kids. I’m sticking to that. It was good, I should have read it 20 years ago. Today it warrants a 4 out of 5, but it’s a damn good 4 out of 5 read.


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Twisted Book Junkie

2010-07-18 22:19:12 Reply

I’ve never heard of this book. Thanks for the heads up! 🙂