Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The 21 Balloons, William Pene du Bois

The Twenty-One Balloons
The Twenty-one BalloonsThe Western American Explorers' Club, in the city of San Francisco, was honored as it had never been honored before in the first week of October 1883 by being promised to be first to hear the details of an unexplained, extraordinary adventure; the biggest news story of the year, the story the whole world was waiting impatiently to hear - the tale of Professor William Waterman Sherman's singular voyage.

"Professor William Waterman Sherman just wants to be alone. So he decides to take a year off and spend it crossing the Pacific Ocean in a hot-air balloon the likes of which no one has ever seen. But when he is found after just three weeks floating in the Atlantic among the wreckage of twenty hot-air balloons, naturally, the world is eager to know what happened. How did he end up with so many balloons . . . and in the wrong ocean?" 

The 21 Balloons is a whimsical and highly amusing children's tale, one which I've enjoyed before, but hadn't read in quite a while. Professor William Waterman Sherman's singular adventures are a joy to read about, and though the book is over-the-top silly, that's the beauty of it, and sometimes one is in the mood for just such a book as this one. It's short, fun, and the reader just gets pulled into the story. 

The society on the island of Krakatoa is so, so fun to read about. It is, of course, not realistic, but it's entertaining.  I don't think I'd want to be a permanent "guest" on the island, but I sure would like to visit for a few months and sample the excellent cuisine. And take a few diamonds back too.

This book was published in the 1940's, and so there was a tiny bit of sexism in it, which kind of annoyed me. Also, the characters were kind of under-developed. And in the later sections of the book, the semi-technical jargon got a bit annoying, and I confess to skimming over some of it. But it's still an excellent children's story, one that I would highly recommend. It's not gripping or enthralling, but it is amusing and perfect to read when you're in a certain kind of mood, which I was in. I would definitely recommend this short but sweet book. William Pene du Bois also wrote some other children's books, which I might read. And despite his name, the book was originally published in English, so it doesn't really matter which edition you get.

Read The 21 Balloons:
  • if you like children's literature
  • if you like fantasy
180 pages.

Rating; ***

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