The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois


About The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois: 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 seen. But when he is found after just three weeks floating in the Atlantic among the wreckage of twenty hot-air balloons, the world is naturally eager to know what happened. How did he end up with so many balloons ... and in the wrong ocean?

My take

I got this for a steal at a recent book sale, still wrapped up in plastic. I was having second thoughts but realizing that it is a Newbery winner, I decided that it was a good buy not just for me but for D too (eventually).

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I didn't regret this read. And at the risk of spoiling things for you, I come back with more questions ... questions one step ahead of those above:

If you were shipwrecked (ok, balloon-wrecked) on a supposedly uninhabited island, only to discover that on that island, you are probably among the richest people in the world with close to a billion dollars to spend a day. Everyday could be a vacation and there is no limit to what you occupy your time with. Would you want to stay or go? What if you were forced to stay as a perennial guest? What if you had to stay even in the light of dire circumstances?

This is what the Professor went through in his three-week disappearance.

It's a very tall tale. But its told with such an incredible amount of detail as well as plausible descriptions of inventions and the science behind them that you want to believe everything written down. Take note that this book won the Newbery in 1948, an era where great inventions were being made.

What makes the story even moreso charming is that Mr. Du Bois also happened to draw all the illustrations. One of my favorite inventions is the balloon merry-go-round.

Definitely a classic.

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