Friday, June 27, 2008

The Twenty-One Balloons

I was surprised by how much I liked The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pène du Bois - an older Newbery winner (1948 winner) - especially since I'd never even heard of it before this project.

I'm pretty sure I would have liked this as a child, too - I loved Jules Verne (especially Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), and this reminded me a lot of that, though The Twenty-One Balloons was a lot more light-hearted. Also, my eleven year old son enjoyed The Twenty-One Balloons as much as I did, and our tastes don't overlap that much. So I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this book should appeal to a pretty broad audience. In fact, I think it is definitely an under-appreciated, underrated classic.

William Pène du Bois' quirky, rambling writing style appealed to me as much as the story did. Who wouldn't like "a balloon in which I could float around out of everybody's be where no one would bother me for perhaps one full year" (p. 40), at least on some days?

This story of 66-year-old retired mathematics teacher Professor William Waterman Sherman, who stumbles on a secret society on the supposedly uninhabited Pacific island of Krakatoa just before its 1883 explosion, is definitely one of the most whimsical Newbery winners I've read. There's a lot about balloons; their construction and their lifting power and the mechanics of rigging a basket, a couch, a house, and a huge platform up to them. There's economy, government, and exotic restaurants, and kids who get to invent incredible things. It's a great mix of science and fantasy, appropriate for all ages. Why isn't this book better known?

Funnily enough, my family just watched a Mythbusters episode (Larry's Lawn-Chair Balloon- myth confirmed) about a guy who attached a lawn chair to a bunch of weather balloons. And tonight we're going to check out Heliosphere, an "enchanting outdoor spectacle of aerialist performers suspended from a larger-than-life helium balloon" at Ann Arbor's Top of the Park festival, just to continue the theme.


Amanda (the librarian) said...

Great review! You really make me want to read this book.

If you ever have a chance, go to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It is absolutely spectacular!

KT said...

I bought this book on a whim when I was probably 10. I think I thought the cover looked really cool or something. Anyway. I loved it then. I thought it was the coolest book ever.

I was very surprised when I realized how old it was.

Elizabeth said...

I read this as a kid and loved it, but got it mixed up in my head with one of the Verne books, and so couldn't remember what it was called.

I still remember the house with the furniture that folds back into the floor...

Backlink Pc said...

Hi there,I enjoy reading through your article post.
I wanted to write a little comment to support you and wish you a good continuationAll the best for all your blogging efforts.

armando manabu
manabu mikami
tkr dua
mando manabu

a片 said...

免費線上遊戲下載 said...

桌布動畫圖片 said...