Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The twenty-one balloons

The twenty-one balloons

William Pene Du Bois
For ages 8 to 12
Puffin, 1975   ISBN: 978-0140320978

Professor William Waterman Sherman is thoroughly fed up with being a teacher in San Francisco. He wants to do something new with his life. He wants to get away from his humdrum life. And so he comes up with a fabulous idea. He will sail around the world in a hot air balloon. In fact he decides that he will stay aloft for a whole year.

And so the professor has a special balloon house built. Everything in the house is very light and it all perfectly suits the professor's needs. Without too much fuss he sets off one August afternoon and for one week all goes well. And then disaster strikes. A flock of seagulls causes damage to the professor's balloon, and despite all his efforts he crashes on an island.

When the professor comes to he finds himself in the company of a very dapper looking man who calls himself Mr. F. Mr. F explains that the professor has landed on the island of Krakatoa. He then proceeds to show the bemused balloonists all the wonderful things that there are on the island. A collection of families have made their home on the island, despite the fact that there is a very rumbly volcano there. He shows the professor a diamond mine that is so full of diamonds that every man woman and child on the island is incredibly rich.

Bit by bit the professor finds out about the interesting and rather bizarre life that the settlers have built for themselves on Krakatoa. He learns about the odd form of government and why they have changed their names to letters of the alphabet. He comes to appreciate that life on Krakatoa is, on the whole, very pleasant. But is does not stay this way.

In this thoroughly delightful Newbery Award winning book, William Pene du Bois tells a highly entertaining story that combines a little fact with a great deal of wonderfully fantastic fiction. Readers who enjoy reading about strange inventions will love this book, and, in the company of Professor William Waterman Sherman, they will take a journey that is unlike any other.