Kiddie lit question: Who remembers "The 21 Balloons"?

For those of you who don’t know, there exists a classic of juvenile fiction of that name, written and illustrated by William Pene DuBois. In a nutshell it concerns a weary
arithmetic teacher who decides to build a gigantic balloon
and sail around the world in it, but on his 7th day out a seagull rips his balloon and his journey ends. And wouldn’t you know it, he lands on Krakatoa, just 4 days shy of the 1883 volcanic explosion. It’s really a delightful read, and one of very few juvenile books I’ve kept from my boyhood.

He describes Krakatoa as being populated by 20 families who live in fabulous houses funded by the immense wealth in diamonds to be found on the island. These people use a special calendar of 20-day months, and each family is assigned a particular day of the month on which they have to provide meals for all the others; theoretically each family only has to work on its assigned day.

So the blurb on the back of the book says that the whole thing about the balloons and the arithmetic teacher is just nonsense, but some of stuff regarding the fabulous civilization on Krakatoa is based on fact. Which stuff? What facts? It’s hard to believe that any of this could be remotely true (except the explosion).

Does anyone know anything about this?

I’m not sure what the blurb is referring to, either, javaman, but I just wanted to say that I really loved that book, too. I also kept it, and it was very cool being able to give it to my own kids to read.

My copy is a Yearling paperback which I got in 1970 or thereabouts. I was in junior high at the time, and though it was probably young for me even then, I had already developed a lifelong fascination with balloon travel. I think it was when I was in the fourth grade that the teacher read this book to our class. I still reread it once in awhile. It’s a great “bathroom book”…now how do you suppose Professor Sherman took care of that necessity? It wasn’t mentioned in the book.

The cover of this edition is mostly red, except for the color picture of the Balloon Platform flying over the top of the volcano.

Okay, after I read your last post, javaman, I had to go dig out my copy. I think I have the very same edition. It says “Winner of the Newberry Award” over the front cover illustration. I also flipped through it randomly, and it sucked me in for about 30 minutes before I made myself put it down. What a great book…is it me, or do they just not write childrens literature like this now?

The Re Balloon. Check.
99 Luft Balloons. Check.
*The 21 Balloons… Never heard of it. Is it suitable for a seven-year-old? Do you recommend it?

I recently finished reading Treasure Island to him, and he love it. I was planning on tackling the second Harry Potter. He loved the first one too.

An excellent book. Any kid who enjoys Harry Potter should like this one.

Well, it’s a Newberry Award winner; all such books are that good. As the child of a former children’s librarian, I can personally attest that every book that ever won this award is a fantastic read. Try “The Matchlock Gun”, “Bridge to Terbithia,” “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH,” “The 21 Balloons” itself, “The Sign of the Beaver,” “Dear Mr. Henshaw,” “Sounder,” “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” “A Wrinkle In Time,” “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” “The Cricket in Times Square,” “My Side of the Mountain,” “Rifles For Watie,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “Johnny Tremain,” “The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle,” et. al. I read all of them as a kid, and loved them all. I will buy all of these books for my own children to read someday. They truly enriched my childhood.

Treasure Island, arggggh, me mateys! I just found a nice hardbound copy in a thrift store and have started reading it, mostly as a result of having seen the old movie with Wallace Beery.

Sounds like you spend a serious amount of time reading to your son; that’s fantastic. He’ll probably grow up to be a lifelong lover of books.