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The Twenty-One Balloons (Puffin Modern Classics) Paperback – April 21, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


An absurd and fantastic tale. . . . Truth and fiction are cleverly mingled. (School Library Journal)

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Series: Puffin Modern Classics
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Books; Reissue edition (April 21, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014240330X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142403303
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (237 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

278 of 287 people found the following review helpful By ProperGander News (Dr. Emil Shuffhausen) on August 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
I first read this story nearly 30 years ago, when I was not quite yet a teenager; I've read it many times since. It never fails to delight, fascinate, amuse, and enthrall me. It is by turns hilarious and innovative, combining science, fantasy, whimsy, and adventure in an intoxicating magma that explodes in an eruption of high drama. OK...perhaps that last sentence was over the top, but when you're trying to describe a fantasy tale about the explosion of the Krakatoa volcano, you can get burned by using too many cute metaphors and adjectives. Look...let's keep it simple. This book rocks. It rolls. It even shakes and rattles. The story is funny, the scenes are well-choreographed, the premise is captivating, and the narrative is told in a splendidly droll manner. So, if you are 10 years old, or 20, or an old geezer like me who still likes a good kick in the head every now and then, buy this book and read it. It's got balloons, diamonds, sharks, a volcano, exotic foods, fantastical houses, and stuff that will blow your mind. Now...please tell me you liked this review!
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59 of 60 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
Kids obsess over the darndest things. Scooters. Small electronic pets. Plastic accoutrements that somehow incorporate the word "jelly" into their titles. And while I am an ancient 26 years of age with only dim recollections of my idyllic midwestern youth, I think I can say with perfect certainty that there is one subject that very very few kids obsess over. Ballooning. When was the last time your child begged you for a lifetime subscription to (actual publications) "Ballooning Magazine" or "Aerostat Hot Air Balloon Magazine"? This isn't to say that when the local carnival comes to town, some kids wouldn't leap at the chance of hopping into one of those balloon rides that go up and down. But will they seriously seek out literature that feeds this all-consuming hunger for all things dirigible? William Pene du Bois apparently thought so. And so, with his 1948 Newbery Award winning, "The Twenty-One Balloons", Pene du Bois gives us a tale that is part Jules Verne part H.G. Wells with just a touch of Rube Goldberg for spice. And while I doubt that many children today will pore over the intricate technical aspects of this otherwise fun ride, they will at least be intrigued by its tale of a man, his dream, and his encounter with a truly original society.

If there was one thing Professor William Waterman Sherman was tired of, it was teaching mathematics to little children. For years and years he'd done it and finally, once retired, he was given a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream. Sherman would outfit himself a fabulous balloon. It would be the second largest ever commissioned and would carry a small wicker house, in which Sherman would be able to sail in perfect peace and comfort.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on January 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have just about every Newbery Award winning book on my bookshelf and I've read most of them. But not all. In particular, many of the ones written before 1950 or so still need my attention. So, periodically, I try to pick up one I haven't read and give it a go. Having just finished reading Simon Winchester's Krakatoa, where he gives such a glowing report of this book, I pulled it down from the shelf.
This is a fun book. It tells the story of a retired math teacher, William Waterman Sherman, who builds a balloon to help him get away from it all by spending a year floating through the skies. Instead, he quickly finds himself downed on the island of Krakatoa where he finds a secret colony of people living quite comfortably. He joins them. Unfortunately, in a couple days, Krakatoa erupts, destroying the island almost completely. Fortunately, the colony had prepared for the chance of eruption and everyone is saved.
Published in 1947, this book is filled with a little interesting science and a lot of fantasy. If it has a weakness, it is that this book feels a little more dated than some of the other older Newbery winners. It doesn't feel dated because of its content, however, just its prose style. Its a little formal and relates a post-Victorian view of the world which many young people probably will not understand very well.
Still, I enjoyed this story and the drawings by Mr. DuBois very much. When it comes right down to it, you can hardly go wrong with a Newbery winner. Still one of the best signs of excellence in the world of fiction--for children or no.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By E. Christina Dabis on July 28, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had never heard of this book until a member of the AARP Bulletin Board posted that they had found it available and bought it for their grandchildren.

Amazon's reviews gave this book glowing praise, therefore, I bought it for my 13 year old grandson. When the book arrived I decided to read a few pages just to make sure it was something he might like. I never put the book down! I read the entire book, being careful not to bend the pages. Oh! what a delightful story. At 59 I was saying to myself, "Well, if he could do that, I wonder if this, or that could be done too?!?!" I knew then that this book was perfect for anyone, young or old. It's an easy to read book, and I'm only sorry I didn't order two, one for me, and one for my grandson!
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