The Twenty-One Balloons

By William Pène du Bois

Hi! What do you do for fun? Professor Sherman was a balloonist. He dreamed of traveling the world in a balloon. However, he was a math teacher for a living. And after forty years of teaching math, he was ready to get away from all the kids. They played so many pranks on him that he lost count! And since he was a balloonist, the ideal getaway for him was a trip around the world in a balloon.

He called in a balloon company, and he designed a balloon house. He made a huge balloon for a huge basket that was going to be his house. It had a porch, a bedroom, and all of the necessary things that you would have in your house, just quite a bit smaller. (It’s still a basket!) He packed only the things that he needed, and even those he made sure were extra light. For food, he packed a bunch of light foods. He packed very few books and slept on an air mattress. When he was ready to depart, the newspaper did a story about him. However, only his close friends and family were there to see him off. 

Everything was going fine for awhile, when he crashed into a volcanic island called Krakatoa. Everyone believed it was uninhabited because it’s volcano had destroyed half the island. Then, he realized that there were people living there, and that there was a giant diamond mine beneath the volcano. At first, he started stuffing his pockets with diamonds. Then, he realized that he probably was not going to leave Krakatoa, so he put them back. 

The people of Krakatoa Island had very strange ways. (I’m going to tell you a brief history of Krakatoa, so bear with me!) It all started when a guy who changed his name to “Mr. M” came upon Krakatoa. He decided to gather people to live with him. He was very specific about the 80 people that he chose. They had to be a family of four, the parents had to have a son and a daughter, and they had to be very creative and have some method to keep them entertained on Krakatoa, such as cooking, writing, inventing, etc. When they got there, they all changed their names to a letter of the alphabet. For example: Mr A., Mrs. A, the oldest child would be A-1, and the youngest child would be A-2. They also voted on the name of their months. And their days of the month were not “1, 2, 3, 4…,” but were “A, B, C, D…” On each person’s letter of the month, all 80 people of Krakatoa Island would go to their restaurant to eat. 

Professor Sherman was getting along fine with the people of Krakatoa…until the explosion. The volcano erupted! They all headed towards a bunch of giant balloons and baskets. However, they only had a short amount of time to get there!

Will they make it to the balloons and leave the island? Or will everybody perish? As I always say, read the book to find out!

A few helpful things I like to say about the books I read:

“Run and Get Mom” (how I describe the scariness factor – zero being not scary at all and five being majorly scary): 3


“Yucky-Lovey Stuff” (how I describe the romance factor – zero having no yucky-lovey parts in it and five having major yucky-lovey parts): 0



I give this book 5 wands. 

This story was full of adventure and bravery! And it’s surprising how an arithmetic teacher who just wants to get away from his life gets caught up in all of the dangerous and exciting events!