Book Review: The Twenty One Balloons by William Pene du Buis


When Professor William Sherman’s hot air balloon begins losing air in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the daring explorer is sure his end has come.  However, by chance winds and a bit of luck Sherman finds himself saved, washed up on a remote Island.  Within only a few minutes of arrival Professor Sherman discovers that the island is inhabited, and not by Polynesian natives but men in fine silk suits and women in gorgeous European gowns, a magnificent and glowing people whose likes the Professor has never seen before.  Professor Sherman has landed on the Island of Krakatoa, an Island made completely out of diamond.  Fueled by the world’s largest diamond reserve, the secret civilization of Krakatoa is the most luxurious and technologically advanced nation on the planet.  Sherman marvels at the wonders of Krakatoa, but the more time he learns the more he fears that he may never leave the glittering Island paradise.   


The Twenty One Balloons may just be one of the most unique, the most niche novels ever written.  It is so out of the ordinary in almost every way, that it leaves me thinking about it to this day.  The Twenty-One Balloons is written in a somewhat old fashioned, autobiographical style, written from the perspective of Professor Sherman giving a speech about his years on Krakatoa to the people of San Francisco.  The author spends a lot of time detailing the various marvels of Krakatoa, painting a fantastical dream world for the story.  Most interesting are the author’s detailed descriptions of the interesting technological innovations of the Island.  As far as the flow of the story goes, the book is not at all standard, with a plot that starts fast, almost completely halts and then picks up again with a shocking twist at the end.  The characters are somewhat formal but very interesting, but it’s really the setting that clinches it all.  The book is something that might be called a gem; its uniqueness is hard to match.  If you want a fast read this book is not for you, but if you are looking for a book that is alien, odd, something to pique your curiosity, then I would highly recommend The Twenty One Balloons to you.  

  • Ages: 9 – 99
  • Awards: Newbery Medal Winner
  • Pages: 192
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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