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The Twenty-One Balloons

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Caleb Macdonald

on 8 March 2014

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Transcript of The Twenty-One Balloons

The Twenty-One Balloons
By: William Pène du Bois

Entertainment Value
1. "Pene Du Bois." Pene du bois. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2013. <http://cms2.westport.k12.ct.us/cmslmc/resources/authorstudy/authors/penedubois.htm>.
"The Twenty-One Balloons." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Dec. 2013. Web. 26 Dec. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twenty-One_Balloons>.
2. Rosenburg, Jennifer. "1940s Timeline." About.com 20th Century History. About.com, n.d. Web. 24 Dec. 2013. <http://history1900s.about.com/od/timelines/tp/1940timeline.htm>.
3. "What Is the Theme of "The Twenty-One Balloons"? - Homework Help - ENotes.com." Enotes.com. Enotes.com, n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2013. <http://www.enotes.com/homework-help/wat-theme-twenty-one-balloons-19323>.
4. Bird, Elizabeth. "Top 100 Children’s Novels #64: The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene Du Bois." A Fuse 8 Production. N.p., 22 May 2012. Web. 01 Jan. 2014. <http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2012/05/22/top-100-childrens-novels-64-the-twenty-one-balloons-by-william-pene-du-bois/>.

William Pene du Bois, author of Newbery Award Medal winning "The Twenty-One Balloons" was born in Nutley New Jersey on May 9, 1916, and died on February 5, 1993 in Nice, France from a stroke. When du Bois was eight, his family moved to France and when he was fourteen they moved back to Nutley where he finished high school and accepted a scholarship to Carnegie Technical School of Architecture. During a vacation while attending school, he wrote a book to pass time and all thought of college vanished when he published his first book, Elizabeth and the Cow Ghost in 1936 when du Bois was 19. By the time he enlisted in the army in 1941 at age 24, he had written and illustrated 5 additional books ("Pene Du Bois"). His army years were spent with an artillery unit stationed in Bermuda for four years until 1945. Along with writing over 25 books, he illustrated all of his own books and over 30 additional books for other children book authors including Jules Verne, Isaac Singer, Charlotte Zolotow, Roald Dahl, and many other authors. Along with winning the Newbery Award, du Bois also won the Caldecott Award for two of his books in the 1950's, Bear Party and Lion ("The Twenty-One Balloons"). Add all of these facts together and you get an author that certainly capable and worthy of receiving the Newbery Award.
Time Period
The novel "The Twenty-One Balloons" was written in 1946-1947, and was published in 1947. I think that "The Twenty-One Balloons" was very important to the time period it was written and published in because those days were not happy days. The world had just barely made it through World War Two. D-Day was just 3 years earlier and the United States had just dropped two atomic bombs, one in Hiroshima and the other in Nagasaki only 2 years ago ("1940s Timeline"). Because "The Twenty-One Balloons" is such a happy and light hearted book, I believe that du Bois probably saw all of the suffering and misery that the European countries, France, and the United States were going through and probably wanted to cheer some people up. I am pretty sure that it worked; receiving the Newbery Award the very next year after it was published. I believe that "The Twenty-One Balloons" had its place in the baby boomer age, with millions of men coming home from the war in Europe, did its part to make people happy. If you were to just step back and look at all the people that "The Twenty-One Balloons" has influenced and made happy, anybody would realize that this book is definitely deserving of a Newbery Award. I looked up this book on Amazon and was reading some of the reviews and it had like 4.8 stars, which is really good. The majority of people commenting on it were adults, and they were all saying how good of a book it was, and how it brought back childhood memories that they were really fond of.
Element of Fiction
My Opinion
In my opinion "The Twenty-One Balloons" deserves a Newbery Award for sure because it is simply just a fabulous book with lots imagination and wonderful inventions and is really just a fun, adventurous book. I have read many other Newbery Award books such as "A Wrinkle In Time", "Holes", "The Giver", "Maniac Magee", "The Westing Games", and "Bud, Not Buddy", and I think that this book has its place among great american children literature. "The Twenty-One Balloons" has everything that you would expect in a good Newbery Award winning book; a good plot line, humor, adventure, and most importantly, it captures and holds the reader's attention and interest. Whenever I read or look a Newbery Award book, I expect it to be interesting and able to draw any reader of any genre into the plot and story. "The Twenty-One Balloons" does just this. It starts "in medias res", which means "in the middle of" with Professor Sherman being rescued in the Atlantic with twenty balloons. Once the Professor starts telling his story to the Western American Explorer's Club, our main story begins. I first read it probably in fifth grade on a road trip and was captivated and provoked me to think about the contraptions and inventions du Bois dreamed up in his fantastic novel. On the other hand, I have read "Johnny Tremain", another Newbery Award book, and, I am sorry to say, it has none of the good qualities that "The Twenty-One Balloons" has. Its plot line is next to being nonexistent, and the Johnny is a snotty brat. "The Twenty-One Balloons" has a very nice protagonist, Professor William Waterman Sherman.
There are many different themes in The Twenty-One Balloons including individuality, eccentricity, creativity, inventiveness, and the quality of being adventurous ("What Is the Theme of "The Twenty-One Balloons"?). All of these themes are demonstrated throughout the book many times. Creativity and inventiveness are especially prominent. When Professor Sherman first crashes in his hot-air balloon in Krakatoa, he is introduced to a whole new world and way of living life. The inhabitants of Krakatoa consisted of twenty families, each family having created their own fabulous inventions such as chairs that zoom across the room by a wire that runs to the ceiling and gives the pieces of furniture electricity and speed. Another fantastic invention, probably my favorite, is the Merry-Go-Round, except that it takes to the air by balloons! Individuality and eccentricity are also featured many times. For example, when Professor Sherman decides to take a hot-air balloon trip in The Globe to wherever the wind would take him, he didn't care what other people thought of him. He just did what he wanted to do. He is truly an adventurous individual.The secret society of Krakatoa is based on the assumption that the inhabitants believe that their lives are perfect because they never have to worry about money, political matters, wars, or famine. That is how Mr. F, the first inhabitant convinced all of the families to come to Krakatoa. Not only did du Bois write a terrific book, he combined several winning themes so that they flow together very smoothly and so that everything makes sense and is fun to read.

The biggest element of fiction in "The Twenty-One Balloons" would probably be adventure, which doubles as a great theme also. The entire book is an adventure, with things like huge balloons, sharks, massive diamond mines, fantastical inventions, secret societies, and even the biggest explosion of all time! And the last part about a huge explosion is actually true. Krakatoa, an island in the Pacific Ocean near Indonesia and Java, exploded in 1883. It killed at least 36,417 people and was the loudest sound ever known to man, with people reporting to have heard it over 3,000 miles away. The massive explosion lowered world temperatures on an average of 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit. All of these facts just make "The Twenty-One Balloons" even better, in my opinion because anyone who reads the books is actually learning just a little bit while still enjoying a fabulous book filled with adventure and imagination. "The Twenty-One Balloons" also has a very well set-up plot. What happens is Professor William Waterman Sherman, who has been teaching arithmetic in San Fransisco for boys ages ten to fourteen for forty years, decides to take a little trip. He has giant balloon made, which he christens "The Globe". After building a little house underneath it and filling it with supplies, Professor Sherman sets out to the Pacific Ocean on an epic journey, his goal being to be able to be aloft for one year without any contact with the world, all alone in his balloon. About a week into his adventure, a seagull sees something tasty on the top of his balloon, dives and makes a hole which instantly makes the balloon drop. Frantically, Professor Sherman begins throwing out the heavier items aboard in hope to make it to the small island in the distance after a crash landing with sharks circling, our Professor wakes up in Krakatoa. He encounters amazing inventions, the fabulous wealth of diamonds, and an entirely new gourmet government. After several days, the island starts to erupt. The twenty families and the Professor board their emergency platform, take off with the help of balloons, of course, and start making their parachuting descents into India, Middle East, and Europe countries. Finally it is just the Professor Sherman aboard in the Atlantic Ocean, where he finally crashes and is picked up by a steamship. He won't tell anyone but the Western American Explorers Club of his story. When he finally arrives in San Fransisco, a boy realizes that Professor Sherman had circumnavigated the world in record time. That is a basic, Reader's Digest version of "The Twenty-One Balloons".
"The Twenty-One Balloons has a very large entertainment value. Lots of people like this book a lot for many different reasons. It is interesting and fun read. Because this book is a Newbery Award winning book, it gets exposed to lots of people and gives people a chance to read it and experience a great book. On the School Library Journal it was rated number sixty-four out of one hundred for top one hundred children's novel's, which is pretty good if you think about all of the hundreds of thousands if not millions of child's books out there ("Top 100 Children’s Novels #64: The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene Du Bois"). On Amazon, "The Twenty-One Balloons" has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars, which is pretty good for 166 reviews. The majority of people rating "The Twenty-One Balloons" were all saying how much they loved the book, especially all of the fabulous inventions and the adventure and the whimsical chances that any of that would actually happen. Overall I have really enjoyed this book and will probably look for more of du Bois's work and I am confident that I will like those books too. I have been very entertained by this book because it is witty, funny wildly adventurous, and would appeal to anyone of any age, be you an old geezer, or a young buck like me.
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