Thursday, October 2, 2014

The 21 Balloons by William Pene du Bois

After being rescued at sea from the debris of a hot air balloon craft half a world away from where he started only three weeks before, Professor William Waterman Sherman becomes a reluctant celebrity. But despite the media hounding him to tell his story, the drama builds because Sherman says he won't explain what happened until he gets to San Francisco to reveal the tale first before the Western American Explorers' Club. Despite the speculation and rumors that run rampant on the street and in the media, the fantastical story he tells in San Francisco is even wilder and way more curious than anyone had dreamed.

This book was originally published in 1947, and it won the 1948 Newbery Award. I picked it up recently upon the recommendation of a local family who had just read it together.

Some children's books don't age well, but this novel's storyline was never "fresh" so it hasn't grown stale; the storyline occurs in 1883 when ballooning was at its zenith of popularity, so even in the 1940s it was a historical tale. Neither of us at our library had heard of the book before, and I thoroughly enjoyed discovering this forgotten classic.

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