Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Twenty-One Balloons” as Want to Read:
The Twenty-One Balloons
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Twenty-One Balloons

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  23,071 ratings  ·  1,336 reviews
Professor William Waterman Sherman intends to fly across the Pacific Ocean. But through a twist of fate, he lands on the secret island of Krakatoa where he discovers a world of unimaginable wealth, eccentric inhabitants, and incredible balloon inventions. Winner of the 1948 Newbery Medal, this classic fantasy-adventure is a joy for all ages.
Paperback, 180 pages
Published 1986 by Puffin (first published 1947)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Twenty-One Balloons, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Angie to have a girl and a boy between the ages of 5 and 9, had to have a creative mind

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  23,071 ratings  ·  1,336 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Twenty-One Balloons
K.D. Absolutely
May 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: kwesi 章英狮
Shelves: childrens
One month after graduating from college, I started working. That was in 1984. I am now in my 4th company and except for my paid vacation leaves and rare sick days, I have never been, even a single day, out of the corporate rate race.

27 years of working and trying to earn a living.

I know it is still far from the 40 years of being a math teacher in some high school for Professor William Waterman Sherman but once in a while, I also feel that I need to do something outrageous. Maybe just to break t
May 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kidz at ♥
Recommended to Apokripos by: Kwesi and K.D.
Flight of Fancy
(A Book Review of William Pène du Bois’s The Twenty-One Balloons)

After busting a literary heavy I noticed that from time to time there’s this feeling, an emerging need to clear the palate, to freshen up and clean the slate for another bout of serious reading. In occasions like this I always dig the rich fields of Children’s Literature on the look out for some fun and light book where I don’t have to think much and just go along to the pull of the story wherever it will take me.

Katherine Cowley
My guess is I was ten years old the first time I read this book, and I absolutely loved it. Fast forward to today, and the book still worked for me. It's an adventure story (can a retired old schoolteacher travel around the world in 40 days on a balloon and survive a huge volcanic eruption?), a treasure story (think bucketfuls of gigantic diamonds), and a story of science (exploring the Victorian obsession with ballooning, as well as other inventions such as electric wiring, in both realistic an ...more
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Charming! I've seen this book around my whole life, because . . . well, it's an old Newbery winner. It never looked that interesting to me, just something I thought I might get around to eventually in my quest to read all the Newberies. A couple of months back I found a like new copy at the library sale for a quarter, so I thought, Hey why not?

Read it aloud to my kids, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. The illustrations were perfect, since he goes into a lot of technical details about hot air ba
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Retro Book Review
The Twenty-One Balloons
By William Pène du Bois

I am a creature of habit. I order the same thing every time I go to a restaurant, I stick to a routine, and my favorites are my favorites. Many of the books I fell in love with as a child are, to this day, still my favorites. I was once told by a colleague that many of the books I enjoy are “crusty”. I believe a great book never goes out of style; it becomes a classic that can stand the test of time.
Although The Twenty-One Balloons
Luisa Knight
I was not anticipating loving this book as much as I did! It reads like a classic, is lighthearted and entirely fun! Especially with how the pictures really illustrate some of the comical inventions and incidents.

A real treat that you and your family shouldn't miss!


Children's Bad Words
Mild Obscenities & Substitutions - 1 Incident: stupid
Name Calling - 1 Incident: stupid fool
Religious Profanities - 2 Incidents: Good Lord, great heavens

Romance Related - 2 Incidents: The word “sexes” i
Jun 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2013
I'm quite surprised this book was awarded a Newbery. It started off with a bit of enjoyable whimsy, quickly degenerated into a quagmire of mediocre fantasy, and grew steadily into a punishing crescendo of monotony. The last several chapters actually hurt. It felt something like reading an uninteresting and predictable list of inventory. Imagine slogging through a ship's cargo manifest. But not a cool a pirate's ...more like a freight load of something utterly bananas ...more
Ashley Ziemer
May 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
William Pene du Bois' book is categorized as a young adult book, though it can easily become a beloved story for all ages. Though this book was originally written in the 1940s, it is a timeless classic. Winner of the Newbery Medal, this story can truly be read over and over again and still maintain the excitement. I found this story completely engaging from the beginning. The characters are unique and quirky with something to hide-making the story a fun and thrilling read. The civilization as we ...more
Aug 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Just a guess on the time I read it. It was definitely 5th grade. It was definitely the most memorable book I read during adolescence. I credit this book as the first book I really, truly, loved. The first book, gradually followed by many others, that made me realize reading could be fun. Sometimes it almost feels like it was the first book I completed, the first book I held in my memory, but as I go back I realize that isn't true. There were plenty books before, I'm sure, mainly of the Beverly C ...more
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
“Half of this story is true and the other half might very well have happened.”

Our story kicks off with the exciting discovery and rescue of a sophisticated professor named William Waterman Sherman, who is stranded in the North Atlantic amid the wreckage of twenty-one sadly deflated balloons. It's the first sighting of this adventurous professor since is departure from San Francisco three weeks earlier. But that day he'd floated off the pier in one large balloon, not twenty one. How did he come t
Book Concierge
Audiobook performed by John McDonough

This is a classic of children’s literature, for which du Bois was awarded the Newbery Medal. It’s a fantastical adventure story featuring Professor William Waterman Sherman, who leaves San Francisco on Aug 15, 1883, in a balloon, with the intention of going across the Pacific Ocean and enjoying some solitude. Three weeks later he’s picked up in the Atlantic Ocean clinging to wreckage. Once rescued he insists on being transported to San Francisco where h
3 stars & 3/10 books. I had a hard time with this book. I started off really enjoying it—it was so mock-serious and hilarious. The Professor was brilliant but also hilarious. But I had a really hard time with the settlement on Krakatoa. I just read a book about it and I was just really bugged by the author’s taking a real island and turning it into this fantastical, unrealistic place. I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more if it hadn’t been for my reading that other (realistic) book about ...more
Kelsey Bryant
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s
This is one of those classic children's books that adults can thoroughly enjoy, too! I'm very interested in hot air balloons at the moment, so it was fun to read a story that features them, explains how they work, and shows what it's like to fly in one. I also loved how the families on Krakatoa were depicted, alphabetically and with food from different countries, and oh so orderly. The story touches on educational yet simple and interesting explanations of economics, science, architecture, geogr ...more
Sarah Schrecengost
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this for school years ago. I really enjoyed it, it's funny and just a really good book. ...more
Tamar overwhelmed by work - on temporary hiatus
I felt like a Newberry, so I chose The Twenty-One Balloons. The book is cute and I enjoyed Professor Sherman's detailed description of his Balloon designed wicker house and his plan for a lengthy trip floating over the Pacific. Not everything went according to plan (but I did learn a bit about ballooning). The whole Walden Pond kind of theme on the island of Krakatoa was a bit over the top for me but I can see how this book might appeal to Middle Grades; there is a great deal to spark the imagin ...more
Feb 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: children-s, newbery
I picked this one up for a course that I am taking, and it certainly elicited the most responses from my friends and colleagues. It seems that everyone has a great childhood memory of this book. The same was true of my classmates...positive reviews across the board.

William Walter Sherman wants to take a balloon voyage around the world. He has been a teacher of mathematics for many years, and after all of that time surrounded by children, a bit of peace is just what the doctor ordered. Professor
Dec 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: boy-books
This book was one I found recommended in one of the summer issues of the children's Friend magazine, so I knew that it would not be offensive. I think there was an asterisk next to it in the Friend that said they made brief mention of drinking alcohol.

I really liked the book. It did happen to be on the AR reading list and it is a 6.8, so a more difficult book. But it's very imaginative and adventurous. The protagonist is male, but I think this is a story that both boys and girls would enjoy.

It i
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, newbery
The 1948 Newbery Winner, this lighthearted adventure tale blends fact and fiction to craft a humorous and fanciful tale that informs and entertains. The protagonist, William Waterman Sherman, leaves San Francisco to fly across the Pacific in a single balloon (inspired by real-life airship pioneers such as Henri Giffard and Felix Nadar). He is found later adrift in the Atlantic, near death, clinging to the wreckage of not one but twenty balloons. After an amusing, suspense-building delay in recou ...more
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery-winners
Newbery Medal Winner--1948

I thought I might like this adventure story, as I love the idea of traveling around the world in a balloon. This one started out promising, with a man found at sea who had been travelling around in a small house kept aloft by a giant balloon (it reminded me of the movie Up.

Unfortunately, it was less adventure story and more fantastical--much of the book is just Professor Sherman describing life on Krakatoa, where he crash landed. So instead of exciting adventures, we ge
Jun 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite book! The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene Du Bois was read to me in my gifted, or TAG class. It is about a retired math teacher named Professor Sherman who wants to be alone. So he has a giant hot-air-balloon built for him that has a basket house attached. Brings to mind the movie "Up", dosen`t it? He plans to live in it for a year, using trash for ballast. But those plans are spoiled because a seagull pokes a hole in his balloon, forcing him to crash land on the island o ...more
Johanna Hanson
Stefan's review: I really liked this. The volcano erupting was my favorite part. When he crashed is also a fun part.There were diamonds in the mountain. ...more
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Just as great a read as it was when I was in elementary school. I was surprised at how much of the book I recalled. I had thought the Professor spent longer on the island though. It was only 4 days!
Joah Pearson
Jan 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Fun in a really weird kinda way.
A short and quirky tale about a retired teacher who sets off in a balloon to get away from it all for a year and lands on Krakatoa just before it explodes.

The beginning was really good fun, I could just imagine it as a colourful cartoon in the style of 'Up'. The descriptions of what he found on Krakatoa were really interesting, there were some really good ideas.

The story involves lots of balloons in various ingenious guises.
Alina Borger
Kate DiCamillo recommended this 1948 Newbery-Award winner, so I picked it up and absolutely could not believe how charmed I was. It has nothing in common with what we might call "children's literature" today, and yet the whimsy of it--the odd childlikeness of adults and adultlikeness of children made me understand why it was once considered "kid lit." ...more
??? childhood: 080219 i remember this now! i loved this as a kid!
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

As I’ve been reading books for this class, I’ve had a little notebook next to me to take notes on things I’d like to talk about in my post about the book: the very first thing I wrote down for the Twenty-One Balloons was “I’m SO excited about rereading this; it’s been maybe 15 years.”

I loved then and still love the way the book opens – we’ve met our main character, albeit briefly, and are on the edge of our seats, waiting along with the rest of the world, to hear his tale. I really think this s
Bailey Mckeon
Apr 14, 2012 rated it liked it
William Pene du Bois combines an adventurous man with the gifted people of an island to take you on a creative journey through peculiar situations and wonderful inventions. Whether enjoying the view in the Giant Balloon Life Raft, listening with the rest of the world as Professor Sherman tells his tale, or simply flipping the pages of a book reading through the story, everyone is taken on an adventure through loyalty, wonderful characters, and frankly fantastic styles in The Twenty-One Balloons ...more
Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
This past week I've been visiting my mother as she recuperates from surgery, and as a way to pass the time I've been reading her The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois. She'd never read it before, and it's not a bad book to read aloud.

In 1883, Professor William Waterman Sherman of San Francisco, a teacher of arithmetic for many years, decides upon his retirement that he will set forth in a huge specially-made balloon to take a trip around the world. Fate decrees a slightly different cou
Title: The Twenty-One Balloons
Author: William Pene duBois
Genre: Young Adult

Challenges: 101 Books in 1001 Days Challenge, The Naming Convention Challenge, Book Around the States Challenge, Read and Review Challenge 2010, 2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge, 100 + Reading Challenge, Young Adult Reading Challenge, YA Through the Decades, Audio Book Challenge 2010, Pages Read 2010, A to Z challenge, 1001 Childrens book Before I Grow Up

Rating: 4/5
No. of Pages: Audio (192)
Published: 194
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • White Stallion of Lipizza
  • The Door in the Wall
  • The Little Riders
  • Strawberry Girl
  • The Apprentice
  • The Whipping Boy
  • Walk The World's Rim
  • Tales of Robin Hood
  • Secret of the Andes
  • Thimble Summer
  • Captain Nobody
  • Ginger Pye (The Pyes, #1)
  • The Cricket in Times Square (Chester Cricket and His Friends, #1)
  • Miracles on Maple Hill
  • The Matchlock Gun
  • Call It Courage
  • Miss Hickory
  • Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime (Christian Heroes: Then & Now)
See similar books…
William Pène du Bois was an American writer and illustrator of books for young readers. He is best known for The Twenty-One Balloons, published in April 1947 by Viking Press, for which he won the 1948 Newbery Medal. As illustrator he was twice a runner-up for the Caldecott Medal.

The Twenty-One Balloons is the work by Pène du Bois that WorldCat reports most widely held in participating libraries, b

News & Interviews

  Melissa Albert burst onto the YA scene (and catapulted into readers' hearts) with her 2018 debut The Hazel Wood. This darkly fantastical...
49 likes · 3 comments
“Half of this story is true and the other half might very well have happened.” 20 likes
“The best way of travel, however, if you aren't in any hurry at all, if you don't care where you are going, if you don't like to use your legs, if you don't want to be annoyed at all by any choice of directions, is in a balloon. In a balloon, you can decide only when to start, and usually when to stop. The rest is left entirely to nature.” 7 likes
More quotes…