Christian's Reviews > The Twenty-One Balloons

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois
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's review
Jan 07, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: kindle

The first time I read this book was when I was in maybe the third or fourth grade. I remember being fascinated by it and finding it to be the most extraordinary adventure. It struck me so much that even 25ish years later I could still remember some of the plot.

What I seem to have forgotten in those 25ish years is how boring the actual presentation of the story is. Granted, it's part of the epistolary tradition and is presented as the transcription of a speech by the protagonist, which was quite popular at that time. However, in looking at this novel from where we're at today, it smacks of Tell, Don't Show and didacticism, particularly in the components of the lecture that fall into governmental and financial lectures (regardless of how trueish those principles might be).

Then there's the bigotry and prejudice. I'm sure that, for the time, these statements were probably quite progressive or at least unoffensive. Even so, they don't read well in our contemporary setting.

It's also fascinating to me that throughout this children's novel, there is only one scene where the protagonist actually interacts with a child, despite his being a teacher.

So, that being said, even though younger me would rate this with 4 or possibly even 5 stars, current me can only give it 2. The plot concept is rather brilliant, which is likely what has given it staying power. But the storytelling lacks development of the visual details to really bring the story to life.

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