JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools

pictures and stories from the water’s edge

JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools header image 2

The Twenty-One Balloons

November 18th, 2004 · 1 Comment

On our drive to Los Angeles in October, we listened to The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois. I found the book on a reading list for Abigail’s level but soon Ted and I wanted to read it too, taking turns passing the paperback through the van.

The story begins in San Francisco in 1883. A mathematics teacher decides he wants to spend a year by himself traveling by balloon around the world. A seagull changes his plans and he ends up landing on the island of Krakatoa, home of a very active volcano, among other natural treasures.

I won’t describe the story in further detail but it was it was a tale that intrigued us all. The plot involved physics, economics and geology. Aspects of solitude and community were explored.

Questions that came to mind:

  • What are people willing to do for wealth?
  • How does wealth impact lifestyle?
  • What makes something valuable?
  • How can community be created?

    I realized too that I take the ability to travel by airplane for granted. I’ve always lived in a time when we could fly using machines. I also don’t think I ever studied balloon travel. The idea of spending a year going around the globe sounds refreshing, but also impossible at this point in time. Something more violent than a seagull would probably ensure the end of the trip. Being subject to wherever the wind goes sounds fun and frightening at the same time.

    As a final comment, I will add that reading this book made me think twice about the region where I live, considering that Mt. St. Helens has been becoming more active recently…as well as Mt. Rainier…

    After we came home, I bought some Halloween helium balloons on sale, two different sizes, and we experimented with lift. One could carry only two paperclips while the other could lift close to 2 ounces (measured by our postal meter).

    We also looked at Krakatoa on the Internet, seeing pictures of what is was and is. Knowing what I know about human nature, and the fact that we live where we live, makes the tale seem more true than it is.

  • Tags: homeschool

    1 response so far ↓

    • 1 Ian Bicking // Nov 19, 2004 at 7:20 pm

      I remember having this book read to me as a child; I only remembered when you mentioned Krakatoa, and I thought *why do I remember Krakatoa from my childhood?* But of course it must be the same book, as it’s not a very common topic, or something a child would normally spend much time thinking about.

      A recent episode of Myth Busters (a TV show) tried lifting a child with helium baloons. I think it took about 3500 to lift a small child. So much for that 😉

    Leave a Comment