The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois

The Twenty-One Balloons (Puffin Modern Classics) by William Pene du Bois,  Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

All kinds of crafts, videos, projects and goodies to extend and expand your exploration through this book.  Contains affiliate links.  



The Future of Travel


You might want to stock up on balloons for this book. 😉 I’m not a fan of helium because it is a limited resource currently necessary for medicine and other important procedures, but I do love a good balloon, as long as they are disposed of properly. 😉

Chapter I

Worksheets, resources, and more for the book, including crossword puzzles and word searches. It does ask you to become a member, but you can get a limited number of free passes to try materials. I could not find information on how many free passes you get on their website and did not want to press in case I need this site in the future.  

TPT Novel Study Guide with worksheets (Current price $4.00)


The President for 1883 was Chester A. Arthur.

I did try to look up who his personal secretary was, but I kept getting all the other secretaries of his cabinet, of which it looks like Robert Todd Lincoln was one, so I found that interesting enough to mention. 😉

Chapter II

Using some creativity, you can make a hot air balloon-shaped veggie or fruit platter. You can also use round or oval-shaped fruit to create larger, more 3D effects. The book used watermelon, honeydew, strawberries, and summer squash, but there are other round fruits for different-sized balloons. 


You can serve these with other “round” foods. Muffins, pancakes, crackers, meatballs, burgers, pizza, donuts, mac and cheese balls, popcorn balls, tater tots, onion rings, sandwiches on a round bun, etc. 


Your child might like to watch one of the Around the World in 80 days movies to go with it, but keep in mind that that book is actually scheduled in HBL F, so you might want to wait. 


Explore with fun ways to decorate with balloons


Make your own hot-air balloons. Here are 15 different craft ideas to choose from. 

Play some balloon games

Chapter III

The Mayor started the music using his small silver whistle, and I don’t know many children who don’t love a good whistle. You can get whistles that can later be used as emergency whistles on keychains or backpacks. Or, you might prefer whistles that are made to be more musical, such as a tin penny whistle.


The book mentions two William-themed songs, including “For when I walk, I always walk with Billy,” (note: this song has a line in it about “when I die, I always die with Billy” and “he takes me where I get my thrill,” which might not be understood by all children), “Billy Boy,” as well as the song “Marching Through Georgia,” which as not very well understood except maybe that they were marching with William and it involved a train.

You and your children may enjoy looking up songs that use their name or variations of their name. 

The book mentions Sal Hepatica in the inkwell.  Sal Hepatica was a laxative that could be dissolved in water. I’m not sure, but most of these laxatives thicken in water, and if it thickened ink, it could make it unusable.  


A little bit about Gaspar Felix Tournachon, AKA Nadar, the photographer who helped promote photography using a hot air balloon. 


And more about Thaddeus Lowe, who used hot air balloons for espionage during the Civil War. He would send back messages via telegraph on what the enemy was doing to Abraham Lincoln and his staff. 

Although not hot air balloons, two men used helium balloons to try to fly a lightweight house with people on board. 

Also, your family might enjoy watching the movie Up. It’s currently free if you have Disney Plus. 

What is quinine tonic (note: mentions gin and tonic as a way to make the tonic more palatable)

Chapter IV

How hot air balloons work

Hot air/cold air science activity with a balloon

Hot Air Balloon Coloring Pages


Sea Gulls


How to use a signaling mirror (note: Contains bright flashing lights at the camera)

Chapter V

How an Earthquake works (with experiments) (also has good demonstrations on “building houses on sand vs. rock). 


What causes Earthquakes

Earthquake safety tips (warning: does talk about dangers, so it might cause anxiety in some children)


Pearl Diving


Inside a real diamond mine and the process of diamond mining (note: talks often about dangers)


The Jonker Diamond

Photographs of the Jonker and other large diamonds

The Salt Mines of Poland


The Crystal Caves of Bermuda

Chapter VI

The French house was decorated in the style of Versailles, with King Louis XIV-style furniture. Here is a look inside the actual palace.


More about the Petit Trianon, or the chapel of Versailles


What the Mount Vernan house might have looked like (home of George Washington)


Thatched roof cottages in Britain


A look at why the Chinese Pagoda is especially fitting for the earthquake-plagued Krakatoa


One type of traditional Dutch architecture


Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo was destroyed in 1952, but here is a photograph of what it looked like and a little info.

Can you think of a country for each letter from A-T?  What about a country with each letter of the alphabet (note, while no countries start with W or X, there can be some “exceptions” to the rules, such as Wales (part of the United Kingdom) or Western Samoa (which is now just Samoa), or countries that are spelled differently in different languages. 

Which country would your child like to represent if they lived on Krakatoa?  Can they think of a country and what type of house and restaurant they would own, or what kinds of foods they might serve? What type of job might they want on the Island?

Chapter VII

The Mechanics Behind Steam Engines


How a Steam Engine Works


Think about the inventions at the Morrocan house. Can you think of any problems with their inventions that still need to be worked out? How might you improve on them? For example, when the chairs and tables sink into the floor, what happens to the crumbs that fell at the base of the table and chairs? How are those cleaned?

Can you draw or design an invention that might make your life easier in some way (it doesn’t need to work, it just needs to be creative)

Chapter VIII

Using a spinning toy, perhaps one like this one, which can often be found at dollar stores, and a few balloons of small size, see if your child can design their own “airy-go-round.” If not, the toy itself gives a good idea of how they went up into the air.

How Volcanoes work, including awesome videos of what it looks like inside a volcano. Mentions the volcano Puricutin, which is in the Sonlight reader, Hill of Fire, which your child may have already read, and notes volcanoes produce diamonds, as well as Krakatoa and Pompeii, which they might remember from the book Pompeii: Buried Alive, another Sonlight Reader, both found in the Grade 2 readers collection. (Note: Mentions volcanoes causing deaths)

Chapter IX

Some Balloon inventions you can make easily at home.


Some Balloon science experiments

Discuss if you would like to live on this island (before peeking at the next chapter). Why or why not?  

Chapter X

Make a volcano with Science Max


The full episode where he spends the episode trying to make extra giant volcanoes


The loudest sound in the world (might wish to prewatch for sensitive viewers)


Volcano mini-book


Volcano Lapbook (I didn’t want to schedule this earlier because it does give away a bit more of the ending, which, although mentioned in the beginning, for us, the big reveal was the explosion itself.  We somehow forgot about it. 😉 )



Here is a documentary about Krakatoa that doesn’t talk terribly much about how people died. I would be cautious with some movies as they can depict quite graphic deaths.  There are still a few people who die on-screen in this one, especially at 54:30 to 55:00, there are two children who appear to be swallowed by a wave, and there is a scary moment with a baby starting at about 1:00:30, and I would maybe skip from there to about 1:08:00 ). 


There are no sequels, but the author does have other books; I don’t know that I’ve read more than one or two, and those are for very young children, so I can’t speak to them personally. 


There is also an audiobook.

Extra Book: Krakatoa: History’s Loudest Volcano


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