Kids’ Book Reviews

Book Review: Twenty-One Balloons

Primo : March 15, 2014 10:44 pm : Kids' Book Reviews, Reading and Writing

21BalloonsCoverThe Twenty One Balloons is an excellent tale about a man whose balloon led him on a fantastic journey to the volcanic island of Krakatoa. The Twenty One Balloons is fiction, and was originally published in 1947. The book’s author,William Pène du Bois, has also written Lion, Bear Party, Bear Circus, Bear in Mind, Otto and the Magic Potatoes, Peter Graves along with some other books. The Twenty One Balloons is a good read for all ages and it has also won the Newbery Medal.

WilliamPeneDuBoisWilliam Pène du Bois (1916 to 1993) published his first book when he was seventeen. After writing five more books he joined the army and served from 1941 to 1945 in an artillery unit stationed in Bermuda. In 1943 he married Jane Bouche. They later divorced and he remarried to Willa Kim in 1955. Five years later he developed an interest in vintage cars and went to a great expense to refurbish a 1931 Brewster Croydon Coupe Rolls-Royce P11. He died of a stroke in Nice, France at the age of 77.

The protagonist is Professor William Waterman Sherman. He was an arithmetic teacher in San Francisco for forty years before deciding to take a year-long vacation in his balloon, The Globe. I assume Prof. William is about sixty years old in this book. He was also a member of the Western American Explorers’ Club.

The Twenty One Balloonsis a Man vs. Nature story so the antagonist is nature. First a seagull ruptures the balloon and crashes Prof. William and The Globe. Then he must get used to the pitching earth of Krakatoa. Lastly he and all of his new friends must escape the island before it explodes with the biggest (and loudest) volcanic eruption ever.

Out of the eighty people Prof. William meets on Krakatoa, Mr. F. is the most important. Along with his wife, Mrs. F., and their children, F1 and F2, he runs the French restaurant on the island. Mr. F. is the person who first greets Prof. William after his crash, lets him sleep in his restaurant/house and stays with him for the majority of the trip to safety from Krakatoa.

The Twenty One Balloons clearly states when it takes place. The day Prof. William was rescued in the Atlantic was the 8th of September in 1883. Something else interesting was that he arrived back in San Francisco forty days after he left.Therefore traveling around the world in forty days, halving the record from the book Around the World in Eighty Days.

The book takes you around the world but the main focus of the book is Krakatoa. Krakatoa is between Java and Sumatra (see map below) and is a currently active volcano.


In the book the island is fringed by jungle with a beach at the very edge andin the middle is the volcano and a large diamond mine. Between the jungle and the volcano are lawns and the house/restaurants of the twenty families, A thru T, that live in the island. The houses of the families are luxurious due to the immense value of the diamond mines with the diamond prices of the day. The Krakatoans also don’t want anybody else to know about the mines.

Prof. William Sherman was a teacher of arithmetic for forty years before he decided to vacation over the Pacific in his balloon, The Globe. But his trip goes horribly wrong when he ends up crashing into Krakatoa, a volcanic island halfway around the world from his start in San Francisco, a week after departure. There he meets the Krakatoans, settlers from San Francisco who came to claim the riches of the diamond mines of the island.They rescue him, give him room and board in their luxurious houses and give him a taste of the lavish lifestyle of the Gourmet Government. But just as he’s settling in he must escape on a balloon life raft before the paradise island of Krakatoa goes ka-boom!

The Twenty One Balloons mentions the book Around the World in Eighty Days because in The Twenty One Balloons, the record is halved. I have not read Around the World in Eighty Days but I believe it also contains balloon travel. This makes a very interesting connection between the two books.

Leave a response »

Book Review – Mummies In The Morning

Secondo : January 27, 2014 11:10 pm : Kids' Book Reviews

51NCX0Z26SLFollow this link to Secondo report on The Magic Tree House: MummiesInTheMorning.

Leave a response »

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Primo : January 24, 2014 8:41 am : Kids' Book Reviews

Hunger_gamesThe Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, was published in October, 2008. This book covers many different fiction genres and I see the basic theme as survival in a post-apocalyptic world. This is the first book in The Hunger Games Trilogy with Catching Fire as number two and Mockingjay as number three. Ms. Collins has also written the Underland Chronicles. This book is best for age 12 and up due to violence and gruesomeness. This book is a bestseller and Ms. Collins is considered as a bestselling author by The New York Times. Each book has been made into a movie and I have seen a The Hunger Games Board Game somewhere in Target soon after the movie came out. The Hunger Games kept me reading to 3am the first time I read it!

Susan CollinsSuzanne Collins began her professional career writing for children’s television shows. Eventually, another author of children’s books convinced her to give children’s books a try. After writing the Underland Chronicles, a fantasy/war book about what you might find down a manhole instead of down a rabbit hole (she lived in New York City at that time), she wrote The Hunger Games and the rest. She now lives in Connecticut with her family and two feral kittens she adopted from her backyard.

Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist, is 16 when this book occurs and has hunted and gathered for her family after her father was blown to bits in a mine accident. She is from District 12, in Appalachia. Her hunting is illegal but the “peacekeepers” buy meat from her and her friend Gale so they are allowed to ‘get away’ with it. Katniss can be bitter and tense because, after her father died, Katniss’s mom neglected her family. She volunteers to take her sister Prim’s place when Prim was reaped for the games. She is extremely good with a bow and arrow but can, and will, get herself in big trouble with the capitol.

The Antagonist is the tyrannical government led by President Snow. Every year they force each district to reap a boy and a girl between 12 and 18 to ‘play‘ in their Hunger Games, where 24 teens are forced to kill each other on live television for extra food rations for the next year. The government people are ‘absolute control freaks’ and will punish any form of rebellious behavior.

Peeta Mellark is the boy with the bread from District 12 that is called in the Reapings after Katniss volunteers. He saved Katniss and her family’s lives by tossing her burnt bread while her mother was facing depression. He works at a bakery and does the frosting on the cakes, which makes him excellent at camouflage. He is also very good at talking (and lying) to the public.

The time this book takes place is suppose to be post-apocalyptical so I would assume it would be several hundred years in the future based on the technology. Panem has the technology we have today (2014), like cars, TVs, guns and computers, plus some more, like disappearing hovercrafts, but only the very rich capitol folk, peacekeepers and government folk can access them. The book opens on the Reaping of the 74th Hunger Games, which means it has been 74 years since the end of the rebellion and the Treaty of Treason. This book lasts from the Reaping of the Tributes to arriving back home in the Summer (I think).

Panem lies in the ruins of North America and is a “Shining Capitol ringed by 12 districts.” There used to be 13 but District 13 was obliterated in the rebellion. The Capitol is in the Rockies and the Districts cover all, well, all thats not flooded by the raised seawaters, of the US and the north part of Mexico.


One of the Maps of Panem

The part of District 12 that Katniss and Peeta live in is called the Seam, which is next to wilderness. District 12 is ringed by a fence that is supposed to be electrified 24/7 but isn’t. The Arena’s and past Arenas’ locations are not mentioned. In fact, the windows on the hovercraft Katniss rides to the Arena are blacked out. The Arena’s layout is The Cornucopia (where the games start) with a lake next to it, there is forest in most directions and a field of possibly grain grasses in one direction. Also, the Gamemakers set traps for the Tributes and can do wild things to the weather.

In Katniss’s life before the Reaping she hunted, fished, trapped and gathered to stay alive and traded some at the Hob, the local black market, for other things her family needed. Then, Prim was Reaped. Now Katniss must put her life on the line in a game where winning means fame and fortune and losing means a gruesome death. And that makes up just the beginning of The Hunger Games.


Leave a response »

Book Review: Magic Tree House – Dinosaurs Before Dark

Secondo : December 27, 2013 7:23 pm : Kids' Book Reviews, Reading and Writing

Unknown-3This book report by Secondo is a scan of the report form: click on the link, below, to view. This is actually the most writing Secondo has done this year, and especially significant is that the summary (on the second page) is in his own words (at least as much would fit on the page). Considering that we started the year with his reading and writing skills somewhere in the 1st grade level, this is a huge improvement. We let him write relatively independently, answering his spelling questions when he had them, but mostly we just left it “as-is”.



Leave a response »

Book Review: The Phantom Tollbooth

Primo : December 26, 2013 8:18 pm : Kids' Book Reviews

200px-PhantomtollboothAbout the book:

The Phantom Tollbooth is a book Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer. It’s first copyright date is 1961, our best guess on the publish date. The story was reprinted 2001. It’s a satire/fantasy-adventure about a boy’s adventure in a land of knowledge. The author has written many children’s books including The Dot and the Line. This is a good book for children and tweens everywhere. This classic was made into an animated movie.

About the Author:

Norton Juster worked in the Navy and was a practical joker. He wrote to conquer boredom and was eventually discharged. He wrote and still writes many children’s books and now lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and works as an architect.


Milo is a boy as old as the reader. He’s always bored and has no purpose in the real world. He has no hobbies or any friends; family in the real world are not mentioned. He has no real strengths or weaknesses. He’s is mildly courageous.


The antagonist is boredom and ignorance, but it does not have one name. It is represented by many demons that slow Milo on his way to the Castle in the Air. Their weakness is knowledge and curiosity.


Tock is a watch-dog and Milo’s first partner. He’s very conservative and does not like laziness. He helps Milo keep track of time.

The Humbug is a humbug and the first to get the wrong answer about anything! He’s also cowardly and has a BIG EGO.


Milo’s time in the Kingdom of Wisdom elapses in an hour in the real world, but the time he spends there is indefinite. Time exists and flows like clockwork (Tock is actually a clock/dog mix), but there is no real when in the story.


The Kingdom of Wisdom is nestled between the Mountains of Ignorance and the Foothills of Confusion with the Sea of Knowledge to the east. The Tollbooth is the bridge between our world and theirs and is to the west. Digitopolis is up north by the mountains and Dictionopolis is down south by the foothills. The Forest of Sight lies in between those two cities, with two more cities, Reality and Illusions, in the forest’s center. The Valley of Sound is just north of the forest. The Doldrums is just west-south-west of the forest. Expectations is north of the Doldrums and west of the Valley of Sound. The Island of Conclusions is off the coast (you get there by jumping). The Castle in The Air is above the Mountains of Ignorance.



Milo didn’t want to go to school as he left for it every morning. He didn’t want to go home in the afternoon, too. He was bored with everything in life.

Then, one day, when he arrived back at his family’s apartment after school, he finds a mysterious box in his room. He opens the box and assembles its contents into the tollbooth and drives through in his electric toy car into a land beyond Expectations! There, Milo makes friends, learns about words and numbers, and about subtraction stew. Then he defeats the Demons of Ignorance, rescues and returns Princesses Rhyme and Reason to the Kingdom, and learns to be fascinated and excited with and in life.

As the story goes on, Milo goes from totally bored to totally adventurous. At the beginning of the story, Milo travels through the tollbooth because he has nothing better to do, and at the end he’s excited about the world.

I recommend reading this book, it’s a very good story. I liked it because it combines a wisdom themed world with a fairytale world, then they add the most charming characters.

Leave a response »

Book Review: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Primo : November 16, 2013 11:40 am : Kids' Book Reviews

KidnappedClassicThe abridged version of Kidnapped (by Robert Louis Stevenson; adapted by Deborah Kestel) left a bad first impression and the full version did nothing to make me like it any more.

The book drags out the more boring parts and the parts I might like are super-sped-up. For example; the time David spends on the ship is slow with lots of narrative description, and the time he spends with his lawyer is completed in a page and a half.

Summary of plot: David leaves his hometown to go seek fortune but his evil uncle wants to keep it. Then, kidnapped by sailors (arranged by his uncle!), David must get back to safety and reclaim his fortune.

RocketRedNeck’s Commentary

1 Comment »

Kids’ Book Reviews

RocketRedNeck : September 29, 2013 9:44 pm : Kids' Book Reviews

We really love to read around here. Part of encouraging the boys to read consciously is to have them tell us about what they have read, either by chapter or full book. Rather than a traditional book report we are encouraging them to summarize and review the books in a more casual fashion; we will publish their findings here (unedited).

Leave a response »
« Page 1 »

Comments are closed