Best 1947 Adventures (4)

By: Joshua Glenn
June 8, 2017

One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1947 adventure novels. Happy 70th anniversary!

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William Pène du Bois’s children’s adventure The Twenty-One Balloons.

Professor William Waterman Sherman, a retired schoolteacher, is traveling idly around the world via hot-air balloon, in 1883, when he crash-lands on the Indian Ocean island of Krakatoa… shortly before it is obliterated in a cataclysmic eruption. The island, he discovers, is an diamond mine-funded utopia of sorts, featuring every manner of far-out invention; this plot is largely inspired, the author openly admits, by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Radium Age sci-fi story “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz.” (Pène du Bois’s illustrations of these contraptions are wonderful.) We learn that each of the island’s 20 families runs a restaurant — serving food from around the world — and that the islanders dine together in strict rotation. In the end, Sherman helps construct the greatest contraption of them all — involving 21 balloons — in order to rescue the island’s denizens.

Fun facts: Pène du Bois would co-found The Paris Review in 1953. This book, perhaps his best-known, won the 1948 Newbery Medal.

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Let me know if I’ve missed any 1947 adventures that you particularly admire. Also, please check out these additional lists. The 200 Greatest Adventure Novels of All Time. THE OUGHTS (1904–13): 1905 | 1906 | 1907 | 1910 | 1911 | 1912. THE TEENS (1914–23): 1915 | 1916 | 1917 | 1920 | 1921 | 1922. THE TWENTIES (1924–33): 1925 | 1926 | 1927 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932. THE THIRTIES (1934–43): 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1940 | 1941 | 1942. THE FORTIES (1944–53): 1945 | 1946 | 1947 | 1950 | 1951 | 1952. THE FIFTIES (1954–63): 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1960 | 1961 | 1962. THE SIXTIES (1964–73): 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1970 | 1971 | 1972. THE SEVENTIES (1974–83): 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982. The goal, eventually, is to publish a Top 10 Adventures list for every year of the 20th century.

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Adventure, Lit Lists

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