The Twenty-One Balloons

by William Pene du Bois

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Summary of Chapter 2

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I am so pleased to see that people are still reading this wonderful book, which is one of my all-time favorites. The Twenty-One Balloons is a book that children of all ages can enjoy. It was originally published in 1948 by Random House (a division of Random House Inc.) and illustrated by the author's wife, Hilary Knight. The book's full title is The Twenty-One Balloons: A Tale of Adventure. It tells the story of Professor William Waterman Sherman's fantastic adventures as he uses 21 balloons to make several voyages around the world, with his companion and dog Mr. Muggs, as well as a cat named Trilby.

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I am so pleased to see that people are still reading this wonderful book, which is one of my all-time favorites. 

Chapter II of The Twenty-One Balloons is entitled "A Hero's Welcome is Prepared."  The chapter recounts all the ways San Francisco, which is Professor Sherman's home town, goes "balloon crazy" (19), and ends with the greatly anticipated arrival of Professor Sherman. 

Everyone wants to be part of the balloon welcome for the Professor, and this leads to incidents both alarming and amusing.  For example, one boy is carried away by balloons and must be rescued by the Fire Department.  All of the balloons are exposed to sparks from houses' chimneys, and they explode, causing great consternation. 

Perhaps the most extraordinary incident involved the cupola of the Western American Explorers' Club.  It is decorated with massive balloons, at the order of the Mayor, and the force of the balloons lifts the cupola from the building, which carry it two hundred miles away, where it lands on an Indian Reservation. The cupola, which is a half-globe of the world, now festooned with balloons, impresses the Indians so much that they designate it the new residence for their Chief.

Since the Professor is recovering from his adventures, the Tomes Aeronautical Studios, which had not been awarded any balloon contracts for the Professor's welcome home, devised an invention in which a carriage would be suspended off the ground by balloon, affording the Professor a smooth and pain-free ride.  They used a large, comfortable couch, raised by balloons, for three horses to pull. Its "dress rehearsal" ended badly, when a spark from Tomes' cigar fell on one of the balloons, it exploded, tumbling Tomes and the other passenger onto the ground, and caused the horses to gallop away with the carriage and balloons.  So, this brilliant idea was abandoned.

While all of the balloon frenzy was happening, a young boy who had recently read Around the World in Eighty Days speculated that Professor Sherman's voyage had carried him around the world in half the time.  This increased the interest in the Professor's voyage and his imminent return to San Francisco.

At the end of the chapter, there were "still nine hundred and twenty-nine balloons" (31) to greet the Professor, the greeting committee is instructed to wear derby hats and polka-dot ties, which are rounded, of course, and carry out the balloon theme.  And the stage is set for the Professor's arrival. 

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