• Plot: The teacher finds an island with very sophisticated civilization. There is a volcano on the island which causes quakes every so often. I also do recall something about families being lettered by the alphabet and making food based on their letter.

  • Format: 70% chance of paperback | 30% chance of hardcover

  • Language: English

  • Author: No clue...

  • Read Date: Maybe 5-ish years ago...

  • Publication Date: I'm pretty sure from the early 1970s but I can't be sure, again...


That would be The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois. It's a match in every respect. It was published in 1947 and has had many editions.

The main character is a retired school teacher in the late 1800s. He had left San Francisco in a balloon, intending to relax. Somehow, he lands on a tropical volcanic island where there's an elaborate society funded by a secret diamond mine. The families have letter names, Mr. & Mrs. A, B, C, etc., and take turns feeding each other with a cuisine which begins with the letter of their name: American, British, Chinese, etc. The island has all kinds of odd Victorian gadgetry -- beds on steam-powered hoists, sticks in my mind.

Unfortunately, the island is Krakatoa, it starts erupting and everyone escapes -- just barely -- on a platform held aloft by twenty balloons.

  • (Well, not every respect!) – Strawberry Jul 26 at 14:40
  • Yeah, I have that one actually ;). The gadgetry is just from the one house though -- their experimentation lab, almost. Then the twirly escape balloon system. – Cullub Jul 26 at 14:41
  • Oh, now I'm remembering everything! Mr. F is the first one he meets! (I think.) – voldemortswrath--inp.repl.co Jul 26 at 15:15
  • Wow I forgot this story even existed! Now I want to read it again... – SpaceWolf1701 Jul 26 at 23:10
  • 2
    @Stormblessed Stop making pointless edits. A double hyphen is a common convention for representing a dash; revision 9 is totally useless since both forms are correct, and reformatting the sentence from a list of events (with or without Oxford comma) to a double clause divided by a full stop or semicolon is also unnecessary. – Rand al'Thor Jul 28 at 9:51

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