Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith and Matt Tavares

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Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith and Matt Tavares

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Buy Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith and Matt Tavares at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A really charming and informative look back at a young female pioneer of 'manned' flight.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: April 2017
Publisher: Candlewick Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780763677329

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We're in Paris, and – not to be too rude about things – we seem surrounded by idiots. For one, it seems they think the perfect place to experiment with manned hot air balloon flights is in the middle of the biggest city in the world. For another, they think only men could suffer the slightly colder and slightly thinner air experienced on such an adventure – women would never be able to cope. Meanwhile, a young girl is dreaming of flight, as so many are wont to do, completely unaware that she will soon marry one of the most famed balloonists. They will have joint journeys skyward, before his early demise – leaving the young woman, Sophie Blanchard, to go it alone and become the first female pilot.

This is her life in wordy picture book form, and very good it is too. (The author's footnote reveals more to the story, which like much of the rest was new to me, but I'll leave that to you to discover.) Yes, there is much to praise about this book. It's not tied to any anniversary (the events to commemorate two hundreds since her passing will be in 2019, if any), it's just there as a good tale, of interest to all ages, and we have two people collaborating to tell it to us very well.

The early years are a little bit of supposition, but that's excusable. The young Sophie is not too plain, not too pretty, not too feminist, not too anything – just an everywoman type, proving the common or garden reader of these pages can live their dreams as did she. The script is pitched well, and conveys the invented thoughts of the young girl as well as the reality of the woman she became, what with her official posts courtesy of Napoleon, etc. The text is presented amenably, and while one page has a couple of hundred words nothing seemed too complex.

The imagery is all-important, however, and this really hit the mark. There is a great variety in all of the angles, conveyances for Sophie, and colouring schemes, bringing a great deal of life to the page. In showing her sailing off sunward with her long hair flowing it might again be bending reality, but may also be hinting at yet another way in which the subject of this book was a little rebellious – a little flighty, you might say. There's nothing anywhere near as fresh and novel on these pages, rather a pleasingly timeless standard, but it's a story that like as not will be new to almost all readers, and it's a book I have to recommend.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Taking Flight: How the Wright Brothers Conquered the Skies by Adam Hancher acts as the prequel – and is just as good.

Buy Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith and Matt Tavares at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith and Matt Tavares at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith and Matt Tavares at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith and Matt Tavares at Amazon.com.

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