Day: April 11, 2017

Lighter Than Air by Matthew Clark Smith

Lighter Than Air by Matthew Clark Smith

Lighter Than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith, illustrated by Matt Tavares (9780763677329, Amazon)

This picture book biography tells the story of Sophie Blanchard, the first woman to fly on her own. In the 18th century, France was filled with “balloonmania.” Every balloonist was male and they were breaking records. Meanwhile, a girl was growing up by the seaside and dreaming of flight. When she met the famous balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard, the two realized they had a shared passion for flight. They were soon married and started flying together. After two shared flights, Sophie went up alone and became the first woman to fly a balloon solo. Her husband died from a heart attack and fall from a balloon and Sophie stopped flying for awhile. Eventually, she flew again and earned a living with her flight. Napoleon made her Aeronaut of the Official Festivals and Chief Air Minister of Ballooning.

Smith offers exactly the right amount of detail in this picture book. The dangers of ballooning are mentioned but not dwelled upon, just like the death of Jean-Pierre. Sophie’s own death in a balloon is only mentioned in the Author’s Note which also speaks to how little is actually known about her despite her accomplishments. Her childhood, in particular, is unknown and Smith created some of the details himself. Throughout the book, it is the wonder of human flight that is the focus and that unites Sophie’s adult life with her childhood dreams.

Tavares has illustrated this picture book with period details that capture the balloons and the fragility of the baskets. In other illustrations, he captures the sky and the expanse that Sophie is flying into. Two illustrations mirror one another with darker skies as Sophie dreams as a girl of flying and when she returns to flight after her husband’s death.

An important picture book about a brave and groundbreaking woman who refused to be limited by the rest of the world. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Round by Joyce Sidman

Round by Joyce Sidman

Round by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo (9780544387614, Amazon)

This simple picture book looks at things in life that are round. A little girl explores her world, seeing all of the things that are round. It is much more than a list of round items, speaking to the joy of round things, the feel of them in the hand, and the way that they appear again and again particularly in nature. There is the roundness of seeds, the round center of flowers, the round circles inside of trees, and the rounded stones in the ocean. Throughout the book, the little girl experiences each of these and finds that she too can become round sometimes with friends and sometimes all on her own.

Sidman captures the joy of experiencing nature and discovering shapes there. This book is specifically about circles and rounded shapes, making it very appropriate for toddlers who are just learning about shapes. The text is simple and friendly, inviting youngsters to find round things in their own world. Text at the end of the book speaks to why we see so many round things in nature.

The illustrations by Yoo add to the feeling of being invited along on a journey of discovery outdoors. Yoo’s illustrations show the little girl, her dog and her father exploring together. Yoo lets readers see up close when appropriate and then back away to show large expanses when that works best.

A simple look at circles in nature, this picture book is a great invitation to head outside and find your own shapes. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.