Little Smokey by Robert Neubecker (9781984851055)
When a new little plane joins the National Interagency Fire Center (Nif-C), they don’t have a job right away. Each plane earns their name, so the little plane must wait to find out what he will be called. Buster is a big air tanker that sprays water on forest fires. Bruno is even bigger and scoops water from lakes to put out the fires. Bertha is the biggest plan with tons of red fire retardant on board. The big plans head out to put out fires while the little plane is left circling the airport. As they fight a large fire, the little plane offers again and again to help but is refused. It isn’t until the fire spreads to a canyon that they need the little sized plane’s agility. This is his chance!
This is a modern story with a vintage vibe. The anthropomorphized planes are all friendly but also fierce when they fight the fires. The feeling of a little one being left out of serious business is something that children will relate to. Then the little plane being skilled and just right for specific scenarios is an empowering ending to the tale. The book ends with more information on wildfires and fire fighting. The illustrations are done in watercolor and pencils. They capture the drama of the wildfires and the skill and methods it takes to battle them. The bright colored planes shine even through the smoke.
A winning story for kids who love airplanes that is actually fun to read aloud. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Alfred A. Knopf.
A Dream of Flight by Rob Polivka and Jef Polivka (9780374306618)
Released on July 30, 2019.
Alberto Santos-Dumont lived in Brazil long before airplanes were invented. Fascinated by machines starting at a young age, Santos came to Paris in 1892. He took a ride with a balloon maker high above the city where they floated in the clouds. Inspired, Santos began to design his own balloon, but he wanted it to move through the air like a ship rather than just floating. He designed one airship after another, learning to follow his own instincts, create structural stability, and built a weight system. Each time he flew, something went wrong, but Santos was not deterred. He just designed a new airship and tried again. A prize of 100,000 francs was announced for the first person who could pilot an airship from the club around the Eiffel Tower and back in less than 30 minutes. Now Santos had a challenge and a prize to win!
Polivka tells the story of Santos with a sprightly tone that is just right for the subject. They share enough details about Paris at the time to firmly anchor the biography in a place and time. The information about the airships is shared with a tone of wonder and also a nod toward the dangers of what Santos was attempting. The art has a vintage feel that works well. It depicts Santos’ little automobile, the view from the balloon over Paris, and the various models of Santos’ airships.
A clever look at flying before airplanes, this picture book biography soars. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery by Peter Sis
Born in a time when airplanes were just arriving in the skies, French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery had dreams of flying himself. At age 12, Antoine made his own flying machine that didn’t work. He spent his days at the nearby airfield watching the pilots fly. He even convinced one of them to take him up with him. After serving in the military, Antoine took a job delivering the mail by plane. Antoine was put in charge of an isolated airfield himself. It was there that he started to write, but he also kept on flying, helping create new air routes in South America. He returned to France eventually and got married. He continued to both write and fly even after moving to New York, having famous adventures and also creating his beloved Little Prince.
Sis beautifully shows the life of a man with two strong passions: writing and aviation. He very effectively ties the two together, showing how they support one another though they may seem so separate and apart. This is a book less about the creative process of an artist and more about the adventures that he had that inspired his writing and the eventual creation of a character who is beloved around the world.
As always, Sis’ illustrations are dazzling in their minute details. He playfully puts faces on mountains that form the landscape below the plane. He creates the Manhattan skyline in fine lines with the red of the sun peeking over the horizon. And then there are the smaller touches on the page that one lingers over and that add further information as well.
A dynamic picture book biography of an unusual author, this book demonstrates that there are many paths to becoming a writer and that the best path is your very own. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse by Torben Kuhlman
Translated from the original German, this picture book takes a mouse-sized look at Charles Lindbergh’s flight. A little mouse loved to spend time reading human books but when he emerged from reading he discovered that all of the other mice had left Europe for America. He was left alone. He tried to board a steamer ship to cross the Atlantic, but there were cats waiting and guarding the door. Then the little mouse had a great idea, he would fly across the Atlantic. His experiments proved dangerous as the cats and owls emerged to hunt him down. The little mouse did not give up he kept redesigning the wings, the engine, the frame. But would it be enough to get him across the Atlantic to freedom?
The story of this book is entirely captivating, even for those not interested in airplanes or flight. It is both a celebration of the small overcoming the powerful and also of ingenuity overcoming adversity. It also shows how much of a force resilience in when solving a problem. Even better, the book itself is a history lesson about human (and mouse) flight and how it progressed from wings to full aircraft.
Kuhlman’s art is radiant. He creates pages with no words that are panoramas of cities, of train stations, of clock towers. Other pages are filled with mice, owls and cats from various perspectives that add drama. Then on other pages, you can see his skill with drafting and the diagrams of various inventions. The art here takes the book to another level, creating a world where you believe that a mouse was the first to fly across the Atlantic.
Beautiful and memorable, this picture book celebrates flight, ingenuity and perseverance. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Everything Goes in the Air by Brian Biggs
Brian Biggs has several new books out which is great news for youngsters who love cars, trucks and airplanes. Everything Goes in the Air takes Henry and his family on an airplane ride. Readers get to visit a bustling airport, where they can search for lost babies. From vintage airplanes to modern ones, we learn about the different parts of a place and the various types they come in. Modern airport security is explained, then the book turns to helicopters and hot air balloons. Just before takeoff, children get to see inside the cockpit and marvel at the crowded airspace. Then it’s up, up and away!
Biggs’ crowded pages show the hustle and hurry of an airport. His friendly art and seek-and-find activities will keep children busy exploring the pages. Information is given in small bits, mostly through conversations that are shown in cartoon bubbles. This is a marvelously fun and exciting way to explore airplanes and airports.
A great pick for a plane ride, or to help prepare children for an upcoming flight, this book has such detailed illustrations that it is best shared with just one child at a time. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Everything Goes: 123 Beep Beep Beep!: A Counting Book by Brian Biggs
Everything Goes: Stop! Go!: A Book of Opposites by Brian Biggs
These two board books simplify the busy style of Biggs into books that are more appropriate for toddlers. Here the bright colors and cartoon-style illustrations pop. The counting book goes up to ten, each page offering a different sort of vehicle to count. They range from RVs to busses. The opposites book again uses vehicles to show things like dirty and clean, old and new, ending with stop and go.
Very young children who enjoy cars, trucks and other vehicles will love these board books. Expect the basic text to be accompanied with lots of motor sounds from the audience! Appropriate for ages 1-3.
All items reviewed from copies received from Balzer + Bray.
Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Wendell Minor
This gorgeous and beautifully written picture book follows Amelia Earhart as she tries to be the first woman to pilot a plane across the Atlantic Ocean alone. Beginning with Earhart rolling down the runway in Newfoundland on May 20, 1932, the book is not only about the trip but also about the beauty of flight, the moments of wonder, the fears, the dedication it takes, and the incredible feat that Amelia Earhart accomplished.
Burleigh has written the book in paired lines that are filled with poetry and grace. He uses words to capture the emotions and the events on the journey. From the beauty of the star-filled sky to the drama of a storm out over the ocean, readers will thrill to this adventure. As I look over the writing, I am caught up again and again by the words, the pacing, and the incredible Earhart.
Minor’s paintings add to the drama and beauty of the title. When the book begins, readers can see the smiling face of Earhart peeking through the plane windows directly at them. Minor manages to capture both the scale and expanse of the adventure and the personal story of Earhart. He makes it both monumental and personal as does Burleigh in his text.
While there are many titles about Amelia Earhart out there, this is one of the best and would be a thrilling read for any class exploring women’s history. Appropriate for ages 6-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
To see some of the beauty of the illustrations, take a look at the book trailer below:
Also reviewed by Bibliophile by the Sea.