Review: A Dream of Flight by Rob Polivka

A Dream of Flight by Rob Polivka

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. 

Review: Wings by Cheryl B. Klein

Wings by Cheryl B. Klein

Wings by Cheryl B. Klein, illustrated by Tomie dePaola (9781534405103)

This super-simple picture book soars as a baby bird leaves the nest for the first time. Told only in rhyming single words, the story is about wings, flings, stings, dings and eventually sings, rings and zings! A baby bird tentatively heads to the edge of the nest and then flings themselves off. They land in a puddle on the ground. Drying off and checking for damage, they discover a worm on the ground. That inspires them to try to head back up to the nest to deliver the food to their siblings. But can they actually fly?

The simplicity of the book belies the skill that it took to create an actual story arc with so few words. The book works well with the bulk of the tale told in the illustrations by a master artist. DePaola has created bright and cheery artwork to accompany the story. Filled with pinks, blues and yellows, the vibrant colors bring a lot of life to the book.

Use this one when teaching about rhymes. It is just right for toddler audiences. Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Review: Fly! by Karl Newsom Edwards

fly

Fly! by Karl Newsom Edwards

Little Fly can’t do what the other bugs in the garden can do.  He tries to act just like them, but it doesn’t work out quite right. He can’t wiggle like a worm or jump like a grasshopper. He can’t march in formation like the ants or swing like a spider. He’s hopeless at digging and chewing leaves too. It’s not until some flying insects inspire him to try his wings that he figures out exactly what he’s meant to do – fly!

This very simple picture book works so well. The insect who is doing the movement or action states it with confidence and in their own unique font. Then Fly tries it too but always with a question mark wondering about it. So the book reads aloud well and offers plenty of options for tone and approach as a teacher or librarian. In other words, be just as silly as you would like and it will work well.

One of the huge strengths of this book is its illustrations. From the pop-eyed little fly to the other insects, they are all distinctive and brimming with personality. Sharp-eyed readers and listeners will hints of the next insect before you turn the page, creating a feeling of moving along a path of insects. Make sure to check out the Bug Facts at the end of the book for the names of the insects you meet in the story.

Simple and innately funny, this picture book has a zingy personality all its own. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from digital copy from Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Review: Bluebird by Lindsey Yankey

bluebird

Bluebird by Lindsey Yankey

Bluebird has never flown without the company of her friend, the wind.  She just can’t bring herself to try to fly without the wind’s help, so she sets off on a quest to find the wind before she flies.  There was no wind blowing the seeds off the dandelions, no wind lifting the kite to the sky, no wind rippling the willow leaves.  Heading into the city, Bluebird found that the newspaper pages weren’t being blown by the wind at all and even a balloon was being moved by a child rather than the wind.  Bluebird decided to look higher, but even from above the flags were drooping on the flagpoles and the sailboats were not racing.  Bluebird landed on a roof and wished deeply for her friend to return, and that’s when she noticed that she’d been flying for some time without the wind to help her! 

Yankey’s text captures both the wishing for what the wind does every day and also how things are without the wind blowing.  The contrast between what Bluebird knows the wind does and how things are when they are still is wonderfully written with simplicity and grace.  The entire book has a jaunty brisk pace that will remind readers of a good stiff wind blowing along the pages and moving the story along.

The illustrations in this picture book set it apart.  They are an amazing mix of collage, pencil, ink, block print and paint.  The result is a richness of styles that zing on the page next to one another and create a world that is unique.  Somehow those divergent components form a cohesion feel on the page that is mesmerizing.

A perfect read for a breezy day, this book will invite everyone to find the confidence to fly.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Lindbergh by Torben Kuhlmann

lindbergh

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.

Review: George Flies South by Simon James

george flies south

George Flies South by Simon James

Winter was coming, but George was not quite ready to try to fly yet.  George waited for his mother to return with some worms, when a gust of wind picked up his nest and carried the nest and George into the air!  The nest landed softly on the top of a car, which promptly started driving with George’s mother chasing behind.  The nest flew off the car and then landed on a boat.  From there, George and the nest were lifted high up into a tall building that was being constructed.  George slept safely up in the building until he was awoken by a pouncing cat.  Now George was falling without his nest and without knowing how to fly! 

James has written a story that feels very familiar but has its own personal twists.  The combination of the baby bird and his nest traveling through a city together makes this all the more charming.  Add in the appeal of different kinds of transportation, the thrill of the chase, and the daring high building, and you have a book that will appeal to the wiggliest of preschoolers.  The need to learn a new skill under pressure will also be something that will appeal to this age group.

James’ illustrations are done in ink and watercolor.  They have fine lines, washes of color, and a wonderful feel of motion throughout.  They add much to the cheery story.

A great pick for autumn story times, this book will have children cheering George along and seeing that they too are capable of much more than they may think they are.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Cromwell Dixon’s Sky-Cycle

Cromwell Dixon’s Sky Cycle by John Abbott Nez

In the years following the Wright Brothers’ historic flight, the world of flying machines took off.  Literally.  A fourteen-year-old boy named Cromwell Dixon loved to invent things and flying caught his attention. So he built, with the help of his mother, a Sky-cycle using a mix of a bicycle and helium balloon.  By pedaling, he could turn the propellers made of wood and silk.  It wasn’t easy.  When the varnish on the balloon was drying it caught on fire and he had to start again.  But on August 9, 1907, Cromwell took to the skies.  He reached an amazing 2500 feet before returning to earth. 

The picture book has a real period feel with the author throwing in turn-of-the-century terms to evoke the time.  The illustrations too offer a sense of history.  I especially enjoyed that it is not until the afterword that you discover that this is a true story.  The imagination and vision that this feat took is amazing and to do it at such a young age is inspiring.  Children will be drawn to this contraption that looks like a bicycle but flies.  Nez’s illustrations and prose will keep children’s interest easily. 

This one is sure to fly off the shelves especially into the hands of young pilots.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.