Enjoyable, accessible technological history, further enlivened by colorful character sketches of some of the most...



Mortimer (The Great Swim, 2008, etc.) chronicles a pivotal moment in the history of aviation.

Seven years after the Wright brothers’ famed Kitty Hawk flight, it was unclear whether the future lay in dirigibles, balloons or airplanes. The author looks at three events in October 1910 that tested the mettle of each technology: Walter Wellman’s attempt to fly the America from New Jersey to England; the competition among airplane fliers (the word “pilot” was not yet in use) for the International Aviation Cup, held in Long Island; and the contest to see which balloonist could travel the farthest distance from St. Louis, Mo. The America flew about 1,000 miles, the longest trip ever for a dirigible, before crashing into the Atlantic Ocean, and balloonists Alan Hawley and Augustus Post covered more than 1,200 miles from Missouri to the woods of Québec. Above Belmont Park, N.Y., however, fliers demonstrated the airplane’s superior speed and maneuverability. Flying planes was undeniably dangerous—several men died in accidents during the competition—but the amazing show guaranteed that the airplane would dominate aviation from then on. Mortimer expertly interweaves the three stories, vivifying each event with a riveting combination of historical detail and novelistic suspense. He does especially fine work in rendering Hawley and Post’s ordeal after their balloon went down; lost in the Canadian forest, the men were faced with brutal weather and dwindling food supplies. Mortimer also paints an unforgettable portrait of roguish British flier Claude Grahame-White, famed for daredevil exploits and a rakish manner, and deftly portrays the famed Wright brothers as mean, petty and litigious.

Enjoyable, accessible technological history, further enlivened by colorful character sketches of some of the most interesting figures in the early days of flying.

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8027-1711-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?