Designer Henry’s authorial debut explores the 18th-century invention of the hot air balloon.
Joseph-Michel Montgolfier, a Frenchman, had always found the mechanics of the world fascinating. One day, some of his papers drifted into his fireplace, and to his surprise, he noticed that the smaller pieces were rising above the flames. He realized that if the gas released by the fire had the ability to lift paper, it might be able to carry other things as well. He set about testing his hypothesis, and, with his brother Jacques-Étienne, he crafted “the world’s first flying machine”: a hot air balloon they called an “aerostat.” When Louis XVI got wind of their invention, he requested a demonstration, and the brothers set about planning, fitting the outside of their balloon with ornamentations fit for a king. When the day arrived, they famously sent a rooster, a duck, and a sheep up in their balloon, hosting for both the king and many French citizens the first-ever public demonstration of a hot air balloon. Henry’s narration is straightforward but engaging. The illustrations, rendered digitally, use a slightly dusty color palette that combines with such design elements as ornate golden frames in closing text boxes to nicely evoke the setting and era (all humans depicted are white). Backmatter includes a bibliography, list of further reading, and timeline of flight.
While perhaps not the most boisterous telling of this tale, it will nevertheless sweep readers away. (Informational picture book. 5-10)