LIGHTER THAN AIR

SOPHIE BLANCHARD, THE FIRST WOMAN PILOT

A beautifully told story of a young woman with lofty aspirations.

A fascination with hot air balloons has hit late-18th-century Paris, and young Sophie Armant dreams of joining those bold aeronauts.

Sophie especially admires the daredevil Jean-Pierre Blanchard, who, with John Jeffries, was the first to cross the English Channel in a balloon. Sophie, however, is told that “Women were made of weaker stuff. Their place was on earth.” But she meets and marries Blanchard, and they fly together until his death, when she begins to fly alone, becoming the first woman pilot. Toward the end of her career, Sophie reflects on the limits the world puts on women and realizes that “There is a limit. And that limit is the sky.” Smith’s prose—rich, poetic, and strong on active verbs—is a fine match for Tavares’ gorgeous ink-and-watercolor illustrations, which focus on Sophie and the skies, his palette pairing Sophie’s moods with the colors of the skies. The other stars—the balloons themselves—are dazzling, with intricate lines, rich colors, and swelling bags ready to go aloft. His strong, monumental style and steady lines give even the most perilous-looking of Sophie’s aerial perches comforting stability—even as she sets off fireworks from the air. An author’s note adds information, including a note on Sophie’s tragic death.

A beautifully told story of a young woman with lofty aspirations. (illustrator’s note, bibliography) (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7732-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.

An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

THE ASTRONOMICALLY GRAND PLAN

From the Astrid the Astronaut series , Vol. 1

An exuberant portrayal of a girl with hearing restrictions reaching for the stars.

Astrid, a spunky, smart California third grader, has great aspirations.

She will become “the first astronaut with hearing aids,” a possibility that is treated very naturally within this story, the first in a new chapter book series. Joining the Shooting Stars, an after-school club devoted to all things space, has long been part of Astrid’s “Astronomically Grand Plan.” Though Astrid wants to go to space camp, it’s expensive, but a scholarship is available for the Shooting Stars student who earns the most points for completing the STEM-oriented Astro Missions. She discovers another problem when she realizes that her best friend, Hallie, is more interested in art than in STEM and joins the Petite Picassos club. How can Astrid navigate Shooting Stars without her BFF, especially when she and her teammate Veejay don’t start out well? Club teacher Ms. Ruiz stresses creativity and partnership, and math and science enthusiasts will be attracted to this book, but the real emphasis is on relationships. Astrid must befriend Hallie again after voicing her disappointment with her interests and learn to be a good teammate. Astrid is likable, and her story, told in first person, realistically explores her hearing issues, her initial problem-solving failures, and her successes. Black-and-white illustrations depict Astrid (wearing her hearing aids) and her family as light-skinned, though other students appear to be racially diverse, and Hallie is cued as Asian.

An exuberant portrayal of a girl with hearing restrictions reaching for the stars. (Chapter book. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-8148-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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