Lighter Than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith, illustrated by Matt Tavares


   Lighter Than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith, illustrated by Matt Tavares. Candlewick, 2017.  9780763677329

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

What did you like about the book? Little is known about the early life of Sophie Blanchard. In this picture book biography we learn that shortly after attending a balloon show featuring the daredevil balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard, they were married. After flying only twice with her husband, she took to the air on her own and never looked back, even after his death, accomplishing over 60 solo flights. Blanchard is the first female pilot in history and the first woman to die in an air accident, although this book doesn’t dwell on that part. By recounting Blanchard’s triumphs in a historical context, Smith gives a great introduction to this pioneering woman. Tavares’s gorgeous ink and watercolor illustrations complement the text, with lovely views from the air and design embellishments typical of the time. Back matter includes notes and a selected bibliography.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Information about how balloons rise in the air and more dates or a timeline would have added to this book.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Combine this with biographies of Bessie Coleman, Amelia Earhart and modern-day women astronauts for a unit on women in flight.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Biography

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: March 21, 2017

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