Book Review: The Wright Brothers, a Flying Start

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

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This is the latest in a long line of wonderful, appealing books about Orville and Wilbur Wright, the inventors of the airplane.

This book has the standard stories and pictures--of the bicycle the brothers built when they were young, of their struggles to get funding for their experiments, of the flight around New York City--as well as an excellent timeline that traces the history of flight, from Leonardo to the space shuttle. Viewed this way, the Wright Brothers' success is one step along the way in a journey that began hundreds of years ago and is still going strong today.

The one thing this book has that I really enjoy is the "Talking Orville and Wilburs." This is a wonderful device that, in effect, lets the Wright Brothers tell their own story. Time and again, the pictures that illustrate the narrative are themselves accompanied by a picture of Orville or Wilbur (or sometimes both), complete with a cartoon-like text bubble containing a description of the events as if they were being described by the Wrights themselves.

The graphic at left is a good example of this. You can see, in the middle, one of the wind tunnels the Wrights built. Underneath is a description of the wind tunnel. But we also get pictures of both brothers, along with what Wilbur might have said if he were the one describing the wind tunnel. It gives the book a kind of "We're telling our own story" feel, and this device succeeds in a a great way, making the intended audience (kids and their parents or teachers) feel like the story is very real.

Too often, in stories about the Wright Brothers, the focus is on Kitty Hawk and of the technical details of the flights and of the difficulties the Wright Brothers faced in getting their idea off the ground. This book avoids all that by making the story of the airplane enjoyable, while sacrificing none of the important details.

Graphics courtesy of Kids Can Press

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