Lighter Than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot
Written by Matthew Clark Smith, Illustrated by Matt Tavares
*Starred review in Booklist
2017 Junior Library Guild Selection
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Educators! Download a free teachers' guide, courtesy of Candlewick Press.
Behold the story of Sophie
Blanchard, an extraordinary woman who is largely
forgotten despite her claim to being the very first
female pilot in history.
France, "balloonomania" has fiercely gripped the
nation . . . but all of the pioneering aeronauts are
men. The job of shattering that myth falls to a most
unlikely figure: a shy girl from a seaside village,
entirely devoted to her dream of flight. Sophie is
not the first woman to ascend in a balloon, nor the
first woman to accompany an aeronaut on a trip, but
she will become the first woman to climb to the
clouds and steer her own course.
The words of Matthew Clark Smith bring Sophie's story to light after so many years, while Matt Tavares's atmospheric art and unique perspectives take her to new heights.
Take to the skies with the beautifully told tale of Sophie Blanchard, a woman meant for the air, as she discovers the incomparable sensation of flight.
"Smith tells Sophie's inspiring story with a buoyant sense of wonder, fitting for a woman who was happiest in the air. Her accomplishments and passion for flight are brought beautifully to life by Tavares' soft watercolor, gouache, and pencil illustrations, which make expressive use of shadow and light, casting brooding clouds over solemn scenes or amplifying joyful moments with blue or golden skies.
*Booklist (starred review)
"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...."
"This amazing tale of the first female pilot is illustrated in ink and watercolor, with the changing sky becoming a character itself. A story that needs to be shared."
-School Library Journal