A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785 by Matthew Olshan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux 

Summary:  On the morning of January 7, 1785, Dr. John Jeffries and his dog Henry, and Monsieur Jean-Pierre Blanchard and his dog Henri, set off to be the first to travel from one country to another in a hot air balloon.  Jeffries was an Englishman financing the trip and Blanchard was an experienced pilot from France. Their dislike for each other showed up almost immediately when Blanchard wore a weighted vest to try to convince Jeffries that the balloon would be too heavy for both of them.  Jeffries discovered the trick, though, and insisted that they both make the voyage.  Partway through, the balloon began to sink, and the two men had to put aside their differences to make it to France.  They dumped everything they could out of the basket, including their clothes, but their descent wasn’t reversed until they both relieved themselves over the side.  Their safe arrival marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  An author’s note separates the facts from a few of the liberties taken in the story.  40 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  A humorous piece of history, impeccably illustrated by last year’s Caldecott medalist Sophie Blackall.  Kids will get a big kick out of the picture of the two men clad in their old-fashioned drawers peeing over the side of the balloon basket.  The cartoon bubble dialog brings the events to hilarious life.

Cons:  Definitely a mix of fact and fiction, so be sure to read the author’s note.

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