Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot

Written by Matthew Clark Smith
Illustrated by Matt Tavares

So many people make significant contributions to society, enjoy their fifteen minutes of fame, and then are forgotten. Sophie Blanchard is one such person.

Born in eighteenth century, when women were discouraged from doing much besides keeping a house and raising children, Sophie was fascinated by the advances being made in hot air and hydrogen ballooning. She was so fascinated that she pursued a friendship with Jean-Pierre Blanchard, one of the first men to cross the English Channel by balloon. They met an air show and quickly became more than friends. Sophie rode in her new husband’s balloon a couple of times before deciding to ascend on her own, becoming the very first female pilot in 1805. Jean-Pierre died in 1808, but Sophie continued to conduct air shows and even set off fireworks from the heights.

Smith makes this story as exciting as it can be for kids. In the process, he imparts many historical facts and inspires kids to pursue their own dreams.

Tavares gives kids the feeling of being there – from Sophie’s seaside childhood to her appearance at Napoleon’s court. From dark clouds when Sophie mourns to bright sunshine when she becomes a pilot.

Recommended for aspiring pilots and all independent kids.

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  • Lighter than AirTitle: Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot
  • Author: Matthew Clark Smith
  • Illustrator: Matt Tavares
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 4
  • Genre: Picture book, Nonfiction, History, Aviation
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7732-9
  • Extras: Author’s Note with added history, Illustrator’s Note, Selected Bibliography

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