Before the Wright Brothers came the Montgolfier Brothers


Joseph decided to take a walk. He needed a break from his studies, but he was lost in thought and forgot to close the door behind him. The wind blew in, lifting his papers into the air and toward the fireplace. How did this happen? Joseph (always curious) decided to study the fire and figure out what happened. And then it struck him - if the gases in the air of fire could lift the papers, could a bigger fire lift a vessel? Could he create a flying machine? With the support of his brother Etienne, Joseph did just that. The aerostat was so amazing that even the King of France wanted a demonstration. Now that they had successfully created a flying machine, was it safe enough for a man to travel in it? 

Parent Perspective:
What a fascinating story. The author has done a fantastic job weaving together factual information about scientific discoveries that were happening in the late 1700s and examples of the scientific method (testing hypotheses), as well as the personal story of the brothers. Joseph and Etienne had different personalities, but they loved and supported each other. They also worked together to make the aerostat a reality, giving readers examples of perseverance and teamwork. 

The author's Afterword (Author's Note) is as interesting as the main story. Without a lot of fanfare, he tells us about Ben Franklin's role in documenting the flight at Versailles. Readers will most definitely be intrigued and wanting more. There is an excellent bibliography with books, articles, and website references. 

My one nit with the book is the illustration. The colors are great, the page adornments that create the feel of 18th Century France are nice, but the use of perspective is uneven from spread to spread. 

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Readers of all ages will enjoy this little-known story of the first milestone in aviation history.

Content Awareness Factors:

My only qualm with the book is that the author did not include a glossary or a means of helping readers pronounce some of the French names: Montgolfier, Jacque-Etienne, Michel, C'est, Reveillon, Jean-Baptiste, Versailles, monsieur. A map would have been nice, too. The distance from Annonay to Versailles is nearly 550 km (more than 330 miles), so it was not an easy trip for the men to make.

Type of Book:
This is a picture book history about how two brothers worked together to invent the aerostat.
Educational Themes:

Grab a fan and some materials (paper of different weights, cardboard, feathers, cloths of different weights) and do some experiments. Be sure to have a notebook handy so you can explain the experiment and write down the results. How did the materials respond to the air? Could they be lifted from the ground? Did changing the speed of the fan matter? Location of the fan (how close, how far away)?

For kids (or anyone) whose interests are piqued, the author has an extensive bibliography in the back, as well as an excellent timeline of with major milestones in aviation history.

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
10 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
8 and Up
Purchase Recommendation:
Borrow. The story is fascinating and VERY worth reading. It just isn't a book you'd have at home unless you have a tinkerer.

Title Up and Away! How Two Brothers invented the Hot-Air Balloon
Author Jason Henry
Publisher Sterling Children's Books, Imprint Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. © 2018
Illustrators Jason Henry
ISBN 9781454923602
Material Hard Cover
Cost $16.95
Genres Science, Biography, History
Reminder: Cover images, and links are affiliate links. The Reading Tub can earn income via purchases made via these links. 100% of any income goes directly to our literacy mission.
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