Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Non-Fiction Heroes Again + #NPM17 - poem 26/30

Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover wonderful non-fiction books!

#NPM17 - Poem 26/30 - National Poetry Month.

Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers." – Yevgeny Yevtushenko

      See all the poetic events this month in the sidebar.  

My goal for Poetry Month: 
                                               TINY THINGS.  

Tiny, Yet Critical

F iddle dee dee!
A ll is terrific.
C an’t you hear
T hose words, “Believe Me?”
S moke and mirrors.

Linda Baie © All Rights

       Considering all that is in the news about women in the workplace, the changes being made to roll back some of the supports that have been created for women, these two books and others published seem important. They are testaments to the women who have fought odds against those who say women "can't". I am appreciative of authors who are writing their stories.

       I had never heard of Sophie Blanchard until reading this book. Considering both she and her husband lost their lives from flying the balloons, I am in awe of their courage. Matthew Clark Smith shares in his author's note that he imagined Sophie's childhood dreams because of the lack of information until her fame as a pilot. However, the introductory part of the story pulls the reader into what I imagine too was Sophie's fascination with the sky and flying high with the birds. Matt Tavares shares in his note that he used the sky for inspiration, took many pictures, was often noticing the changes, and his illustrations change with the mood of the pages. Sometimes it's light and happiness is evident, but there are also dark skies during dark times. 
       In 1783, two aeronauts climbed into a balloon that had been filled with hot air from a straw fire below, and set off, the first flight! These balloons soon became the show to see and even hats were fashioned like balloons this daring new occupation was so popular. Jean-Pierre Blanchard was one of the daredevils, with John Jeffries made the first channel crossing in a balloon! (There are the two that nearly crashed into the channel, but lightened the load by throwing everything overboard, including their trousers! Remember A Voyage in The Clouds by Matthew Olshan and Sophie Blackall?) Sophie met Jean-Pierre at one of his shows, and they fell in love and married. Sophie had her very first flight with Jean-Pierre, and not long after she began flying herself. People said that women were not strong enough; there was strong disapproval, but Sophie conquered her fears, gained the courage, and was enthralled. She called it the "incomparable sensation." 

       Some of the illustrations show Sophie in amazing baskets, one that looks like a cup with wings. Jean-Pierre, sadly, had a heart attack while flying, fell out of the basket and died. Sophie was devastated, yet after a while realized that she would fly solo, "the first woman pilot." 
       The author's note adds that Sophie did some daring feats, flew 67 flights and was named "Chief Air Minister of Ballooning" by Napoleon! This honor became her life's tragedy, too, because as she was lighting fireworks from high in the air, one firework caught her balloon on fire and she plunged to her death at age forty-one. Although there were those who said it was inevitable, that women shouldn't be flying, Sophie Blanchard made way for other women to do daring things. There is a bibliography.

         I remember knowing about Gertrude Ederle. She was somehow in the part of women's history that I learned. Perhaps from a physical education teacher who wanted us to know that women did amazing things in sports. She certainly made a splash, as is beautifully told in this picture book about her swim, successfully becoming the first female swimmer to cross the English Channel, only the sixth swimmer-male or female. I liked that Sue Macy gave details of how it works when someone wins the channel, like how Trudy ate (drinking chicken soup from a baby bottle) and dangers faced (jellyfish and driftwood). The ship that followed her held crew and family and her coach. During these hours when Trudy swam, they continued to sing to her and shout encouragement, and of course, the coach gave advice.        
        The illustrations are realistic, and it feels like some of the pages show close action that puts the reader right in the water with Trudy. I love Trudy shown at the end, sitting in bed with her four ham sandwiches, satisfied she met her goal, resting at last. 
         The back matter is impressive. The inside of the cover (starting at the front then on to the back) gives a brief timeline of 1920's sports highlights,  There is also an Afterword, author's note, sources and resources, source notes, and in the final acknowledgments page, a picture of the real Trudy Ederle. I enjoyed seeing that a lot. 


  1. Oh, your tiny acrostic poem is troubling. I agree that nonfiction books depicting women of courage, conquering their fears are needed more than ever in our current political climate.

    1. Thanks, Ramona, These past months have been so filled with concern. I hope that all of us can continue resisting.

  2. Oh, yeah. You nailed it. Critical, indeed!

    1. Thanks, and I'm fact checking as much as I can.

  3. Love the poem... so true!
    Love the books! I especially loved the one about Trudy Everly. We read about her in a book that is part of our intervention program so it was fun to cross check facts and get new ones.

    1. It's hard to imagine doing something like swimming the channel. I enjoyed the book, too. Thanks!

  4. I'd read and really enjoyed Trudy's Big Swim, but Lighter than Air is new to me, and sounds fantastic! I love stories about female pioneers. :)


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