Review of A Dream of Flight, by Rob Polivka and Jef Polivka, illustrations by Rob Polivka

A Dream of Flight

Alberto Santos-Dumont’s Race Around the Eiffel Tower

by Rob Polivka and Jef Polivka
illustrations by Rob Polivka

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2019. 40 pages.
Starred Review
Review written September 2, 2019, from a library book

Here’s a picture book about one of the pioneers of flight – and one I didn’t know anything about. Alberto Santos-Dumont, who went by Santos, dreamed of flying and worked hard to invent a machine that would fly and could be steered.

Santos made balloons, trying to make their shape facilitate steering. He added a motor to make them move even against the wind. Yes, his airships crashed. He used that as an opportunity to improve the design.

After Santos had already built five airships, a prize of 100,000 francs was announced for the first person who could pilot an airship from the Aero Club in Paris around the Eiffel Tower and back in less than 30 minutes. His first attempt failed, and Airship No. 5 was destroyed.

This book tells the dramatic story of his next attempt. He won this prize even before the Wright Brothers achieved their historic flight.

Alberto Santos-Dumont’s life and adventures make a good story. It’s dramatic and easy-to-follow – and teaches the reader that there was more to the development of flight than just the Wright Brothers or just what was happening in America. There’s a page of more facts in the back of the book.

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