Race Through the Skies: The Week the World Learned To Fly

Bloomsbury. Jul. 2020. 192p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781547603442.
Gr 6-10–Sandler’s historical overview of aviation focuses on a weeklong air show in the fall of 1908 in Reims, France. The events featured thrilling contests for speed and distance and hosted many of the prominent aviators and aircraft builders of the day, including fierce competition between the American flight pioneer Glenn Curtiss and Frenchman Louis Blériot, the first person to fly across the English Channel. A common theme throughout is the extreme risk for early pilots, such as Peruvian aviator Jorge Chávez, the first person to fly across the Alps, who crashed on descent and died from his injuries. Numerous supplemental texts highlight tangential topics (the design differences between biplanes and single-wing aircraft, the evolution of dirigibles during the same time, and “Women in the Air,” spotlighting pilots such as Bessie Coleman, the first Black and Native American woman to earn her pilot’s license). Copious period photos are integrated cleanly with the text and design. Additional illustrations include newspaper pages and promotional posters. Back matter contains a list of related books, websites, and places to visit, such as the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, NY. No source notes are included, but a bibliography and an annotated list of significant sources are included.
VERDICT The topic doesn’t fall easily into categories and might require hand selling, but this captivating nonfiction read will appeal to anyone interested in the history of flight, inventions, or thrill sports.

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