Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Airborne: A Photobiography of Wilbur and Orville Wright

Airborne: A Photobiography of Wilbur and Orville Wright

Mary Collins
Nonfiction  Series
For ages 10 to 12
National Geographic, 2003   ISBN: 978-0792269571

They were a relatively quiet pair of young men and certainly there were few signs that these hardworking, careful bicycle makers would, one day, shake the whole world with their inventions. Orville and Wilbur Wright were very close choosing to take their childhood friendship to another level when they became partners in their work as adults. They were well matched for Orville was charming and "chatty," always tinkering with something or other. Wilbur was "aloof" and something of an intellectual but he was also good at talking to strangers so he became the communicator for the two. Together they found many ways of overcoming technical difficulties both when they had a printing business and later when they opened their bicycle shop.

This partnership continued to work well when the brothers took on the challenge of trying to build a flying machine. Carefully researching their subject they set about trying to solve one problem after another until they had a machine which would support a small engine, which could be controlled in the air, and which would not stall as it flew. Orville and Wilbur studied the mistakes of others and took their machines to the open sands of the North Carolina Outer Banks where there were few obstructions, lots of wind, a no one to watch what they were doing.

Because of their perseverance and determination these two extraordinary people succeeded in their quest and their famous flight of December 17th, 1903 is now in the record books as the first manned flight man ever took. They succeeded where so many others had failed and they went on to continue working in the field of aeronautics and to make their names well known the world over.

What makes this biography special is the emphasis that has been put on the personalities of Orville and Wilbur Wright. It is fascinating to learn that these famous brothers used to have loud arguments, and that they had to live in very close and primitive conditions when they worked at Kill Devil Hills on the Outer Banks. Large double page photographs can be found throughout the book accompanied by quotes from the brothers and from those who were influenced by them. Diagrams and maps help the reader see what the brothers were trying to do and where they went on their many travels.