Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

First Flight: The Story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers

First Flight: The Story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers

George Shea
Illustrator:  Don Bolognese 
Historical Fiction
For ages 5 to 7
HarperCollins, 1997   ISBN: 978-0064442152

Tom Tate is out fishing one day and is walking home with a good catch when he meets two oddly dressed men who introduce themselves as Orville and Wilbur Wright, or "Orv and "Will". They tell him the most peculiar story about what they are doing in Kitty Hawk. Then they show him a large kite like contraption that they have built which they say will fly through the air. They say it is a "flying machine." Tom believes them at once and later they let him take a ride in the overlarge kite. What is really annoying for Tom is that his friends think he is telling one of his stories. Even when they see the machine for themselves they don’t believe anything he tells them about the two brothers from Ohio.

After much work and many flights Orv and Will leave for the year but return the next summer with what they think is a new and improved machine. However there are many problems with the glider and the brothers soon leave for Ohio to try to figure out what is wrong with it.

The brothers return in September of 1903 with a new glider which does very well and they are now sure that they have a flying machine that they can add an engine to. So, they head back to Ohio to work on the machine some more. When they return to Kitty Hawk the brothers run into some troubles. There are storms that make it dangerous to fly and the propellers are not working properly. Tom’s father dosen’t want his son to be anywhere near the Wright camp. Is Tom going to miss seeing his friends fly their powered flying machine for the first time?

In this simple yet engaging chapter book we are taken to the sand dunes on the North Carolina Outer Banks. We see what occurred there one hundred years ago through the eyes of a small boy, and we can imagine what it was like to witness the very first manned and powered flight. A charming little book for a beginning reader. At the back of the book there is an author’s note about the "real" Tom Tate and a description of his friendship with the Wright brothers.