Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Explosion Zone - The Wright Brothers: Pioneers of Flight

The Explosion Zone - The Wright Brothers: Pioneers of Flight

Ian Graham
Illustrator:  David Antram 
Picture Book
For ages 8 to 12
Barron’s Educational Series, 2003   ISBN: 978-0764125911

For many people the very idea that humans would ever be able to fly in the air in some kind of machine was preposterous. By the late 1800's it seemed as if the fields of Europe and America were littered with the remains of heavier-than-air flying machines that had crashed during failed flying attempts. All too often men tried to create contraptions that copied birds with wings that flapped. Then a small number of inventors took a different route, they looked at the wings of birds and built gliders. One of the first of these men was a German by the name of Otto Lilienthall. He successfully flew gliders and his successes encouraged two young men in Dayton, Ohio to gather as much information as they could about flight. From there they began experimenting with gliders of various kinds, trying to find out which kind of wings worked the best.

Wilbur and Orville Wright had been working with their hands since they were boys, so building a glider was not hard for them. They took their oversized kite to a place called Kill Devil Hills on the North Carolina coast where they could be sure there would be lots of wind, few trees, and few spectators, and got to work testing their glider. It worked so well that they decided that it was time to make one that was big enough to carry a man.

What followed was a series of gliders, each with its own problems that had to be overcome. There were crashes and set-backs of many kinds and yet progress was made. Ultimately their path of successes led the brothers to build The Flyer, the machine which carried Orville to fly the first powered manned flight on December 17th 1903.

With bright and amusing illustrations, this "Explosion Zone" book offers an entertaining narrative about the lives of the extraordinary Wright brothers, and also explains the principles behind the science of flight. It offers several activities for the reader to try, a glossary of the aeronautical words used in the book, an index, and always interesting little details about the people who were involved in this wonderful true story of "simple boys find greatness and realize their dream."