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This book was purchased for my youngest son, who is only 3, but has a fascination with flying the Channel. He had seen a picture of Louis Bleriot in another book and never missed a chance to point him out as the first man to fly across the English Channel. I wasn't sure if this book would really be suitable for a 3 year old, but I reasoned my 7 year old could use at as well, especially since we are studying famous flyers. I also felt that even if the book were too advanced - he would grow into it. When it arrive though, I was very pleasantly surprised. This book is really suitable for a wide age range, and it has so many different facets to it.
I am usually very careful to avoid giving away the ending to a book, but with a title like "The Glorious Flight Across the Channel With Louis Bleriot", I think it is fairly obvious that he will successfully fly the channel, even for those who are not already familiar with the name of this famous aviator. I knew of course how this would end, but I really did not know anything about Bleroit before reading this book other than the fact that he flew the channel, so I learned as much from this as my sons did.
Bleriot was not just a pilot - he was also an inventor, and built not only the Bleriot XI aircraft in which he made his successful crossing - but 10 previous models that were not nearly so successful. It all began when Mr Bleriot was out for for a drive in his shiny new motor car. A strange sound from the sky drew his attention from the road, and he ended up in an accident with a cart load of cabbages. But even the sight of the accident can not keep his attention from the sky - where he sees his first glimpse of a flying machine - an airship. It appears Mr Bleriot is quite wealthy, ( he had invented the 1st working automobile headlamp )so he was able to pay the cart owner and everyone left happy. Bleriot, however was obsessed by the flying machine and could not rest until he would be able to take to the skies himself.
Bleriot is nothing if not determined and one disaster after another, including bumps bruises and broken bones does nothing to put him off. He keeps building ( and crashing) one air plane after another, until at last he gets it right - Bleriot VII at last reaches into the skies, but more improvements and new machines will be made before he can attempt the challenge of flying across the channel. A prize of £1,000 offered by the Daily Mail is just the added incentive he needs.
My sons both enjoyed this, as they do like airplanes. The youngest did especially like the part where the plane flies over the Channel. But they also liked all the mishaps, and this is a funny enough story to interest a child with little or no interest in airplanes. As much as he loved the pages with flight, he enjoyed the crash with the cabbage truck just as much. They also liked poor Bleriot's misfortunes and frequent accidents.
The illustrations are old fashioned, but my sons still enjoyed them. The pictures are painted - and do look very French to my eyes. There is a large amount of use of brown, but it comes off quite nicely, and they do convey the sense of another place and time. The aircraft are shown with good detail, and to do look like the pictures I have seen of them in other books. The plane looks quitesmall and light - even fragile, which in fact it would have been.
In addition to be a good story that as fun to read, this book fits in perfectly with our study of famous aviators. It also fits in very nicely with a study of inventors and inventions. It shows that great inventions were not always instant successes. Many times there were years of hard work and failure before success, and only courage and determination saw the inventors through. Of course if they had failed we might just call them daft - but innovation does not come easily - it requires hard graft. This book can even be used to teach some rudimentary geography. We are learning about pilots from different countries, so we looked up France on the globe when reading this, and of course the channel. With one book we were able to combine; the history of aviation, inventors and inventions, science and technology, geography and famous lives, and as if that were not enough, we have a lovely bedtime story as well.
I would recommend this book for ages 4-8 in general, to be stretched to both older and younger children with an interest in flight. This is perfect for the family bookshelf - but equally perfect for the classroom or home educator. The reading level is quite easy, perhaps age 6, except for the French names which my son found impossible to pronounce without help ( and I may very well be pronouncing them incorrectly myself). For this reason, I would recommend a parent help younger readers out on the first reading or two of this book. New copies cost £4.38 from Amazon, including postage, and used copies start at £2.81.
Bleriot opened up the skies. I highly recommend opening up this book.