May. 8th, 2017

osprey_archer: (books)
I had never heard of Louis Bleriot before I read the 1984 Caldecott Medal winner, The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot, which is about, well, what it says on the tin: the Frenchman who designed and flew the plane which was the first to fly across the English channel. (He was apparently mobbed by ecstatic Englishmen when he landed, much as Charles Lindberg was mobbed by ecstatic Frenchmen after crossing the Atlantic solo. People got really, really excited about planes by then.)

Anyway, it's a charming book. Louis Bleriot made at least a dozen prototypes before he finally put together the plane that withstood the channel test, and a couple of the early ones either never got off the ground or ignominiously crashed within seconds of liftoff, and he just keeps picking himself up, dusting himself off, and designing another one despite the broken ribs. When he crossed the channel, he was walking on crutches from an earlier plane crash injury. Now that's commitment!

Seriously though, he doesn't seem to have realized that it's important to be able to land the plane as well as get it in the air. Oh Bleriot.

The illustrations remind me of the ones in The Ox Cart Man - there's a similar purposeful stylized flatness to them; or I'm not sure flatness is the right word - but they both ignore classical perspective in favor of what one might call emotional perspective, where the relative sizes of things are decided in part by their importance.

The pictures also have lovely soft watercolor backgrounds - particularly good for rendering sky and water, which is after all what you want in a book about flying over the English channel.


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