________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 14 . . . . March 15, 2002

cover Book of Flight: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Judith E. Rinard.
Willowdale, ON: Firefly Books, 2001.
127 pp., pbk. & cl., $19.95 (pbk.), $24.95(CL).
ISBN 1-55209-599-1 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55209-619-X (CL).

Subject Headings:
National Air and Space Museum.
Aeronautics-United States-History.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Alexander Gregor.

*** /4


"Since ancient times, people have dreamed of flying like birds. In Greek myths, heroes made wings to fly. In Persian legends, people zoomed through the sky on magic carpets. The ancient Chinese invented kites, and some reportedly carried humans aloft. During the Middle Ages, many people tried to fly. Some strapped on wings of cloth or feathers and jumped off towers or cliffs. Yet nothing worked and many died.

Then in 1785, two French brothers, Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier, invented the hot-air balloon. Working in their family's paper factory, they noticed that paper put on a fire was lifted up the chimney. They filled a large cloth-and-paper bag with hot air from a fire. The hot air made the balloon lighter than air; and it rose over Paris, carrying two noblemen. This was the first recorded human flight."

This lavishly illustrated (over 350 photographs and illustrations), large-format book offers a sampling of the holdings of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., vaunted as the most visited museum in the world. Not surprisingly, the book is in large measure a celebration of the United States' contribution to the conquest of air and space; but enough recognition is made of the work of other nations to ensure a reasonably balanced overview of the topic. The book is organized on an essentially chronological basis, which, given the nature of the topic, leads naturally to de facto thematic groupings and an kind of unfolding narrative as well: pioneering efforts; war-time developments; the development of space craft and satellites; etc. In addition are sections that touch on such matters as types of aircraft (from balloons, through dirigibles, to space stations); and the various functions to which they have been set (from airmail to transport). It is possible, therefore, either to browse through the book, touching on individual topics of particular interest; or to use the book as a whole to trace a coherent set of developments. Each of the almost sixty topics is presented as a two-page spread, with a brief introductory note, followed by about six or seven annotated photographs, paintings, maps, and museum artifacts, most of which are in colour. Interspersed with the photographs are what are labeled "Fun Facts" (e.g., "As a young man, Charles Lindbergh was a barnstormer. Once after a show, an old lady came up and asked him: 'Mister, how much would it cost to fly me up to Heaven and leave me there?'"); and "History Facts" (e.g., "The Germans [during World War I] planned, but never built, an even bigger triplane bomber with a wingspan of nearly 170 feet! It was to be a transatlantic warplane that could attack the United States.") Some of the major individual heroes of flight have their own sections; but these again tend to be principally American (the Wright brothers, Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, for example; but no Antoine de Saint-Exupery).

     The book concludes with a useful time-line synopsis of the "Milestones of Flight," a useful Glossary, and an Index. Unfortunately, no bibliography of suggested further reading is offered something that could have enhanced the pedagogical potential of a book that most certainly will spark student interest and questions.

     The book is aimed at the general reader and will be of interest to any adult curious about the topic. It also incorporates enough topics and issues to allow effective classroom use as a springboard for further study in a wide range of topics both social and technological.


Alexander Gregor is a Professor of Higher Education, University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364