________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 1 . . . . September 1, 2006


Airplanes: Uncovering Technology.

Chris Oxlade.
Richmond Hill, ON: Firefly Books, 2006.
52 pp., cloth, $16.95.
ISBN 1-55407-134-8.

Subject Heading:
Airplanes-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Reece Steinberg.

***½ /4


The term “seaplane” is normally used to describe a small airplane with floats instead of a wheeled undercarriage. Larger airplanes with a fuselage shaped like the hull of a boat are usually known as “flying boats.” Seaplanes were developed where sheltered bays or large lakes offered huge areas of flat water for takeoffs and landings. In the 1930s, monster flying boats operated on long-distance passenger routes because there were hardly any long, concrete runways for large “land” planes to use.

From da Vinci's early sketches to NASA's experimental hypersonic aircraft, Airplanes by Chris Oxlade, elegantly displays humanity's history of flight. Airplanes is a large format hardcover peppered generously with a variety of coloured illustrations, including antique war posters, small maps and relevant historical figures. It contains detailed information on flying crafts such as hot-air balloons and dirigibles, as well as all types of passenger, fighter and mail planes. The writing, accompanied by clear illustrations and diagrams, is accessible and concise and uses technical language. In addition to the writing on aircrafts, Airplanes offers personal histories for people such as Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. Sidebars with titles, such as “What is the Sound Barrier?” and “The Gulf War,” further explain information alluded to in the text. Interesting facts and figures are woven into the writing; Icarus and Daedalus and their wax wings make a brief appearance, as does the origins of the Ferrari logo.

     Airplanes is an excellent example of nonfiction writing that can be enjoyed both by new enthusiasts and young experts in the field as pleasure reading and also used for school projects. It contains an extensive index and a descriptive table of contents. The book is attractive and well designed. A unique feature of Airplanes is that it includes four overlays which help to show the reader cross-sections of the jet engine and three different generations of planes. The clear overlays, reminiscent of the human anatomy section of the encyclopedia, bring this book above the level of other, similar non-fiction series. The 'Uncovering' series includes three other books on the topics of skyscrapers, the seasons and the human body.

     Unfortunately, Airplanes treatment of some of the sidebar subjects detracts from the many successes in the rest of the book. The background information on both World Wars, September 11, and other controversial events is overly simplified (even for a sidebar) and sometimes uses language that suggests bias. This is a substantial problem, but one that is difficult to overcome considering the complexities of these events. Thankfully, the vast majority of the book is not affected by this issue.

     Airplanes provides current, interesting and useful information on aircrafts of all types, and will prove to be an enjoyable resource for readers.

Highly Recommended.

Reece Steinberg is a new youth services librarian in Vancouver and Surrey, BC.

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

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