________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 29 . . . . April 7, 2017


Orville and Wilbur Wright: Pioneers of the Age of Flight. (Crabtree Groundbreaker Biographies).

Diane Dakers.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2017.
112 pp., pbk., hc. & html, $12.95 (pbk.), $31.19 (List RLB), $24.95 (School RLB).
ISBN 978-0-7787-2611-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-2609-8 (RLB), ISBN 978-1-4271-8103-9 (html).

Subject Headings:
Wright, Orville, 1871-1918 -Juvenile literature.
Wright, Wilbur, 1867-1912 -Juvenile literature.
Inventors-United States-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Aeronautics-United States-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Aeronautics-United States-History-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Val Ken Lem.

**** /4



Unlike other aviators, the Wrights realized that air travel was not a two-dimensional activity, like riding a bike on a road, or moving a boat across water. Flying an aircraft was a three-dimensional pursuit.

An aircraft needed to tilt like a bird did, when it was time to turn. It needed to move up and down through the air. The flying machine's side-to-side movement also had to be controllable.

The Wright brothers were the first to recognize these three elements as the keys to creating a machine capable of safe flight. Armed with this new understanding, the inventive young men put their mechanical know-how to work.

Dakers is at the top of her craft in this biography of the famous American brothers who invented flying machines that could be controlled by a person aboard the craft. This telling of the Wrights' accomplishments includes the right amount of information for readers to gain a full insight into their lives and times. Numerous iconic photographs of gliders, aircraft, people and documents complement the text. Abundant use of the Wrights' own words brings authoritative voice to the body of the text or in supplemental insets. Two of Orville Wright's quotations are identified as coming from an article published in 1908 in Century Magazine. Some quotations are drawn from letters but exact citations are not given. Many quotes do not indicate a source.

      The brothers grew up in a household where thinking and tinkering were both valued. A childhood flying toy featuring a rubber torsion motor was an early inspiration. Dakers includes a concise page about the French inventor of the toy motor and his tragic death. Thus, almost from the start, she develops one storyline about the Wrights' experiments and inventions being part of a global quest to become airborne. Later in the biography, Dakers includes information about competitors in Europe and the Americas and especially their archrival, fellow American Glenn Curtis. Some of the confusion about who flew first is attributed to the fact that the Wrights stopped flying at the end of 1905 for a couple of years while they waited for their patent application to be processed.

      It is not surprising that the Wrights' efforts to profit from their work led to legal challenges and claims of patent infringement. Without dragging out this side of the tale, it is clear from Dakers' account that the brothers won some arguments and lost others. In the end, however, they perhaps gained more fame from their accomplishments than they did monetarily. Legal and business matters took a toll on Wilbur who collapsed with typhoid fever and died in 1912 at the age of 45. Orville continued developing aircraft and his business for a few years before selling the Wright Company and its patents in 1915. From his private office and workshop in downtown Dayton, Ohio, Orville continued to develop innovations to aircraft technology and worked on other inventions. He died from a heart attack in 1948 at the age of 76.

      The volume includes a useful chronology, glossary, index, and lists of additional information. The bibliographical references include four books suitable for young readers including one graphic novel, five online videos, and four websites. The videos and websites include brief annotations and complete internet addresses. Given the abundance of information available on the internet, readers and teachers alike will appreciate Dakers' highlighting some of the best online sites.

      Orville and Wilbur Wright is a captivating tale of two of the worlds' most celebrated inventors. Readers should pause to marvel at their accomplishments. In an era where STEM research continues to hold great promise for future generations, this book may inspire some curious minds to become pioneers themselves.

Highly Recommended.

Val Ken Lem is the history, English and Caribbean studies librarian at Ryerson University in Toronto, ON..

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.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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