Monday, January 30, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: The fabulous flying machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont by Victoria Griffith, illustrated by Eva Montanari

This oversized picture book presents several scenes from Alberto Santos-Dumont's life. Considered by many to be the true first inventor of the airplane, Dumont was famous during the early part of his life, although he quickly sank into obscurity.

This book focuses on three scenes in his life; flying his dirigible around Paris, his friendship with Louis Cartier, inspiring the creation of men's wristwatches, and his first ascension in his plane, wildly successful despite the rivalry of Louis Bleriot. Throughout the three imagined scenes, based on historical events, Dumont's dreams of airplanes as everyday transportation and keys to world peace are emphasized.

A lengthy author's note gives the history of Santos-Dumont's life, the author's inspiration, a few photographs, and context for the three stories included in the book. A bibliography, index, and note on the art is also included.

Eva Montanari's illustrations recreate the historical setting. Her Impressionist style and elongated figures capture the excitement and bustle of Paris after the turn of the century. and focus the reader's eye on the main characters of each scene. There is limited detail in facial features and mechanical areas, but the story is really about personalities and events and Montanari's art reflects this.

I didn't care for this book the first time I read it, the events seemed random and out of context and I disliked the fictional dialogue. However, my interest increased when I read the author's note and looked over the story a few more times and I found the structure interesting after all. It's just enough information to interest students in pursuing the story further, with the three points in the aviator's life providing different perspectives and points for research.

Verdict: Recommended for school libraries or if you're fortunate enough to have adult patrons who still read aloud to their elementary aged children. Keep in mind that the book will probably have to be shelved in your oversized section because of its height.

ISBN: 9781419700118; Published September 2011 by Abrams; Review copy provided by author (for Cybils, but this title was moved to Fiction Picture Books)

1 comment:

Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Hi Jean - it's not the first time that I've seen a mixed-review of this book. Others flatly dislike the dialogue and the entire format, while there are others who did see some redeeming qualities to the text and the illustrations. Hmmm.. I think I should see for myself. Thanks for the review! :)