LADY ICARUS: BALLOONOMANIA AND THE BRIEF, BOLD LIFE OF SOPHIA BLANCHARD by Deborah Noyes
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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.
A few years before the French revolution, a girl named Marie Madeleine-Sophie was born to a peasant family. Despite the war, her family’s poverty, and the obstacles of gender-inequality, she would grow up to be one of the most famous aeronauts of her generation.
This middle grade nonfiction title delves into a fascinating aspect of French history that was entirely unknown to me. Because little is known about Sophie Blanchard’s childhood, the first 75% of the book focuses on the history of ballooning, the political backdrop of the French Revolution, and the aeronaut who would eventually marry Sophie, Jean-Pierre Blanchard. Therefore, this title is more likely to hook readers who are interested in the history and science of early aviation than those looking for a biography. (Or, since it is a biography, it could be an ideal choice for students who are required to read a biography for class but are more interested in broader histories or science.) Despite the dearth of information about Blanchard’s life before her marriage, Noyes makes sure to include mentions of young Sophie’s age and family situation at the time of significant historical events to speculate as to how they might have affected her. She also includes interesting and useful asides about the science of ballooning and related history and legends. This book will be a solid addition to middle grade nonfiction collections.