The Hindenburg

Patrick O'Brien, Author Henry Holt & Company $17 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6415-5

O'Brien (Gigantic: How Big Were the Dinosaurs?) captures readers' attention by opening his crisp history of this ill-fated airship with its explosion on May 6, 1937, over a New Jersey airfield. The narrative then shifts to 1900, when Hugo Eckener, the German who would go on to design the Hindenburg, falls ""under the spell"" of his countryman Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who has just invented the first dirigible. After documenting the use of these airships as bombers in WWI, the author succinctly recounts the evolution of this technology, the creation of the Graf Zeppelin (a luxury craft that Eckener piloted around the world in 1929) and the engineering and construction of the Hindenburg. O'Brien's lifelike watercolor and gouache paintings pack as much drama as the story he tells: he presents such memorable images as the immense airship serenely approaching Rio de Janeiro at sunset and a chilling view of the Hindenburg--on its last journey--cruising over icebergs, close to the very spot where the Titanic sank 25 years earlier. Then, in his buildup to the climax, O'Brien ends one spread with, ""There was no warning of what was about to happen,"" and readers turn the page for a spectacular wordless full-bleed spread of the fiery explosion. The author wraps up this absorbing account with some fascinating facts (e.g., the tower on the top of the Empire State Building was built as a dirigible mooring mast, which was never used). Ages 7-10. (Oct.)
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