cover image Mouton's Impossible Dream

Mouton's Impossible Dream

Anik McGrory. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-202195-5

McGrory bases her spirited debut on the true story of the world's first free-flying balloon flight, masterminded in 1783 by Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier near the palace of Versailles. Each day, Mouton, a sheep living on the Montgolfier farm, gazes longingly on the brothers' drawings of flying machines and declares, ""Someday I'm going to fly."" Then one day the farmers load their wagon with the drawings and materials to construct a flying balloon. They also pack the rooster, as one brother, in one of McGrory's clever handwritten asides, queries, ""C'est mon d ner?"" The sheep and duck surreptitiously follow the wagon to Versailles and, after reaching the palace grounds, the animals hide in a large basket, which turns out to be the base of the flying balloon. The brothers decide to let the three creatures test the balloon (""If the animals can fly, we'll know it's safe!"") and Mouton's ""impossible dream"" comes true. McGrory's watercolors make less of an impact than her text, in part because her palette often seems washed out. She incorporates period details and her animals frequently sport endearing expressions, but her compositions aren't always sufficiently filled in or framed to show off these strengths. On balance, however, the book offers a diverting mix of fact and fancy. Ages 3-7. (Apr.)