cover image Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride

Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride

Marjorie Priceman, . . Atheneum/ Schwartz, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82642-9

Priceman (Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin ) offers a hilarious account of the world's first hot-air balloon flight in 1783 at Versailles. Opening with an amusing reportage ("The amateur inventors Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier are ready to test an exciting new kind of transportation.... So, never mind the important people and splendid surroundings. Pay no attention to that little dog or that lady with the towering hairdo"), the text directs readers' attention to the comically expressive animal aviators inside the balloon's basket—a duck, a sheep and a rooster. "This is their story," a four-paneled scene declares, the wide-eyed trio timidly peering above the aloft basket's rim. The book's tour de force is a series of comical wordless spreads depicting the threesome's (imagined) airborne adventures during the eight-minute flight, which ends when "they are greeted with flowers, song, and better food than usual." The humor ranges from the subtle (the sheep and the duck baa and quack, respectively, at the ground below, but the rooster moos when cows come into view) to the more slapstick (e.g., the sheep uses its wooly rump as a bumper to avoid a deflating collision with a steeple, while the duck covers its eyes). Priceman separates her signature flowing-line and vibrant watercolor wash illustrations into halves and quadrants to maintain a lively pace. The story is not all hot air: a short, illustrated chronicle of the Montgolfier balloon experiments concludes this wonderfully embellished version. A tale that's sure to soar with young readers. Ages 4-8. (July)