The (Mostly) True Story
of the First International
Flight by Balloon
Margaret Ferguson Books
Farrar Straus Giroux
A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top
A uthor: Matthew Olshan
and Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
C haracters: Dr. John Jeffries and Jean-Pierre Blanchard
O verview from the jacket flap:
"In the year and a half since the flight of the first manned balloon in 1783, it seems that everyone has taken to the skies. An Italian, a Scot, a woman - even a sheep - have all had their moment of airborne fame. But no one has yet managed to fly from one country to another. Dr. John Jeffries, an Englishman, and his pilot, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a Frenchman, want to be the first. There's only one problem: they can't stand each other! They lift off from England on January 7, 1785, as enemies, but when disaster strikes, they have to work together to come up with a clever (and surprising) solution to save the day."
T antalizing taste:
"Jeffries wanted to make a speech, but before he could say one word Blanchard cut the tethers, and the balloon leaped into the air.
The balloon rose into the sky. By working the oars and the rudder, Blanchard could turn the aerial car this way or that. Soon they were out over the water heading toward France. The views were spectacular, but Jeffries was still upset about his speech.
The winds aloft were brisk. The balloon overtook a warship, which fired its cannon in salute.
Have a safe trip across the Channel!
Have a safe trip across La Manche!
The English Channel!
Which is to say, La Manche!"
and something more: The Author's Note explains that "... the two men did not get along. Blanchard didn't think Jeffries was man enough to make the flight. Jeffries thought Blanchard was a show-off and a trickster.
A Voyage in the Clouds is based on their perilous and successful cross-Channel flight, which took two hours and forty-seven minutes. Most of the story is factual, as recounted in Jeffries's monograph... which was present to the Royal Society in 1785. Blanchard did try to fool Jeffries with a lead-lined vest in the days leading up to the flight, and the two men did, in fact, pee over the side to lighten the balloon when it looked as though they were headed for a crash landing [after they'd thrown everything else overboard]." Hah! Creative and humorous problem solving!