HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: First Flight: The Story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers
Author: George Shea
Illustrator: Don Bolognese
Publisher: HarperCollins, reissued in 2003
ISBN-13: 978-1424206087 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1424206081 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0064442152 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0064442152 (Paperback)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 4 – 8
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Shea, George. First Flight: The Story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers (published in 1997 by HarperCollins). When Tom Tate hears that Wilbur and Orville Wright are building a flying machine, he can’t wait to try it. Tom’s dad thinks it’s dangerous. Some people think the Wrights are crazy. Can Tom help the brothers get their dream off the ground? We lived in Dayton, OH, where the Wright brothers had their bicycle shop and began their activities which resulted in the invention of the airplane, for fifteen years, and that is where we began our homeschool journey, so we had a lot of opportunity to study about Wilbur and Orville Wright. This I Can Read Book, Level 4, is a slightly fictionalized story from aviation history that tells the delightful tale of young Tom Tate, a boy from Kitty Hawk who befriended Orville and Wilbur and who assisted the Wrights with experiments for their historic flying machine.
The author’s note identifies Tom as a real person and supplies basic information about his life, such as the fact that he took the second solo flight on their first glider, but the story focuses only on “Will and Orv’s” visits to Kitty Hawk. Author George Shea’s fictionalized dialogue is fairly realistic and offers a good inkling of the inventors’ trial-and-error methods. The tale does not end with Tom’s flight, for he continues to watch his friends’ experiments until, in 1903, he is there to see Orv take the first machine-powered flight. Illustrator Don Bolognese has carefully researched his delicate watercolor drawings, which are consistent with photographs of the events. Children will easily identify with the spirit of this boy who enthusiastically volunteered to try out the glider when there wasn’t enough wind to lift the grown men. It is a good introduction to the Wright brothers from a child’s point of view.