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Reviews of The Glorious Flight and A Visit to William Blake’s Inn

Alice and Martin Provensen, Authors-Illustrators The Glorious Flight; Across the Channel with Louis Blériot July 25, 1909     g
39 pp. Viking 1983 ISBN 0-670-34259-9  13.45
(Younger, Intermediate)

Soft colors provide a subdued background for the story of Louis Blériot’s struggles to construct and fly and operating airplane. Smitten by the idea of flight, as with a first love, the sad-eyed inventor progresses through a series of magnificent failures – fragile, papery affairs which hop, glide, and flap, usually to a splintery finale. His loving, solemn-faced family, dressed in Victorian ruffles and little black boots, observes his efforts through six years of bruises, sprains, and broken ribs. Ultimately, of course, Papa Blériot does manage to fly his own plane, the Blériot XI, across the English Channel in just thirty-six minutes, and he is a hero at last. A pleasing text recounts Blériot’s adventures with gentle humor and admiration for his earnest, if accident-prone, determination. Best of all, the pictures shine with the illustrator’s delight in the wondrous flying machines themselves. Each strut, fin, and wing is lovingly depicted; but the book also tells the story of Blériot’s loyal family; careful readers will observe the five children growing up as they share the ups and downs of Papa’s glorious career. ETHEL R. TWICHELL

From the December 1983 Horn Book Magazine.

Nancy Willard A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers
44 pp. Harcourt 1981 ISBN 0-15-293822-2  10.95
(Poetry)

Illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen. In her introduction the author tells how she became acquainted with Blake’s poetry when she was seven, and a lifelong love for it has apparently inspired her book. Imagining an inn with “two mighty dragons” to “brew and bake,” a fanciful airborne car to deliver the visitors, a rabbit for a bellboy, and a novel assortment of guests, she has written verses that in spirit and content seem closer to Lear and Carroll than to Blake. “When the rabbit showed me my room, / I looked all around for the bed. / I saw nothing there / but a shaggy old bear / who offered to pillow my head.” It is doubtful that children would perceive a connection with Blake even if they have been introduced to some of his simpler poems. Nancy Willard has recalled motifs, characters, and images from Blake – sunflowers, the tiger, and a kind of peaceable kingdom; and interesting echoes may be heard in “William, William, writing late / by the chill and sooty grate, / what immortal story can / make your tiger roar again?” Blake was a visionary; his fantasy was mystical, his joy intensely religious, and his innocence a state of childlikeness uncorrupted by society. No matter. Nancy Willard’s fantasy is pure pleasure, and her joy is expressed in the juxtaposition of sense and nonsense. The illustrations are full of stylized naïveté – a rather sedate, late-eighteenth-century, middle-class kind of innocence. Done chiefly in glowing tawny colors, the pictures are highly decorative, and the whole book, printed on buff paper speckled to simulate an antique look, presents an elegant appearance. ETHEL L. HEINS

From the December 1981 Horn Book Magazine.

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