Earlier this week, the Big Idea Competition 2018 launched. If you have an idea for a children’s story, this is your chance to see your idea turned into a novel by a recognised children’s author. That’s exactly what happened to Neal Jackson. Back in 2014, his idea The First Aeronauts won the inaugural Big Idea Competition. Fast-forward nearly 4 years and his idea has been published courtesy of author Emma Carroll and Chicken House Books.
Jackson’s idea is a simple one: tell the story of the first hot air balloon flight. In the year 1783, the race was on between the French and the English to create the world’s first flying machine. Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier eventually triumphed when their balloon took off – with a host of animals on-board. What Emma Carroll has done is created characters and a great little adventure story around this historic context.
Magpie is an orphan with no prospects in life. Then two chance encounters change her life forever. First, a lady asks her to steal a mysterious box from a house. Soon after, she spots a boy flying overhead being dragged by some sort of flying machine. Before long, she works for the Montgolfiers, whilst also having the shadow of her thieving past loom over her.
There is plenty in this book to get your teeth into. Emma Carroll is a master of writing historical fiction for children. Her last novel, Letters From The Lighthouse, won many accolades and awards. Sky Chasers in no exception. Science also plays a key role in this book. After all, it is hard to create the first hot air balloon with science. If you don’t already know why a hot air balloon flies, you definitely will do by the end of the book.
Then there are the characters. Carroll has crafted a great character in Magpie. She is strong, determined and has that never-say-die attitude. The contrast between her and Pierre is wonderful. Neither conform to any stereotype, yet have a distinct voice which is key to the plot. Together, they have the bravery and wisdom to protect each other and their families. They compliment each other to a tee.
I cannot believe that so soon after Letters From A Lighthouse, Emma Carroll has produced yet another book of this quality. It zips along, compelling the reader to continue. More importantly, it opens your eyes to parts of history and science you may never have considered. And that is what reading is about – broadening your horizons and your knowledge. Another fantastic book to start 2018 with!
If you liked this book, why not try: The Jamie Drake Equation (for a bit more science) or My Dad’s A Birdman (for a different take on flight)
Age Reccomendation: 8+
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Chicken House; 1 edition