John Abbott Nez’s latest illustrated book for young readers is an obvious labor of love. The paintings are sheer splendor to look at and young fans will pore over the pages again and again. I lost myself in the images and the action several times, thinking about the worlds Nez so effortlessly opened up with bright colors and intricate pieces.
I hadn’t ever heard of Cromwell Dixon, although I’d heard of the Wright Brothers and others, and I couldn’t help wondering how I’d missed the story of a 14-year old who managed to build a working sky-cycle in 1907. I mean, come on. Building a sky-cycle is something I would have tried when I was a kid. If I’d heard of it.
I’m glad I got to the story now. This book is a treat for parents to read to youngsters, and you can spend a lot of time gazing at the weird flying machines Nez draws so enticingly on the page. The narrative structure is simple and easy to read. More than that, it’s a lot of fun.
And most of all, the story is true. There really was a Cromwell Dixon. He really did build a sky-cycle that flew during the 1907 St. Louis Airship Carnival.
The story details the setback Cromwell had when constructing the first sky-cycle and the mishap that struck while he was airborne during the race. It would have been fun to imagine what it must have felt like to fly the sky-cycle if this had just been a work of fiction, but knowing it is based on fact, don’t be surprised if your young audience has lots of questions about how the trip must have been for young Cromwell. My suggestion would be to read this one to your young dreamers, then break out paper and Crayons and get busy designing airships and think about what’s possible.