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My Brothers' Flying Machine: Wilbur, Orville, and Me    by Jane Yolen & Jim Burke order for
My Brothers' Flying Machine
by Jane Yolen
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Everyone has heard of Orville and Wilbur Wright and their 1903 flight at Kitty Hawk, but what about their sister Katherine? Her story is told beautifully by Jane Yolen in My Brothers' Flying Machine. The book is illustrated with lovely paintings by Jim Burke, that give a strong sense of period.

It opens with a quote from Orville Wright who tells us that much of the brothers' efforts 'has been inspired' by their younger sister. The story continues with Katherine's stream of consciousness point of view of events, beginning when she was four years old and her father brought home a toy airplane ... 'Is it a bat? Orv asked. Or maybe it was Will.' Early experiments with model planes taught them the problems of scale, and the brothers continued to build kites and a printing press, with encouragement from their parents, and practical help from their Mama. When she died of tuberculosis, Katherine took over 'keeping the house, making the meals, and always giving the boys applause'.

Though Katherine graduated from college and became a teacher, she later ran her brothers' bicycle shop so they could concentrate on their inventions ... 'I kept the store. Will and Orv kept the sky.' She tells us of the stages her brothers went through, of building wind tunnels, discovering lift and drag, experimenting with different types of wings, and finally achieving success. It was good to read that Katherine herself eventually had a chance to fly beside Will in France in 1909, with a rope around her skirt to keep her legs from showing.

While My Brothers' Flying Machine does an excellent job of capturing the excitement of the potential of invention, and laying out the steps and time involved in the process, it also makes one wonder if this particular invention and others would have ever happened without the support of those around the inventors, especially in this case Katherine Wright.
Note: Have a look also at My Brother's Flying Machine teacher guide

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