Lady Icarus: Balloonmania and the Brief, Bold Life of Sophie Blanchard

by Deborah Noyes (Author)

Lady Icarus: Balloonmania and the Brief, Bold Life of Sophie Blanchard
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

A riveting middle-grade biography about Sophie Blanchard, the first woman to work as a professional aeronaut in France in the late 1700s, set against the thrilling backdrop of early flight.

Before Amelia Earhart, there was Sophie Blanchard, the first woman to earn her living in the air. While no one knows the fate of Earhart, a terrified crowd of thousands looked on as French aeronaut Sophie Blanchard met her end in a tragic blaze of glory over the streets of Paris in 1819.

But first, Blanchard made nearly 70 spectacular flights, survived a revolution, and become a court favorite of the emperor Napoleon (who gave her the title, Aeronaut of the Official Festivals) and later of the King of France. Set against the backdrop of the history of flight, watch as Balloonmania-- a phenomenon that riveted all of Europe-- took hold and inspired a great many artists authors, and dreamers.

This lively scrapbook-style biography with more than fifty black-and-white photos throughout, introduces a frightened, nervous girl who became a fearless legend in the skies.

Publishers Weekly

This eye-opening account with more than 50 b&w photographs unveils the "life and times" of Sophie Blanchard (1778-1819), "a shy daughter of peasants" who would become "the world's first professional woman pilot." Recounting both the highs of Blanchard's life--joy in flying solo, and appointment as "Aeronaut of the Official Festivals" by Napoléon--and the lows, including her mentor-husband's death and her own fiery final flight, Noyes dramatically relays information in dialogue-studded text. Inset boxes provide historical, social, and political context, such as natural phenomena and the concepts behind air ballooning. Noyes adopts a dramatic tone to relay a well-rounded portrayal of one of the earliest female fliers, against the absorbing, painstakingly sketched background of the period's balloonmania. Back matter includes an afterword, timeline, and bibliography. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Deborah Noyes
DEBORAH NOYES is the author of nonfiction and fiction for young readers and adults, including A Hopeful Heart, The Magician and the Spirits, Ten Days a Madwoman, and Tooth & Claw, called accessible history for younger readers in a starred review from School Library Journal. You can learn more at and follow her on Twitter @DeborahNoyes.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Random House Studio
Publication date
March 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JNF007120 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Women
JNF038060 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | Europe
JNF057010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Transportation | Aviation
Library of Congress categories
Blanchard, Marie-Madeleine-Sophie Armand

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