The Wright Brothers' historic flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on December 17, 1903, takes center stage in One Fine Day: A Radio Play by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, illus. by Bill Farnsworth. The colloquial script makes it accessible for students to dramatize ("Orville: (Excited) How far did I go? How far? Tell me./ Wilbur: Don't know yet, till I figure it. But, oh, my, you flew right off, Orville. I think our pa's going to be mighty proud of you"). Farnsworth's oil on linen portraits strike just the right balance between realism and fancy; a slight smudging at the edges create the feeling of photographs taken with a soft-lens camera and convey the sense of a cream coming true.
The day is December 17, 1903, when Orville and Wilbur Wright made their first successful powered flight above the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk. The two talented brothers from Dayton, Ohio, rose early and managed to make history in the course of a morning. Their story unfolds in the form of an old-time radio play (exactly why is uncertain, except that the author is a devotée of the form). It works fairly well (tips on sound effects are included), although there may be pitfalls for inexperienced actors, the dialogue being exclusively between Orville and Wilbur with a little help from Narrators. Still, the drama could make its contribution to celebrations of the famous flight's 100th anniversary. The author's sources are authentic—taken from letters and reminiscences of the brothers' thoughts and words. Farnsworth's rich sepia-toned paintings, based on photographic sources, are evocative of the period and excellent of the two brothers, although in photos they look somewhat thinner and more gaunt. Young readers might enjoy seeking out reproductions of the original photographs and comparing them with Farnsworth's illustrations. (Many are included in Russell Freedman's The Wright Brothers, as well as a fuller account of the Wrights' achievement.) The play ends with the two inventors walking into the sunset as they trudge the four miles to a weather station to send a telegram to their father at the end of an exciting day. Aviation buffs of all ages will find this an attractive addition to their collections of Wright Brothers' lore. 2003, Eerdmans, Ages all.
— Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Through introductory narration and clear, no-nonsense dialogue, Van Steenwyk tells the story of the fears, hopes, and dreams of Orville and Wilbur Wright on that fateful day in Kitty Hawk in December of 1903. Written as a radio play with suggested sound effects and accompanied by stunning half- to full-page oil paintings, it is a painless history lesson told from the Wright brothers' point of view. The text, based on reminiscences of the brothers' grand nephew, is informative yet concise, if at times a bit stilted. Readers learn just enough of the general background of the inventors, but the focus is on the events of that one memorable day. The proposed music and sound effects help ignite listeners' imagination, and the author is careful to include specific suggestions on how to create the desired effects. Set between covers designed to look like an old-time radio set, the exceptional illustrations are the highlight of the book. Farnsworth's use of sepia tones underscores the historical nature of the subject, and his expert use of shading and shadow enhances the pictures' realistic feel. These are paintings that not only elucidate but also expand upon the text. This is a natural follow-up, though for an older audience, to Alice and Martin Provensen's picture-book tale of Louis Bleriot (The Glorious Flight [Puffin, 1987]). It's a story that begs to be enacted either on tape or live on stage, and it will provide great motivation for students to create their own radio plays based on historical events.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Van Steenwyk and Farnsworth (When Abraham Lincoln Talked to the Trees, not reviewed, etc.) take young readers back to that thrilling day of yesteryear-December 17, 1903, to be exact-when Orville Wright first flew the powered aircraft he and his brother Wilbur had so methodically invented. Between voiceovers that explain the event's significance, the brothers Wright wake up in their rough Kitty Hawk shack, share breakfast and some stiff banter-"Wilbur: Come on now, Orville, admit it. It was fun when we straightened out the air pressure tables and got 'em right. Orville: Yep. Yep, that was fun"-then struggle out into the windy beach to do the deed. Farnsworth's sepia-toned, impressionistic scenes vividly evoke the setting's desolation, as well as capture a sense of the era. Though likely to be less fun to perform than Paul Fleischman's choral scripts, this brief re-creation is easily doable in a classroom, and makes an inventive way to bring a pivotal historical event to life and handy for next year's centennial. (postscript) (Picture book. 10-12)