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Our Neighbor Is a Strange, Strange Man

Our Neighbor Is a Strange, Strange Man

by Tres Seymour, Walter Lyon Krudop (Illustrator)

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In illustrations and simple text, tells how Melville Murrell invented the first flying machine in 1876.


In illustrations and simple text, tells how Melville Murrell invented the first flying machine in 1876.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Seymour's (Hunting the White Cow) triumphant tale of Melville Murrell, who in 1876 built the first airplane, champions pioneers who dare to step outside familiar territory. The narrator is a boy in Murrell's Tennessee hometown whose obvious fascination with his eccentric neighbor vies with the disapproving local gossip. Krudop's (Black Whiteness) puckish gouaches emphasize the contrast between Murrell and his neighbors: e.g., he is seen, nose buried in a book, high-stepping past a farmer plowing his field. Thoughtful cropping and imaginatively skewed perspectives draw attention to the elements likeliest to intrigue kids: pulleys in Murrell's workroom; Oz-like balloons in his living room; Murrell, clad in hat, suit and tie, up in a tree, taking notes on birds in flight. Seymour's details are equally well chosen ("They say he used to jump off the old stone wall/ flapping cabbage leaves to FLY, for goodness' sake,/ when he was a boy"). The title line repeats throughout and at the end, when Murrell signals for takeoff: "And he expects the clacking, whumping, whizzing thing to go! Our neighbor is a strange, strange--OH!... It FLIES!/ For goodness' sake." Sure to pique readers' interest. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Gwendolyn Bradley
Mr. Murrell is a peculiar man--he reads as he walks down the road, lives alone in a big house high on a hill, watches birds, draws incomprehensible diagrams, and to top it all off, builds a flying machine. To the surprise of the narrator (a neighbor child), and the rest of the townspeople, the flying machine works. The book's purpose is essentially to set the record straight about who built the first airplane--according to a brief factual epilogue, it was Melville Murrell and not the Wright brothers. This is an interesting historical tidbit, but since the story goes no farther than this and the characters are developed not at all (all we know of Mr. Murrell is that he is considered strange and all we know of the narrator is that he considers Mr. Murrell strange), it does not work very well as fiction.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-The strange neighbor in this brief tale is Melville Murrell, who received a patent in 1877 for the first American "airplane"-a "weird contraption made of wood and pulleys, bolts and strings...." This picture book rescues this little-known eccentric inventor from obscurity. The short, conversational narrative by the boy who lives next door is enhanced by Krudop's bright, full-page paintings. They give life and humor to this brief moment in history when a man flew several yards in a winged platform propelled by other men pulling on ropes. Final notes show the plan of Murrell's construction and tell of its present location in the Smithsonian. The story, a slight bit of Americana, may be useful in a unit on transportation, flight, or history. However, it lacks the depth and richness of the Provensens' story of the French inventor Louis Bleriot in The Glorious Flight (Viking, 1983).-Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
Readers won't find this neighbor strange; he merely entertains an age-old desire to fly. But hark back a 120 years, when this story takes place, and one can begin to appreciate the skeptics who surround Melville Murrell, technically the creator of the first human-powered airplane two decades before the Wright brothers. To the narrator, it's strange that "our neighbor" studies birds, makes drawings, and tries to be airborne. The title sentence becomes a bleating refrain, turning the book into a one-kick joke when Murrell's contraption flies and the narrator is almost rendered speechless. Krudop's paintings, with their great slabs of vibrant color, are atmospheric delights, conjuring up Murrell as the eccentric his neighbors believe him to be, and the era as one in which innovators were no more appreciated-at least till they struck it rich-than they are today. (Picture book. 5-9) .

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.05(w) x 11.31(h) x 0.35(d)
Age Range:
5 - 9 Years

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