Victorian Tales: The Fabulous Flyer


Paris, 1852. Henri Giffard, who works in a railway workshop, has invented an incredible new machine. It’s a hydrogen balloon driven by a steam-engine which turns a propeller. In theory, it can go in any direction, unlike ordinary balloons which are at the mercy of the wind. Today he’s going to fly his air-ship from the Hippodrome racetrack. All Paris is coming to watch. Among the spectators is the wealthy Monsieur Moulin. If Henri demonstrates that he can steer the air-ship, Monsieur Moulin will give him 1000 francs. There’s a lot riding on the flight’s success: Henri owes Monsieur Herbert rent for the use of his barn to house the air-ship, and he’s put all his hard-earned money into his invention. If the experiment doesn’t work, Henri will be penniless.

But things begin to go wrong. Monsieur Herbert won’t let the air-ship leave the barn until he gets his rent, and there’s too much wind for the propellers to steer the air-ship safely. Henri’s young friend Marie insists he must fly today. She promises to go round with a bucket at the Hippodrome to collect money. But first they must get the air-ship out of Monsieur Herbert’s clutches …

I enjoyed this. The blurb says that Terry Deary’s exciting and funny stories are based on real events, and that about sums it up. Henri Giffard’s invention made him one of France’s aeronautical heroes, and his name is immortalized on the Eiffel Tower as a hero who made France great. Mention must be made, too, of Helen Flook’s lively, atmospheric illustrations. For children of 7 plus.

Elizabeth Hawksley

I liked how Terry Deary puts a little girl in an airship with an amazing inventor and describes how she had an adventure in the sky.

And I like the blurb having a hook, ‘Can Henri beat his landlord…’ In both the Terry Deary books I have read, he takes a historical incident and makes it more interesting. His descriptions in this book are thrilling; I especially liked when Henri feared that the barn would be sold to the landlord but things ended up coming good for him. The book is quite easy to read but also exciting; it feels like history.

However, I preferred Terror on the Train because it’s a more exciting story than The Fabulous Flyer. I recommend it as a night time book, not really for school.

Louis McNulty, age 9

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(UK) £4.99

(UK) 9781408154083