A encounter with a boy dangling from the sky changes pickpocket Magpie’s life forever. Like her, the boy dreams of flying over the rooftops of Paris. His family, the Montgolfiers, are desperate to be first to discover the secret of flight. Together with Pierre, Magpie is soon caught up in a world of inflatable bloomers, spies and a trio of unruly animals in a race to be the first to fly a hot air balloon – in front of the King and Queen of France.
Every once in a while I read a book that has no fantastical elements whatsoever, but for some reason seems infinitely magical. This is one of those books. From the beginning of Chapter One I was swept up in the story, and the characters, and the science, and the animals…and EVERYTHING, you guys. It was just a rush of loveliness throughout–a joyful celebration of flight and smarts and friendship. It was also pretty darn feminist. I LOVED IT.
Our main character, Magpie, is a badass. She is tough, and street-smart and savvy, but also SO full of kindness and wonder. I adored her relationship with Coco, her pet, but also with all of the animals she encounters throughout the story. Magpie, as a young PoC in 18th Century France, faces so many trials–on account of her race, her gender, her social position (at the beginning of the book she is homeless, and has no family). The exploration of the prejudice she faces is honest and unflinching.
The plot was fast-paced and exciting, the villain complex and ultimately empathetic, the writing GORGEOUS and the characters completely lovable. This is a book I will treasure, and read again and again.
If you’re a fan of middle grade historical fiction that celebrates awesome girls, pick up SKY CHASERS asap.