Non-Fiction — Review

The Hot Air Balloon BookThe Hot Air Balloon Book
Build and Launch Kongming Lanterns,
Solar Tetroons, and More


by Clive Catterall
Chicago Review Press, 2013
ISBN 978-1-61374-096-5 (sc)
$16.95, 227 pp, b/w photos/illustrations, ages 10+
chicagoreviewpress.com


Clive Catterall’s unique background (he is an elementary teacher as well as a product engineer and technical writer) is reflected in this wellwritten book that offers detailed instructions on how to construct and fly a variety of homemade hot air balloons. It begins with a chapter on the history of ballooning, which is followed by another on weather and launch site concerns, as well as general safety considerations. All of the balloons featured in this book are Montgolfiere types: that is they use hot air rather than helium or hydrogen to fly (with the heat sources ranging from ground-based paint removal guns and modified kitchen toasters to cotton ball burners that stay with the balloon on its flight). There are several variations offered (from simple trash bag balloons to more exotic Khom Fai “fire lanterns”). The designs are well explained and the materials required are usually simple plastic bags or sheets of tissue paper, held together with tape and wire.

Classroom Connections: Grade six teachers across Canada looking for interesting hands-on activities for their science flight/lift/drag units should be pleased since the text is both very detailed and accessible; at one point Catteral explains that a hair dryer is not appropriate for tissue paper balloons since blowdryers generally don’t get hot enough. If they did, they “would scorch the hair off your head. Most people think that would be a bad idea.”

[Review by George Sheppard.]

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