My cousin Jack Waugaman, who sells old books and prints, told me the story of Alberto Santos-Dumont and said it would make a wonderful children's book. I was, indeed, amazed by Alberto's story. After Jack gave me Alberto's biography "My Airships," I knew I had to do a children's book about Alberto. His story is magical. Never have I read such beautiful descriptions of flight and the sky, and Alberto's spirit and accomplishments are breathtaking. His dreams, patience and determination, humility, generosity, whimsy and joie de vivre are inspiring and delightful. This sensitive, gentle man overcomes enormous obstacles to make his dreams come true. He is perhaps the only aviator to master both lighter than air (his balloon and blimps) and heavier than air (his planes) flying machines. He designed, fabricated, and flew the smallest basketed passenger balloon airships before Zeppelin, and the first ultralight airplane. His stunning list of aeronautical accomplishments is not complete, however, without conveying his spirit.
To try to capture his spirit, I chose to do this book with painted illustrations as opposed to photographs. There are no photos that depict the beauty of the sky and flight as Alberto describes them. The only way to recreate his poetic descriptions was to paint them. When photos were available, they served as inspiration for paintings in the book.
I also used painted illustrations because I want children to sense that a biography can be as exciting as a fairy tale. I want children to see life as an adventure, like a fairy tale, where dreams can come true with enough work, patience, and dedication: "Follow your dreams. You never know where they may lead you and what wonderful things can happen!"
The power of Alberto's spirit, deeply affected me; and I know that this amazing story can do the same for others. Because his achievements are based on his childhood dreams, his story is especially inspiring for children. Because of his patience and determination, he teaches us never to give up despite impossible odds. Because of his delight in the world around us, he teaches us to enjoy life, even as we struggle to achieve our goals. Because of his generosity, he teaches us to think of others. Because he worked alone, he teaches us that one person can make a difference. I can not think of Alberto without smiling. His story will make you smile too.
I have to thank my publisher, Prometheus Press, for making this the most beautiful children's biography I have ever seen. The text pages have colors and details taken from the facing illustrations. (This site includes some sample illustrations and one double page excerpt so you can see what I mean.) The book is 76 pages of vibrant color; it's like holding the spirit of Brazil in your hands. It will make your heart sing. Even the more detailed biography and time table at the end of the book are in cheerful colors with beautiful borders. The book is in a bilingual Portuguese/English format to develop language skills and is suggested for children ages 6-12. It is available in Brazil and on Amazon.com.
Finally, this book will give me the chance to help children in Brazil. If it does well, we can help a lot of children. I'm donating all my profits to charities helping children in Brazil. The gift of this book will inspire a child in your life, it will revive the story of a wonderful historical figure, and it will help the children of Brazil. Thank You.
Best Wishes for All Your Dreams,
Elisabeth P. Waugaman
P.S. The author/illustrator was awarded the Alberto Santos-Dumont medal at the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C., in August of 2006.