On one of my California trips, I visited the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where they had a sample of aerogel on display. This substance is like Jello with all the moisture pulled out of it, leaving a stiff solid that is mostly air. It is very light. I speculated about what it would take to go the next step — make a solid where even the air was pulled out, leaving it so light that it was in fact a solid that was lighter than air.
While these thoughts were going through my mind, we were on a trip in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This is very much a land of its own. Even people who live in Michigan tend to forget it’s there. On the shoreline of Lake Superior, there is a lovely little town, Munising. While we toured the surrounding forests and took the tour boat along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, I was constructing this story of a garage inventor with his lighter than air foam, and the next door kid who is given access to his device.
This novel is slightly different than most. While the character is in high school, he was younger than my typical character and more like me when I was that age — not quite interested in girls yet. He also had a best buddy that was modeled after a friend of mine — the guy who knew tools and could build anything. The hero could build model planes. The buddy could build the engines.
It was fun working out the design of the fake flying saucer the two were going to use to prank their school. Let’s be honest, it’s the kind of thing I’d like to do if I were given the opportunity to play with a gadget that grew lighter than air foam.
It was also intriguing working out the more serious threat that swept up his little sister into a dangerous situation.
So, with the satisfaction of working out how to build a flying craft to the memories of the lovely lake port town, Lighter Than air is my favorite.
Next up — My Favorite Book: Falling Bakward