© 1997 by Thomas F. Yezerski


Spy in the Sky

  • written by Kathleen Karr
  • illustrated by Thomas F. Yezerski
  • Hyperion, 1997
  • 55 pp., black and white illustrations
  • ages 7-10
  • ISBN-10: 0-786-81165-X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-786-81165-6


When Thaddeus Sobieskie Coulincourt Lowe’s hot-air balloon falls from the sky at the start of the Civil War, young orphan Ridley Jones comes to his rescue. Jones joins Lowe in his mission to start a “balloon corps.” The plan is to use balloons and telegraphs to spy on the Confederate troops for the Union army. First, they must journey to Washington and convince President Lincoln to fund their imaginative project, which eventually became the first American air force.


This book was my first-ever children’s book illustration assignment. I had to be sure to get my drawings right, so I spent a lot of time at the library looking in books about the Civil War. I even went to Washington, D.C., as Lowe and Jones did in the story, to see the Smithsonian Institute. The place looks almost like it did when they were there. The main difference is that the Capitol Building is finished now. During the Civil War, the dome wasn’t on it, yet. I thought the image of the Capitol Building being built was a nice symbol of the state of the country at the time, so I put it in the background of one of my pictures.