Beyond Amelia: Picture Books About Women In Aviation

It's that time once again!  March is Women's History Month, and here on Silver Shoes & Rabbit Holes, I plan to devote some time here and there to some of the books I'm reading with my daughters.  To kick things off, I want to highlight some picture books about Little Sis's favorite topic:  FLYING!  IN AIRPLANES!

I have covered my youngest daughter's fascination with Amelia Earhart before, but in honor of Women's History Month, I wanted to expose her to some other daring women in planes.  Then A Mighty Girl, one of the best resources for cool girls' stuff on the web, posted this picture of Amelia on Facebook.  Sure enough, this week, March 3-9, is Women In Aviation Worldwide Week!  How awesome (and timely) is that!

Over the last couple of evenings, we have read five picture books about three female pilots.  [There is one more book that we are still waiting for, but I wanted to get this post done before the end of the week.]

We read:

Ruth Law Thrills A Nation by Don Brown.
HMH Books for Young Readers, 1993.

Ruth Law set out to accomplish something that had never been accomplished before. She wanted to fly from Chicago to New York City in one day.  The year was 1916, and the existing record for one continuous flight was 452 miles, set by a man. Ruth didn't make it to New York City - nightfall hit, and Ruth's plane had no lights, as she had to make room for extra fuel. However, she did set a new record: She flew 590 miles in one day!  {Watch the Reading Rainbow segment on Vimeo.}

Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss, illustrated by Carl Angel. Tricycle Press, 2009. 

Maggie Gee grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. As a girl, her family would go to the Oakland airport just to watch the planes, and Maggie would dream of someday spotting her hero, Amelia Earhart.  During WWII, Maggie's mother went to work in a factory, and Maggie dropped out of college to become one of only two Chinese-American women to serve in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).  While she couldn't fight, she helped train male pilots for combat.  This book has lovely pictures.  It is Little Sis's favorite of the bunch, by the way.

 From left to right:  Nobody Owns the Sky by Reeve Lindberg [Candlewick Press, 1998];
Fly, Bessie, Fly by Lynn Joseph, illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan
[Simon & Schuster, 1998]; 
and Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizaeth Coleman by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by E.G. Lewis. 

We read three books about Bessie Coleman, the first black female aviator, and the first African-American aviator period.  I grouped them in order of simplest to most complex, in terms of text.  Nobody Owns the Sky has the distinction of being written by Reeve Lindbergh, daughter of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh.  The book is written in rhyming verse, and written well - of course, Reeve Lindbergh's mother was quite a writer, as well.  Fly, Bessie, Fly is written more plainly, with quite a bit more text.  The illustrations are bright and cheerful.  Talkin' About Bessie is the most beautiful of the three books.  The illustrations are gorgeous.  The book is told in free verse, with different people from Bessie Coleman's life taking a page to tell her story.  The words are imagined, but the device works well, especially for older children.  As for Bessie herself, she was born in Texas, and spent her childhood picking cotton when she wasn't in school.  She ran out of money for college, so she followed her brothers to Chicago.  Upon hearing her brothers' stories of the female French pilots they encountered during WWI, she decided to become a pilot.  No flight school in the U.S. would teach her, so she learned a little French and went to France to earn her pilot's license.  She returned home, and took on barnstorming tours and lectures, saving to someday open a flight school for African-Americans.  Alas, she died before she could make the school a reality, thrown from a crashing plane in 1926.

We are still waiting on one more book to come in to our branch of the library.

Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton by Meghan McCarthy.  Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2013.

There are samples of the book at the Simon & Schuster website, and lots of activities and info at Meghan McCarthy's website, too.

According to Wikipedia: "Betty Skelton Erde was a land speed record holder and aerobatics pilot who set 17 aviation and automobile records. She was known as The First Lady of Firsts, and helped create opportunities for women in aviation, auto racing, astronautics and advertising."  

I'm excited to read this one!  Until then, here is a great book trailer!

Thanks for joining us for our first Women's History Month post of 2014!  There is lots more history to come!  Until then, Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

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  1. well these look very extremely fun!!! i can totally see Lil Sis becoming a world explorer some day.....:)

    1. I'm debating whether or not to show the movie Fly Away Home. She would probably love it, but I don't want her to think we'll let her fly a plane as a kid. ;)


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