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February 15, 2017 BOOKLIST
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The exploits of history’s female fliers make for thrilling reads, and Matthew Clark Smith’s picture-book biography Lighter Than Air tells the exciting story of balloonist Sophie Blanchard, the world’s first woman pilot. Here are a few titles about the daring women who followed her lead.
Brave Harriet. By Marissa Moss. Illus. by C. F. Payne. 2001. HMH, $16 (9780152023805). Gr. 2–4.
Moss presents a vividly written introduction to Harriet Quimby, the first woman to receive an American pilot’s license and the first woman to fly solo across the English Channel. Scenic mixed-media artwork and romantic portraits of Quimby beautifully illustrate this memorable account of her flight.
Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton. By Meghan McCarthy. Illus. by the author. 2013. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (9781442422629). K–Gr. 3.
In the 1940s, there were no opportunities for Betty Skelton to fly for a commercial airline or the U.S. Navy, so she became a stunt pilot and was later invited to undergo astronaut training tests with NASA. A charmingly illustrated offering on a lesser-known woman in American aviation.
Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine. By Heather Lang. Illus. by Raúl Colón. 2016. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek, $16.95 (9781620916506). K–Gr. 3.
On a windy November morning in 1916, strong-willed Ruth Law set out to fly from Chicago to New York in one day—a distance that had never before been attempted. The story is enhanced by quotes from Law and Colón’s signature pointillist-style illustrations.
Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic. By Robert Burleigh. Illus. by Wendell Minor. 2011. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, $16.99 (9781416967330). Gr. 1–4.
Burleigh’s story concentrates on Amelia Earhart’s 1932 nail-biting, solo flight from Newfoundland to Ireland, placing poetic emphasis on her desire for women to match the accomplishments of men. The illustrations maintain tension by alternating between cockpit close-ups and wide views of the plane crossing the foreboding ocean.
Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee. By Marissa Moss. Illus. by Carl Angel. 2009. Tricycle, $16.99 (9781582462806). Gr. 3–5.
This well-crafted picture book for middle grades offers a look at WWII’s Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) through the experience of Maggie Gee, an Asian American pilot. Based on interviews with Gee, this has a lovely, personal feel to it and allows her love of flight to shine through.
Soar, Elinor! By Tami Lewis Brown. Illus. by François Roca. 2010. Farrar, $16.99 (9780374371159). Gr. 2–4.
Inspiration soars from this biography of Elinor Smith, who was voted “Best Woman Pilot in America,” became a test pilot, and at 89, “flew” NASA’s space shuttle simulator. The main narrative centers on Smith’s daring 1928 flight beneath four of New York’s East River bridges, which Roca’s accomplished full-bleed paintings bring to dramatic life.
Talkin’ about Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman. By Nikki Grimes. Illus. by E. B. Lewis. 2002. Scholastic/Orchard, $16.95 (9780439352437). Gr. 2–5.
Through a series of closely related, free-verse poems, Grimes offers a many-sided portrait of the first African American aviatrix, Bessie Coleman. Here, friends and family gather to mourn Coleman’s death and reminisce about her extraordinary life. Lewis’ subdued paintings reflect the spirit of the verse through telling details and sensitive, impressionistic portrayals.
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