Friday, March 11, 2011

SPL Shelf Life [kids]

These reviews appeared in the Stratford Gazette on March 9, 2011
Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian

Soar, Elinor! By Tami Lewis Brown, 38 pages.
Who became the youngest licensed pilot, male or female, in the United States when she was sixteen years of age? Many people would guess that it was Amelia Earhart, but it was actually Elinor Smith, a young woman whose name is rarely heard now.
Elinor went for her first airplane ride when she was six years old. By ten years of age, she was already taking flying lessons – with blocks strapped to the rudder bar so that her feet could reach it. When Elinor was sixteen, she obtained her pilot’s license. The year was 1928.
Elinor’s next challenge surprised everyone. Hearing a stunt pilot comment that a woman couldn’t possibly fly a plane under one of the four bridges crossing New York’s East River, she decided to fly under all of them.
Flying under any of the East River bridges was certain to be very difficult and dangerous. Swirling gusts of wind could whip a small plane into the stone pillars of a bridge in seconds. Elinor planned carefully. She visited New York, inspected every inch of her route, studied tide tables and calculated speed, distance and weight.
On October 21, 1928, Elinor put on her lucky sneakers and successfully flew her Waco 10 under the four New York bridges spanning the East River – a feat which no one had ever mastered before. To do so, she had to fly her plane sideways under the last bridge to avoid a Navy destroyer!
Elinor was congratulated by crowds of people, including Charles Lindbergh, and the newspapers were filled with coverage about the “aviation pioneer” who had shown the world “what a girl could do…”
In later years, Elinor accepted even more aviation challenges and in 2000, at 89 years of age, she became the oldest person to “fly” NASA’s Space Shuttle Simulator.
Tami Lewis Brown’s inspiring and true story of Elinor Smith has been beautifully and colourfully illustrated with artist Francois Roca’s expressive oil paintings.
** Recommended for ages 6 to 11 years.
Flygirl, by Sherri L. Smith, 278 pages.
@ SPL: YA PB Smi
Ida Mae Jones had loved flying since the time her father, a pilot, would take her flying in his old Curtiss JN-4 when she was a small child in Lousiana. She was determined to become a pilot too. By the Second World War, Ida, now 18 years old, desperately wanted to help in the war effort as a pilot, but she knew that it would be extremely difficult. Why?  It was because she was a woman, and because she was black.
Ultimately, Ida was successful in joining the newly-formed Women Airforce Service Pilots, but she had to “pass” as a white woman to do so. It was difficult for Ida to reject her racial heritage in order to practice this deception, and she also lived with the constant fear of discovery. However, with her brother away fighting in the Pacific, she was resolute in doing her part too, at whatever cost.
Flygirl is a very readable and fast-moving novel which although fiction, successfully highlights the racism and restrictions on women existing in the United States at the time. The story also includes lots of detail about flying and the War. Ida Mae is a believable and likeable heroine, and readers will cheer her indomitable spirit as she achieves her dream despite many odds.
** Recommended for ages 12 to 16 years.

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