Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Women Aviators

Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton
Author/Illustrator: Meghan McCarthy
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 4, 2013)
Audience: Second to Fifth Grade

Description from GoodReads:
A riveting picture book biography of Betty Skelton, aviation and auto racing pioneer, from award-winning author/illustrator Megan McCarthy. In the 1930s most girls were happy playing with dolls. But one girl, Betty Skelton, liked playing with airplanes, watching them fly around outside, and even flying airplanes herself! She lived for an adventure—in the air, the water, and on land—and nothing could stop her, especially not being a girl.

When Betty Skelton was young there weren’t many women flying airplanes or racing cars, but she wouldn’t let that stop her. She was always ready to take on a challenge, and she loved to have fun. Beetty rode motorcycles, raced cars, jumped out of planes, and flew jets, helicoptors, gliders, and blimps. And by the time she was an adult, Betty was known in the press as the “First Lady of Firsts!”

This vibrantly illustrated picture book biography reveals the exciting life of a brave pioneer who followed her dreams and showed the world that women can do anything!

Betty Skelton Day (July 11, 1948) - archival footage but no sound:

Daredevil - Meghan McCarthy's Timelapse Painting:

Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America's Heart
Author: Julie Cummins
Illustrator: Malene R. Laugesen
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (July 23, 2013)
Audience: Second to Fifth Grade

Description from Publisher:
In 1927, airplanes were a thrilling but dangerous novelty. Most people, men and women, believed that a woman belonged in the kitchen and not in a cockpit. One woman, Ruth Elder, set out to prove them wrong by flying across the Atlantic Ocean. Ruth didn't make it, crashing spectacularly, but she flew right into the spotlight and America's heart. This is the story of a remarkable woman who chased her dreams with grit and determination, and whose appetite for adventure helped pave the way for future generations of female flyers.

Trailer for Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women's National Air Derby: Can you spot Ruth Elder in this clip?

My thoughts on these books:
Two fabulous picture book biographies on two amazing women.  I loved discovering these two new releases.  Ruth Elder (1902-1977) and Betty Skelton (1926-2011) may not seem unique today, but as young women, what they attempted certainly was.  In 1927, just a few short years after women received the right to vote, Elder attempted to fly a plane across the Atlantic.  Though she did not succeed, she continued to fly.  In 1929, Elder and twenty other women pilots participated in the first Women's National Air Derby race which has become the subject of the documentary, Breaking Through the Clouds.

Skelton's interest in flying was just the beginning of a career that included being a stunt pilot, race car driver, and even training to see if women had what it takes to go into space.  She was truly a daredevil with a love of speed and new excitements.

The styles of the two books seem to match these fascinating women.  Meghan McCarthy uses a more animated cartoon style for the illustrations in Daredevil, whereas, Malene Laugesen's choice of paintings seem to match the elegant and sophisticated Ruth Elder.   

Watch C-SPAN's oral history interview with Betty Skelton regarding her experiences, career, and also, training to be an astronaut.

Both books would make great additions to any classroom or school library.  Look for each book at your local bookstores or public libraries.

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