I did not intend to read two similar books on vacation a couple weeks ago. We went to Ohio for the bi-annual trip to see family. As the family lives on a farm with dial-up internet (yep, totally serious), I tend to do a lot of reading. I borrowed a book from my reliable librarian friend Hannahlily and well, since I met her at the library, I grabbed another book. I had a vague idea what Flygirl was about– um, the title is pretty self-explanatory– but Code Name Verity was borrowed on the sole recommendation of Hannah and I had no idea what it was about.
I had little to no idea that women pilots played a role in World War II. I guess I should’ve realized that Amelia Earhart was a pioneer, but not alone in flight. It was really fascinating to read about programs where women were pilots.
And, these female pilots were good. Really good. As a general rule (yep, gonna get all feminist-y on you), I’ve learned that women in male-dominated fields have to be super-good to get a foot in the door. They have to prove they’re good before they’re given a shot. I learned this in my Christian college when we had female preachers having us on the edge of our seats with their sermons, then we’d fall asleep to the tones of our (male) campus minister.
I’ll be honest, I liked my blurbs that I did a month ago. It was quick and got the job done without me writing incessantly. Let’s jump in:
Flygirl by Sherri L Smith
Ida Mae Jones is a light-skinned African-American girl who flys a dust-cropper on local farms. After the war starts and her brother joins the army, she feels helpless as a woman. When her younger brother brings home an article about WASP (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots), she decides to join. The problem is that she doesn’t have an official license because few people would give a license to an African-American, and fewer to an African-American girl. She fixes her father’s license to sign up, and decides to pass as white when another dark woman gets rejected from WASP. The book is about her struggle passing as white, passing as a pilot, and being true to herself.
This was written as result of a master’s thesis, I believe. It was a really interesting story, and I felt like I was learning a lot even if it was in fiction form.
Grades: 6th and up.
Grade: B+/A- It’s good stuff, you learn quite a bit. Story-wise, it’s not edge-of-your-seat reading, but it’s solid and well-written.
Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein
This book is more recently published, so hooray for “blurbs” for fewer spoilers!
The Scottish agent “Verity” jumps from a crashing plane into Occupied France and almost immediately gets arrested as a spy after committing a cultural blunder. Under torture, she proceeds to spill her guts to the Nazis about her and her best friend, the pilot Maddie. In the meantime, Maddie is plotting how to save Verity.
“We make a sensational team.”
This book was SO good. It’s split into two parts: Verity’s story and Maddie’s story. I found myself trying to re-read the book before I had finished because of the way Maddie brings up details how she’s looking for Verity, and the clue is *right there*. (I re-read it pretty much as soon as I was finished and then offered it to my sister-in-law.) As another friend, Grete, pointed out: “The second part makes you completely re-think the first part.” Which is why going back nearly immediately is instinctual.
I’ll tell on Hannah for a minute: I showed the librarian that the book I was holding back from her during checkout was from Hannah, and she goes, “Oh yeah, her new mission is to get everyone to read it.”
Grades: 7th and up
Grade: A. Hannah warned me that some people thought the beginning was slow, but the ending was worth it. Totally. It didn’t take me long to be enthralled in the story.
Know of any other feisty females, pilot or otherwise, that made you rethink or discover something new about history?