Already, this year is turning out great for children's books. Some of the review copies I've received are just awesome and Flygirl is definitely one of those. A fabulously written book on a unique subject, one I had never read a novel about, let alone a young adult novel, filled with rich, comforting characters that make you want to hug your family and friends. Watch out for this one folks...I hear awards calling!
Sherri L. Smith has created this incredibly interesting story of a young black girl living during the time of WWII and the Jim Crow laws, dying to be a pilot like her daddy. Ida Mae learned to fly from her father, spending hours with him in his plane before he died. Now that her brother has gone off to war and she spends her days cleaning rich people's homes, Ida Mae believes her dreams of being a pilot will never come true. Not only can she not fly the plane during times of war, but she has to help support her family, taking care of her mama, grandfather, and younger brother until her older brother can return home.
When Ida Mae finds out about the WASP program, the Women's Airforce Service Pilots, she knows she has found a way to fly. Everyone knows that a black woman can't join, but Ida Mae's skin can almost pass for a white girl's. With that characteristic...and her father's pilot license, a poor, black girl from the South just may make it in a white man's world, flying planes.
Through constant prejudices, both gender and race related, Ida Mae follows her dream, but not without hardship. Her brother is missing in the war, her mother feels Ida Mae's place is at home, and if anyone were to find out about the African blood running through her veins, home is exactly where she'll go. Ida Mae feels she is truly making a difference through the WASP program, but constantly feels she isn't able to be herself. Identity is the theme here, really knowing oneself even when forced to be something you're not.
Readers are going to be continuously rooting for Ida Mae to succeed, but there is so much heart in her family ties, at times you may even want her to fail, just to have her go home and help her family. That's how truly wonderful this engrossing book is. There are two parts to Ida Mae's life, thus two parts to the plot, each of which blends beautifully into the other.
I was really impressed with all I learned about the WASP program during WWII. Even being an Air Force wife, I didn't know much about this program and the manner in which Smith wove the historical information into her story was very smoothly done. I really love when I can be entertained, but learn something at the same time and Flygirl completely fills both of those wants. The writing is great, the info plentiful, and the heart is everywhere.
The only aspect I didn't completely enjoy was that Ida Mae never did reveal her true self to her friends. She became so close with several of the girls, but never let them in on the fact that was black. I'm sure it's because they probably would have dismissed the friendship and that was another story that didn't completely need to be told, but I still would have liked to see what would have happened once they were aware their friend was not truly white.
A wonderful selection for young adults and even those mature middle grade readers. Nothing too violent or inappropriate for that age group.
To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.
Sherri L. Smith