Six-year-old Elinor Smith took her first airplane ride in 1917. Less than fourteen years later, she had become the youngest licensed pilot in the United States, male or female. A successful and acclaimed pilot in her own right, she was “voted the best woman pilot in the United States by the nation’s fliers, selected over Amelia Earhart as well as other women aviators.” (author’s note) This picture book biography focuses almost exclusively on her successful attempt at flying under not one, but all four of the bridges spanning New York’s East River.
While I really would have appreciated more concrete information regarding this widely unknown pilot, the information that is given is presented in a straight-forward manner. Brown provides the background information needed to put the flight in perspective, such as that flying under the bridges was both dangerous and against the law. While younger readers might get confused by the actions of the government, who “issued her a short suspension from flying [then] asked Elinor to name the plane in the city’s honor,” older readers and adults will realize the internal conflict and struggle of recognizing her bravery and skill along with her unlawful actions.
The pictures, by Francois Roca, provide a wonderful perspective. Readers alternately feel as if they are either in the plane with Elinor or watching the plane fly towards them. Her brilliant, bright red plane literally pops from the page. The graphics are engaging and beg for a second look or a lingering gaze.
As a big fan of Amelia Earhart’s, it’s become apparent to me that she is simply the most well known due to her untimely disappearance. Amelia Earhart was not the only female pilot during the years she flew, and it’s amazing how many stories are still relatively unknown. The author’s note in the back sets the record straight and provides photos of Elinor and her flight. Brown also sites her sources, although most of them seem to be intended for adults.
This post is in honor of Nonfiction Mondays. For the entire round up of all the bloggers who participated, check out Anastasia Suen over at Picture Book of the Day where — ironically enough — she also is featuring Soar, Elinor!.