We all know Amelia Earhart as the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and later went famously missing. One of our true mysteries.
But, she wasn’t the first woman to attempt to fly across the Atlantic. Ruth Elder didn’t let the fact that she was a beauty queen define her entirely. Though, it didn’t hurt. Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America’s Heart by Julie Cummins and illustrated by Malene R. Laugesen is the story of Ruth’s first flight highlighting that fact that she didn’t make it across the Atlantic. It also highlighted her ingenuity in staying alive and seeking rescue with the help of a ship, its captain and crew. Ruth was still lauded upon her arrival in Europe.
Even more fascinating to me was the cross-country all female plane race which took place in 1929. Navigation meant following road maps, literally looking down at the roads below to know in which direction to fly. In the favorite story from the derby, Ruth’s maps flew out of her plane and she landed to get her bearings. In an instance like this, I wondered: Would a man have stopped to ask for directions?
I love a good author’s note. This one starts out: “It’s hard to imagine a time when American women didn’t have the choices or freedoms that we do today.” On this point, I disagree. It’s not hard to imagine at all. I’m glad that women have come such a long way in gaining equal rights, but it was one hurdle after another. “Flying Solo” tells an important story, putting faces on the fight for women’s rights in America. The illustrations are well paired to the story. I especially enjoyed the interspersed newspaper front pages with information about Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic and Ruth Elder’s crash and rescue in the Atlantic. The marquee on the title page and framing of the text were reminiscent of the timeframe of the story in the late 1920’s.
The author’s dedication: To the young women who see the horizon of their dreams and soar toward it – fly, girls, fly! - J.C.
Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America’s Heart
Published 2013 by Roaring Brook Press
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.