Females in Flight: Stories of Amazing Women Aviators

Selected and annotated by Michelle Biwer, CCB GA

May 2016

Nothing can keep these women on the ground, whether they choose to pilot biplanes or spaceships.

Burleigh, Robert. Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic; illus. by Wendell Minor. Wiseman/Simon, 2011. 40p. Gr. 3-6.

This account of Amelia Earhart chronicles the challenges and triumphs of her solo transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Northern Ireland in 1932. Sparse but expressive text and storytime-friendly illustrations make this picture book biography of Earhart an excellent introduction to the famous pilot.

Cummins, Julie. Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America’s Heart; illus. by Malene R. Laugesen. Roaring Brook, 2013. 32p. Gr. 3-4.

After dreaming of becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, Ruth Elder made an attempt, although her plane unfortunately crashed during the journey and she had to be rescued. In 1929 Elder decided to compete again, this time in the first women’s cross-country airplane race, in which she placed fifth.

Duncan, Alexandra. Salvage. Greenwillow, 2014. 520p. Gr. 9-12.

Ava is imprisoned after she was caught rebelling against the patriarchal forces that govern her life on a merchant space vessel. After Ava makes her escape, she is rescued by Perpétue, a female spaceship captain, and her young daughter. Together, they teach Ava how to fly, read, write, walk on land, and defy societal expectations while working towards a better world.

Fleming, Candace. Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Schwartz & Wade, 2011. 118p. Gr. 5-9.

Amelia Earhart is well known for her flying skills and the record-setting journey that made her the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic. Fleming creates a more complete—but still sympathetic—picture of this fascinating woman by including Earhart’s capabilities as a savvy businesswoman who carefully curated her public image. Fleming alternates between chapters that thoroughly investigate Amelia’s life, and those that investigate her mysterious disappearance, in this biography best suited for middle schoolers.

Lang, Heather. Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine; illus. By Raúl Colón. Calkins Creek, 2016. 40p. Gr. 2-4.

Even for 1916, the Curtiss biplane was outdated, but no amount of money would buy a more advanced plane if it came from a woman’s coffers. Thankfully, Ruth Law was not just a capable pilot but something of an engineer, so she personally adapted her biplane to withstand long distances. Law’s Chicago to New York flight in winter 1916 set a new American nonstop record of 512 miles. Colón’s muted, speckled sketches capture still moments of this historic journey.

McCarthy, Cori. Breaking Sky. Sourcebooks Fire, 2015. 406p. Gr. 9-12.

Chase, the star test pilot of the US military in 2048, is one of America’s last hopes to prevent another World War due to her serious skill and ferocious determination. The closer she gets to her goal, the more military secrets she uncovers, and Chase realizes that history and her own past are about to have a reckoning. McCarthy brilliantly weaves mystery, romance, and suspense in this genre buster with compelling descriptions of flight and war that earn Chase a place among the pantheon of fierce sci-fi heroines.

Paul, Alison. The Plan; illus by Barbara Lehman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. 32p. Gr. 1-3.

A young girl keeps a journal appropriately titled “The Plan,” which details her dream to fly to Saturn in the old plane once flown by her late mother. Sparse text and wordplay leave the reader to decipher the story through careful appreciation of Lehman’s nostalgic and detailed illustrations.

Thompson, Craig. Space Dumplins. Graphix/Scholastic, 2015. 320p. Gr. 6-8.

Violet’s dad teaches her how to do everything, including how to fly their home: a fantastical spaceship. But when her dad disappears, she acquires her own vessel and uses everything he taught her to mount a rescue with the help of a sundry crew of aliens and friends. Thompson’s explosive illustrations suit the whimsical universe and capture the action of this out- of-this-world graphic novel.

Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. Hyperion, 2012. 343p. Gr. 9-12.

Verity is a Scottish spy captured by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. Flashbacks chronicle Verity’s path to France as well as her enduring friendship with Maddie, an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot with the UK military.

Wein, Elizabeth. Rose Under Fire. Hyperion, 2013. 360p. Gr. 9-12

Rose Justice is an eighteen-year-old American pilot who ferries planes for the British Air Transport Auxiliary during World War II. After she volunteers for a solo flight to France, her plane is intercepted by the Nazis. Now a concentration camp victim, Rose writes and recites powerful poetry for her fellow victims as a way of maintaining humanity and hope.