Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America's Heart

Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America's Heart

by Julie Cummins, Malene R. Laugesen
     
 

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In 1927, airplanes were a thrilling but dangerous novelty. Most people, men and women, believed that a woman belonged in the kitchen and not in a cockpit. One woman, Ruth Elder, set out to prove them wrong by flying across the Atlantic Ocean. Ruth didn't make it, crashing spectacularly, but she flew right into the spotlight and America's heart. This is the

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Overview

In 1927, airplanes were a thrilling but dangerous novelty. Most people, men and women, believed that a woman belonged in the kitchen and not in a cockpit. One woman, Ruth Elder, set out to prove them wrong by flying across the Atlantic Ocean. Ruth didn't make it, crashing spectacularly, but she flew right into the spotlight and America's heart. This is the story of a remarkable woman who chased her dreams with grit and determination, and whose appetite for adventure helped pave the way for future generations of female flyers.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While Amelia Earhart is a household name, Ruth Elder (1902–1977) is not. Cummins, who wrote about trailblazing women in books like Women Daredevils and Women Explorers, stitches together anecdotes about this female aviator, whose (unsuccessful) attempt to cross the Atlantic predated that of Earhart. Throughout, Cummins makes clear the kind of dismissive attitudes female pilots faced. “Most people, men and women, believed that a woman belonged in the kitchen and not a cockpit,” she writes. And in 1929, when 20 pilots including Elder took part in an all-women air race, a reporter grouses, “The only thing worse than dames in planes is dames racing planes.” While Laugesen’s smudgy illustrations don’t generate much of a sense of action, Elder and her fellow pioneers come across as plenty heroic. Additional facts and resources wrap up this quick overview of Elder’s life. Ages 6–9. (July)
From the Publisher

“A lively biography of a pioneer in women's aviation.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Pair this offering with Marissa Moss's Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee (Tricycle, 2009) for a soaring look at women's history.” —School Library Journal

Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
This picture book about an early woman aviator is a welcome addition to the burgeoning and much-needed area of women’s biographies for child audiences. Ruth Elder learned to fly at the age of twenty-three. Fascinated by the stories and Charles Lindbergh’s solo trip across the Atlantic, she determined to take a flight of her own but met with less success. After thirty-six hours in the air, her plane failed. Without advanced equipment, she relied on inventiveness and pure luck to send a message for help by dropping a box on the deck of a ship below her. Like many other women athletes and daredevils, she tried her hand at the newly born motion picture industry, before joining a race with women fliers called the “Powderpuff Derby,” because the entrants stopped to put on their make up before flying across the country. Malene Laugesen’s illustrations are appropriately soft focused and capture the feel of an old photo album of pictures from the twenties and thirties. Elder, herself, is pictured with movie star looks and a quotable personality. Sadly, her quips reflect the expectations of the times. When asked why she chose to fly to Paris, she said: “I have a desire to buy (a Parisian) evening gown and why not fly to Europe to buy it?” Still, a double-page spread of women in aviation (which surprisingly omits Sally Ride) is a testimony to how far women have flown since the 1920s. Backmatter includes a history of women in flight, a list of books for suggested reading, a list of web sites, and a DVD about the phenomena of the Powder Puff Derbies. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross; Ages 5 to 10.
School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—Move over, Amelia…readers are about to meet Ruth Elder, Earhart's contemporary and fellow aviatrix. Inspired by Charles Lindbergh's solo Atlantic flight, Elder was determined to be the first woman to accomplish the same feat. "In 1927….Most people…believed that a woman belonged in the kitchen and not in a cockpit!" Undaunted, the stylish beauty queen and silent-movie actress was also a daredevil. Though a ruptured oil line left her and her copilot in the ocean, her plane in flames, "she never lost her courage or her lipstick." A few years later, she and 19 other women flyers, including Earhart, raced from Santa Monica to Cleveland, "…using only roadmaps and their own two eyes to find their way." While she lost her maps to heavy winds, and a forced landing caused a run-in with some cattle and a farmer's wife, she still managed to finish fifth. The clever, anecdotal text and vibrant spreads of the colorful planes and period costumes transport readers to another era, glamorous, yet restrictive toward the "fairer sex." Elder predicted that one day women would be fighter pilots…and she was right. An author's note and comprehensive source list are appended. Pair this offering with Marissa Moss's Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee (Tricycle, 2009) for a soaring look at women's history.—Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools
Kirkus Reviews
A lively biography of a pioneer in women's aviation. In 1927, when flying was still a new phenomenon, 23-year-old Ruth Elder set out to be the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic. She and her instructor embarked on the journey with high hopes, but due to a serious malfunction, they abandoned the plane and were scooped up by a passing ship on its way to Europe. Cummins writes that Ruth "never lost her courage or her lipstick." She made the most of the fame the unsuccessful attempt brought her, even performing in two silent movies, but her heart remained in aviation. In 1929, Ruth placed fifth in a cross-country race with 19 other women. Proud to have finished the course, Ruth accurately predicted that American women would someday be fighter pilots. Cummins' snappy prose captures Ruth's ebullient spirit, and her inclusion of other women acknowledges a community of female pilots often unmentioned in accounts of the most famous female aviator, Amelia Earhart, who is mentioned only briefly here. Laugesen's muted illustrations render details with care, successfully evoking this exciting historical era. Cummins' animated account of early aviator Ruth Elder's struggles and achievements will amuse and inspire girls of all ages. (author's note, sources, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 6-12)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596435094
Publisher:
Roaring Brook Press
Publication date:
07/23/2013
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
1,117,215
Product dimensions:
9.88(w) x 9.76(h) x 0.38(d)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

Julie Cummins has loved books all her life. That passion led to a career as a children's librarian and the position of coordinator of children's services at the New York Public Library. Her previous books Tomboy of the Air, Women Daredevils, and Women Explorers all bring to life women who challenged tradition and risked their lives to follow their dreams.

Malene R. Laugesen has also illustrated Mama Went to Jail for the Vote by Kathleen Karr, The Blessing Box by Karen Hill, and The Princess Gown by Linda Leopold Strauss. She lives in New Zealand.

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