I love a mighty girl character or real-life role model for my girls. These girls all dared to fly at a time when flying was a great adventure. What makes girls daring enough to say “What If … Women Were Aviators?” And how can we encourage this? I’ve picked three books to explore this idea … a picture book, easy chapter book biography, and historical fiction middle grade chapter book. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Fabulous Flying Females: Women Aviators Books for Kids
Picture Book for Girls Who Ask “What If?”
The Flying Girl: How Aida de Acosta Learned to Soar by Margarita Engle and Sara Palacios
This is the true story of a teenager, Aída de Acosta, and how she became the first woman to fly a motorized aircraft, an airship. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Bessie, Queen of the Sky by Andrea Doshi and Jimena Duran, illustrated by Chiara Fabbri
To become the first black woman pilot, Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman had to learn French to attend pilot school in Paris because it was the only flight school that would accept girls. She received her pilot’s license at age 29 and lived from January 26, 1892, to April 30, 1926. This beautifully illustrated picture book of Bessie Coleman will inspire readers that anything is possible if you don’t give up. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Aim For the Skies: Jerrie Mock and Joan Merriam Smith’s Race to Compete Amelia Earhart’s Quest by Aimee Bissonette, illustrated by Doris Ettlinger
What are the chances that two women would simultaneously decide to fly around the world, following Amelia Earhart’s quest? It’s 1964 and this is now an air race between two women, Jerrie Mock and Joan Merriam Smith, to become the first female to fly around the world. Both ran into problems and challenges from sandstorms to gas leaks. The timing of their two flights made this into a “race” but in fact, their planes and their routes were different. Both women completed their difficult journeys, setting speed and distance records along the way. This was a race where there were clearly two winners! [picture book, ages 6 and up]
Zephyr Takes Flight by Steve Light
Zephyr, a little girl, loves airplanes. She makes them, plays with them and hopes to fly one day. But no one in her family wants to play airplane with her. When she has a spectacular crash, she is sent to her room … where she finds ways to fly! A girl version of Where The Wild Things Are! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Lighter Than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith, illustrated by Matt Tavares
In eighteenth-century France, hot air balloons have captured the people’s hearts. The balloonists are heroes but they are all men. Sophie Blanchard changes this. She was the first woman pilot, making sixty-seven flights in hot air balloons. This is a beautiful and inspiring picture book biography that also details a little about what life was like during Napoleon’s reign. [picture book biography, ages 4 and up]
Easy Biography Chapter Book for Girls
Who Was Amelia Earhart? by Kate Jerome
I like this short chapter book biography series with text broken up with illustrations on each page. It gives an honest and thorough overview of her life with lots of interesting details about her life growing up that kids can relate to. [easy chapter book biography, ages 8 and up]
Middle Grade Historical Fiction Chapter Book for Girls
Promise the Night by Michaela MacColl
Beryl Markham, if a half-blood (ok, reading a lot of Percy Jackson right now), would have been a child of Artemis. Her true story reads like an adventure heroine of any age but particularly for her time, at the turn of the century. Her life was lived spectacularly, making Amelia Earhart seem tame by comparison. Raised in part by Maori warriors as a tween in Kenya, a female horse trainer, and then a great aviator adventurer. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
More Great Mighty Girls Books Suggested by Readers
Thank you to readers Maria, Monise, Mel, Alex, and Kellye for their great book suggestions for more great Mighty Girl role models. I am especially excited to learn of women of color who were aviator pioneers and yet relatively unknown.
Flygirl by Sherri L Smith (older middle grades) and Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone, which is nonfiction about women who tried to become part of the space program.
Another picture book suggestion is ‘Talkin Bout Bessie’ the story of Bessie Coleman, the first black female pilot by Nikki Grimes. Review by Randomly Reading.
Bessie was the first female African American pilot AND the first African American to hold an international pilot license…And it is an inspirational story – education was a luxury back in the early part of the 20th century for many kids who had to earn money to help support their family, but Bessie persevered – walking miles and miles to school, when she could attend, and to pick up and return the laundry her mother did to earn money. from Randomly Reading
I second Mel’s suggestion of ‘Almost Astronauts.’ Also, Tami Lewis Brown’s picturebook, ‘Soar, Elinor,’ is the thrilling true story of Elinor Smith, America’s youngest pilot–girl or boy. The acclaimed ya novel, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein, also prominently features a teen girl pilot during WWII.
How about Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss. Maggie Gee dreamt of flying as a child. When she grew up, she was one of two Chinese American women to serve with the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) in WW2. It is a wonderful picture book. Thank you to Monise Seward for this recommendation!
Great topic, and lots of great titles here!I Code Name Verity was one of my favorite books read last year, and I especially liked the pilot/engineer Maddie’s voice. I also liked Soar Elinor, Talkin’ Bout Bessie and Almost Astronauts (and the rest of Tanya Lee Stone’s work.)
Amelia Lost, by Candace Fleming, is also a very gripping and well-told biography of Amelia Earheart, of the woman behind the myth, chock full of wonderful photos.
I found this on the excellent blog, The Non Fiction Detectives:
In 1930, when other girls are content to play with dolls, Betty June Skelton played with her metal plane. And so begins this engaging picture book biography about a woman who dared to dream high and became the first lady of firsts.
Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton by Meghan McCarthy
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