Monday, September 30, 2019

MMGM- Born to Fly and Survivor Girl

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Always in the Middle and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Sheinkin, Steve. Born to Fly: The First Women's Air Race Across America 
September 24th 2019 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

In 1929, pretty much anything that could be made a contest became a contest, and the bigger, better, and more dangerous, the better. Flying was still fairly new, and air shows attracted big crowds. There weren't a lot of pilots, and there were fewer pilots who were women, since women were deemed weaker and less mentally able to handle the rigors of flight. This, of course, was ridiculous, and the women who entered the first Air Derby were all different examples of this. The most familiar name to modern tweens was Amelia Earhart, but others, like Pancho Barnes, and Elinor Smith may ring bells as well. Starting with the childhoods of these women, Sheinkin shows us how they all defied current conventions to embrace air travel, from jumping off roofs as children to fearlessly taking lessons and even, in the case of Marvel Crosson, building their own planes! Once we understand all of the women involved (and some others, like Bessie Coleman, who didn't fly in it but contributed to women's aviation), we get to experience the race! Starting in California, weaving through Texas, and ending up in Cleveland, Ohio, the course was not easy to navigate, and perils were rife. The women's planes were sabotaged in many ways that weren't fully investigated and were never proven, even though they most likely lead to the death of one of the flyers. There were also accidents, sudden landings, and midair mishaps. The weather was hot, comforts were few, and the evenings of "rest" were filled with banquets and too many chicken dinners, but the women were determined and fearless. The rave hinged on not only the flying skill of the pilots, but the eccentricities of their planes, as well as sheer dumb luck. Several women had to stop out because of plane issues, and one woman flew past Columbus (the next to the last stop) and went straight to Cleveland, thereby disqualifying herself. In the end, Louise Thaden won. With the Great Depression starting just a few months after the Derby, aviation took a lot of blows, but many of the women continued to be involved in aviation and certainly set the stage for women to be active in the field.
Strengths: This will put some new names before many readers; I especially was intrigued by Pancho Barnes and Marvel Crosson and might have to see if there are any books about them! The details of the race are very exciting, and there is a good mix of what is going on and what the women felt abou tit. The research is remarkable-- luckily, there are memoirs by the flyers and lots of newspaper articles detailing every move! This reminded me a lot of Speno's The Great American Foot Race:Ballyhoo for the Bunion Derby!  which is set during this era. Great nonfiction choice for readers who want an exciting tale!
Weaknesses: There are some photographs, but there are also a lot of illustrations. I find that my students prefer photos if any exist. I know it is probably more expensive to include them, but the drawings never seem to be a draw for my readers. This was also a bit confusing at the beginning, since there were so many people who needed to be introduced.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and can see this getting a lot of use.

Teagan, Erin. Survivor Girl
July 16th 2019 by Clarion Books
Public library copy

Since Ali's dad is frequently on the set of his latest Survivor Guy adventure, it's easy for her to pretend that her parents are not getting a divorce. When her dad forgets that her mother has to attend a conference, Ali ends up going on a shoot with him. Her old brother Jake warns her that it won't be what she expects, but Ali thinks she has it figured out. Sure, she's never actually been camping, but she's watched her dad's show and figures she'll be able to help out. She is surprised that it's not just "one man, one camera"; there is a whole production crew, including a chef who makes homemade toaster pastries! There's an intern about her age, Adam, as well as the five year old daughter of one of the staff, Isabel there as well. Her father wants her to be part of the show, and she's written into the script doing all manner of stunts, few of which go well. She's shocked at how staged everything is, but grateful for her stunt double after a few things go wrong. She starts to realize that her dad is never going to come back and live with her and her mom again. When there is a fire in the swamps where they are filming, the group is evacuated. Isabel has run off, and when Ali goes to find her, she misses the plane. Adam is there as well, and the three have to survive in the swamps without all of the back up crew. They are eventually saved, and Ali makes peace with the new structure of her family.
Strengths: That Ali was a fan of her father's show without really knowing how it was filmed, and that she had developed a persona at school of "Survivor Girl" without ever having gone camping is  great premise!Dealing with the divorce by pretending it wasn't happening is also pure middle grade emotion! Her disillusion at the reality of the lack of hardship in filming is a great lead in for her to actually survive. She could have come off as snotty, but is actually a very likable character. The supporting characters are also fun, and the survivor reality show was an interesting setting.
Weaknesses:I wonder how many times in real life children run away in a snit and get involved in a natural disaster? It happens a lot in middle grade books.
What I really think: Glad to see this book, along with Behrens' Disaster Days and Philbrick's Wildfire. I was needing some fresh survival books for my collection.

It's "spirit week". Today is Hawaiian shirt day. I play along when I can, but I'm afraid the effect is sort of ruined by my beige cardigan, especially since there was a toner mishap and there are some odd black smudges on my sleeve. Do what you have to do some days!
Ms. Yingling


  1. Survivor books were popular with my students when I taught, too! I enjoyed hearing about the new Sheinkin book, love reading them & learning more history! Thanks, Karen!

  2. I love a good survivor book, so will look for that one. A new Sheinkin book is always something to celebrate. Thanks for the heads up on these.