Reviews for Flygirl

Booklist Reviews 2009 January #1
*Starred Review* This breakthrough title adds a new story to the shelves of World War II books. Here, the enemy is not just a foreign threat; it is also prejudice--of both race and gender--here at home. In 1941, black high-school graduate Ida Mae Jones, 18, worries about her soldier brother, who is on the front, and longs to fight for her country, too. Her late dad taught her to fly a crop-dusting plane, and when the U.S. starts the WASP (Women Airforce Service Program), she is determined to join up. The slights against women are constant, as is racial prejudice, including the n word. Ida Mae is so light-skinned that she can pass as white, which means leaving her family and friends and creating a new identity. She goes through the rigorous training program, bonds with some fellow trainees, and flies for her country. The details about navigation are exciting, but tougher than any flight maneuver are Ida Mae s loneliness, shame, and fear that she will be thrown out of the military, feelings that culminate in an unforgettable climax. Always, there is the reality of living under Jim Crow. An afterword fills in the history of the WASP, which notes that while records do not show that there were any black female pilots at the time, those records do not tell the truth about pilots like Ida Mae.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #3
Ida Mae wants only to fly, an improbable proposition for a black girl in 1940s small-town Louisiana. But the outbreak of war and Ida Mae's own nerve connive to get her into the air: "Light skin and good hair could put me in a military plane." Counterfeiting a pilot's license and passing herself off as white, Ida Mae joins the Women's Airforce Service Pilots program, an auxiliary of the Air Force designed to free up male pilots for combat duty. Although forthright about the racism Ida Mae faces and the ethical complexities of pretending to be something one is not, this novel is at heart an old-fashioned career story, where a gal pursues the job-and man-of her dreams. It's good, rousing period fiction with a determined heroine and plucky supporting cast of sister WASPs. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 November #2
During World War II, a semi-military unit of women pilots, the WASPs, fought for their chance to serve their country. The WASPs did not accept "colored" women, however. That proves no obstacle for pilot Ida Mae Jones, who is light-skinned enough to pass for white, although she risks her life if she's caught and may even risk her eventual return to her family. This well-told, interesting story moves along at a good clip, as Smith paints a vivid picture of the WASPs, with the suspense of Ida Mae's deception always lurking beneath the surface. The misogynistic military and bigoted townsfolk can't stop Ida Mae and her new friends from doing their bit. Those friendships and a possible forbidden romance keep Ida Mae occupied when she isn't flying. A vibrant picture of WWII women and of Jim Crow as it was then. (Historical fiction. 12 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 December #2

Smith (Lucy the Giant) brings a gripping perspective to bear upon a lesser-known piece of America's past: during WWII, the government recruited women pilots to fly non-combat missions, e.g., ferrying planes. Driven by a desire to fly and wanting to help her enlisted brother, Ida Mae decides to pass as white so she can join the program. The author has an expert grasp on her subject, and readers will learn plenty about the Women Airforce Service Pilots, from their impractical uniforms to the dangerous missions they flew without reward. Ida Mae's unique point of view gives her special insight into the often poor treatment of women: when a pilot friend gets frustrated by a stunt they are asked to perform, Ida realizes, "Lily's just finding out what I've been living with my whole life. She's never known what it was like to be hobbled by somebody else's rules." Key scenes demonstrate how much Ida has sacrificed by passing, as when her much darker mother visits her on Christmas and, la Imitation of Life, poses as the family housekeeper. Although this book feels constructed to educate, readers will find the lesson well crafted. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 February

Gr 6-10--Readers first meet 18-year-old Ida Mae Jones, a Louisiana girl who longs to be a pilot, in December 1941, on the eve of America's entrance into World War II. She is pretty and smart, but she has two huge strikes against her. She is black in an America where racism holds sway, and a competent pilot in an America in which she is denied her license because she is a woman. Smith explores these two significant topics and does a wonderful job of melding the two themes in one novel. Ida Mae is a likable character who is torn by the need to pass for white and fake a license in order to fulfill her dream. Readers learn a great deal about what it must have been like to be African American in the South during this period, as well as about the Women Airforce Service Pilots, WASP, a civilian group that performed jobs that freed male pilots for other things. The women's close friendships and the danger, excitement, and tragedy of their experience create a thrilling, but little-known story that begs to be told. The book is at once informative and entertaining. In the end, readers are left to wonder what Ida Mae Jones will do with the rest of her life.--Carol Jones Collins, Columbia High School, Maplewood, NJ

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