Reviews for Daredevil : The Daring Life of Betty Skelton

Booklist Reviews 2013 June #1
As a child in the 1930s, Betty Skelton played with toy airplanes and longed to become a pilot. And she did, taking her first solo flight at the age of 12 and getting her license at 16. With no opportunities to fly for a commercial airline or the U.S. Navy, she became a stunt pilot. Skelton, who set an altitude record in 1951 and retired soon afterward, was invited to undergo training tests with the Mercury 7 astronauts, though "NASA wasn't ready to send a woman to space." Painted in acrylics, the simplified illustrations feature big-eyed, amiable characters. The text is simplified, too, which makes it accessible to young children but sometimes leaves readers wondering about what was omitted. Short quotes from Skelton add her voice to the narrative. The book's charm lies mainly in the illustrations, such as the cockpit scene in which Skelton flies barefoot, her red toenails gleaming. An attractive picture book introducing a lesser-known woman in American aviation. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
In the 1940s, Betty Skelton wanted to become a commercial pilot or to fly in the navy, but those avenues were closed to females, so she went on to aerobatic flying, always accompanied by her dog, Little Tinker. The sometimes choppy prose is balanced by a soaring tale, brought to life in illustrations featuring charming bug-eyed characters and a vivid palette. Timeline. Bib.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #3
In the 1930s, when airplanes were still new, young Betty Skelton of Pensacola, Florida, played with toy planes when other girls played with dolls. She yearned to fly, and she did. At age twelve, she took an illegal solo flight, then celebrated her sixteenth birthday with a solo flight as a licensed flyer. She wanted to become a commercial pilot or to fly in the navy, but those avenues were closed to females, so she went on to aerobatic flying, always accompanied by her dog, Little Tinker. In flying and later endeavors, Betty had a passion for breaking records. In fact, she became known as the "First Lady of Firsts." She broke an altitude record, reaching 29,050 feet; she got into auto racing and broke the women's land speed record with a jet-powered car on Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats; she was the first female boat jumper; and she even trained with the Mercury 7 astronauts but, again, was thwarted by her gender. The sometimes choppy prose is balanced by a soaring tale of a little girl with big dreams, brought to life with pithy quotes from Skelton and in McCarthy's signature illustrations featuring charming bug-eyed characters and a vivid palette. Back matter -- "Fun Facts," "Betty Quotes," a timeline, and a bibliography -- rounds out a fine overview that introduces young readers to a new hero. dean schneider

Kirkus Reviews 2013 May #1
Ever hear of Betty Skelton? Most people haven't, yet this woman was a whirling daredevil who liked to go fast and broke records in aviation and auto racing. In the 1930s, most girls played with dolls, but not Betty: She was obsessed with airplanes, and at age 16, she soloed. She wanted to be a commercial pilot and fly in the Navy, but she was laughed at. So she became a stunt pilot with her dog, Little Tinker, by her side and no shoes on her feet. In 1951 she broke an altitude record. Then she traded planes for race cars and drove into a new career, breaking the women's record at the Bonneville Salt Flats with a speed of 315.74 mph. Those challenges weren't enough for Betty, and she went on to driving a stunt boat. What was next? She trained to be an astronaut, but NASA wasn't ready to send a female into space. Even so, Betty had "proven that women could do it as well as men." The acrylic cartoon illustrations play up Betty's spunk and derring-do with McCarthy's trademark googly eyed expressions. Her achievements are stated in the straightforward narrative, but the author allows readers to tap into her personality through use of quotes: When Betty flew higher than Mount Everest, she said: "My feet darn near froze to death." McCarthy has spun an adventurous story about this little-known woman, highlighting her groundbreaking triumphs with respectful whimsy. ("Fun Facts," additional quotes, timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-9) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 June #1

McCarthy has made a career out of picture-book biographies of unexpected subjects, and this thoroughly inspiring portrait of Betty June Skelton (1926-2011) reveals a woman who embodies a "need for speed." Direct quotations from Skelton fill her story with personality. She was obsessed with flying from an early age, and she made the newspapers for a solo flight on her 16th birthday--never mind that her father had already plopped her into a cockpit four years earlier. "It wasn't quite legal then so I couldn't tell anybody," she recalled. Skelton went on to break records on land, sea, and air, and she even had a shot at becoming the first woman in space. In McCarthy's succinct prose and wide-eyed acrylic cartooning, Skelton comes through as a woman eager to break barriers and try anything. Ages 4-8. (June)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 April

K-Gr 2--This book has a terrific message for young girls about breaking barriers; unfortunately, essential information about Skelton is missing or incorrect. According to McCarthy, "At the age of twelve her father boosted her up, plopped her into a plane, and waved good-bye. Betty was flying by herself!" McCarthy notes that Skelton studied information she had requested from aircraft manufacturers (using the ruse of helping her dad buy a plane), but that obviously wasn't enough to qualify her to fly solo. The lack of a reference to the training she received from Ensign Kenneth Wright will leave young readers to think otherwise. McCarthy claims NASA blocked Skelton from flying with the Mercury 7, but she was never officially considered for inclusion on the crew. Skelton knew the invitation to undergo astronaut endurance tests was a publicity stunt, but McCarthy writes, "Previously only animals had gone into outer space. No man-or woman-had yet done so. This was Betty's chance!" In spirit, McCarthy's profile of Skelton is exciting, fun, and inspirational. However, like the trailblazing daredevil's planes and cars and boats, it speeds right past important facts as though they would detract from an amazing life when they most certainly wouldn't. McCarthy's familiar round-eyed renderings of her characters are endearing as always, and her palette, set in ample white space, is cheerful. But what could have been a great introduction to a fascinating thrill seeker sadly sacrifices accuracy for stylistic embellishment, and the resulting errors are too significant to overlook.--Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR

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