Last week I discovered an author kindred spirit.
It started when I pulled “Fearless Flyer” off the new books shelf in the children’s section of the library. After reading the story of pilot Ruth Law’s attempt to fly from Chicago to New York in one day in 1916, I did what I always do at the end of a when a book rings my kidlit bells: I read the author bio.
Upon finding that Heather Lang has written several picture books about trailblazing women, I visited her website, where she highlights children’s books and other resources about “girls with grit.”
“This is someone I want to know!” I thought. So I emailed Heather, and she gamely agreed to be interview for this blog. Look out for that Q&A next week.
In the meantime, here are my thoughts on two of her nonfiction picture books. I’ve yet to get my hands on the third, The Original Cowgirl.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ruth Law wasn’t just a record-setter among women pilots. She was a record-setter among pilots, period. For instance, in November 1916, she flew 512 miles from Chicago to Hornell, New York — the longest nonstop American flight at the time.
This picture book about that flight is an excellent example of narrative nonfiction. Author Heather Lang tells the story with short, active sentences and repeated words that make you feel like you’re in the biplane next to Ruth. For example:
“Ruth bumped along faster, faster.
She pulled the left lever back to raise the elevators.
Her machine lifted up, up, up.”
Adding to the sense of being up in the sky with Ruth is the wash of yellow hues over most scenes. Raul Colón uses his signature scratching technique to give texture to the colored pencil illustrations.
Add this one to your list of great women’s history biographies for kids.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Can you name the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal?
It was high-jumper Alice Coachman, as I learned from this well told and softly illustrated picture book biography. Coachman overcame racism, poverty, restrictive gender roles and tough athletic competition to achieve her dream.
This book has interesting historical connections, not only to segregation in the Unite States, but also to WWII. The back matter includes a section on how the 1948 Olympics managed to be pulled off in London — a city still in ruins from the conflict.
Read this to inspire children or be inspired yourself!
If these books interest you, also check out books by Shana Corey, who I wrote about here.