Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Reading on a Theme: Women Aviators of World War II

I'm so excited about this week's World War II Wednesday. I love reading about the women who served during World War II, and the volunteer aviators are especially intriguing. (Probably in part because I have no desire to go up in a small plane. Ever.) I'm especially thrilled with this line-up because I've long thought that the subject of the Russian Night Witches would make for an amazing YA book, and I got my wish in 2017 with not one but two publications on the subject.

American WASP:
Seized by the Sun is a biography of Gertrude "Tommy" Tompkins, the only one of the 38 Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) confirmed or presumed dead who is still missing. James W. Ure tells the story of Gertrude's life, from her childhood in New Jersey, her struggle with a speech impediment, her love of flying, to her training with the WASPs. Ure also writes about the ongoing search for Gertrude's plane, presumed to have gone down in the Santa Monica Bay. After reading many fictional accounts of WWII women aviators, it was very interesting to read about a real WASP and the details of her training, work, and friendships with fellow pilots. Seized by the Sun is out July 1, 2017. Review copy from NetGalley.

Russian Bomber:
Sixteen-year-old Valya longs to be in the air fighting the Germans. Instead she's trapped in the besieged city of Stalingrad. When a sniper kills her mother, leaving Valya alone, she makes her mind up to join the Night Witches and find her sister who is fighting with them. I loved Kathryn Lasky's book. Night Witches is written for a younger YA audience, and I thought it was an excellent introduction for its target audience. I loved Valya. She is strong and smart and feisty. It was so interesting to learn about the Night Witches' tactics, which allowed the female pilots to have great success against the more advanced German planes. Harrowing and compelling, Ms Lasky's books takes readers to the eastern front.  Night Witches is out March 28, 2017. Review copy from Edelweiss.

British ATA:
Elizabeth Wein has written three books that feature young women aviators. In Code Name Verity best friends Verity (the spy) and Kittyhawk (the pilot) are trapped in Nazi territory on the wrong side of the English Channel. Verity, in order to buy time, draws out her interrogation by writing the story of their friendship in the guise of a confession. All the praise you've heard about this book is well deserved. It is truly remarkable. The writing is superb. The action is harrowing and horrifying. The friendship is so real. And Verity is the epitome of the unreliable narrator. This book is crazy good. And completely heart-wrenching. I love the second in the series too, Rose Under Fire.

Russian Bomber:
Small town girl, Valka Koroleva's world changes suddenly when Russia enters World War II. Her best friend Pasha is conscripted into the Russian army, and Valka and her cousin Iskra leave home to join the all-female aviation groups organized by Valka's hero Marina Raskova. Gwen C. Katz populates her story with many of the real aviators who flew in the all female units. I loved feeling like I got to know them a little, even though this is a fictional tale. It was also fun how Katz attributes some of the Night Witches trickier methods to Valka's experience with a faulty engine back home. The camaraderie between the women and the truly terrifying circumstances were conveyed so well. This topic continues to be a personal favorite. Among the Red Stars is out October 1, 2017. Review copy from Edelweiss.

American WASP:
Ida Mae Jones belongs in the air, but the local aviation college refuses to give her a license because she's a black woman. With the war on, there's no fuel to fly anyway. Then Ida hears about the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Ida wants to join, but she knows they'll never accept a black woman.  Desperate to live her dream, Ida passes for white and is accepted into the program. No she has to make sure no one learns her secret. I've wanted to read Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith for years, and it did not disappoint. I really enjoyed how Ida's training and friendships are underscored by the issue of race in America in the 1940s.

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