Monday, December 28, 2009

Stars of the Sky, Legends All, by Ann Cooper

The Cover!
Many years ago, when I was thirteen or so, I wandered through libraries looking for books to read. I would look at the titles first of course, and if one interested me, I would pluck it from the shelf and look at the cover. And if I liked the look of the cover, then I'd read the back of it for the plot (for I was mainly looking for fiction) or description of what was within.

That's how I discovered The Hobbit. If I'd just seen the title on the spine I don't know that I'd have picked it up, as it would have conveyed nothing to me, so the book must have been face outward, and on the cover was that of a dragon. And since I liked dragons, I checked out the book, and read it, and loved it...

And that's how I found most of the books I liked to read, prior to becoming familiar with the names of the authors, so then I'd search out authors names, confident that I'd like what they'd written.

Which is a long story to make my point that I really don't like the cover of the over-sized non-fiction work called Stars of the Sky, Legends All, which gives biographies of 50 American women pilots.

The cover features the head and torso of a woman pilot, and yeah, she's wearing the classic cap and goggles of the romantic aviator look of the 20s, but all she's doing is gazing up at the stars!

Now, if I were a thirteen year old looking for a book to read, this cover would not catch my attention at all. But put this girl in the cockpit of a biplane, or standing next to a plane looking devil-may-care (as for example, the illustration used as the flyleaf!!!!), and my interest may have been piqued!

And that title! I don't know that I could think of a better one, admittedly, but it's so generic.

Well, of course it's easy to criticize after the fact. And those are just cosmetic criticisms.

The book
And I'm afraid the interior of the book annoyed me as well. Am I the only one who tinks chronology is important? And if you're not going to go chronological, go by alphabetical order! The women profiled in this book are divided into five chapters...arbitrarily, as far as I can make out. There are explorers, air racers, acrobatic pilots, record setters, all jumbled together.

I hate that!

In addition, all we are given are brief overviews, which are also not chronological. Each entry should have started with when and where the pilot was born...instead we are taken in media res to some incident in their lives, and because we dont' know the year or the place, it's hard to get it fixed in our minds... at least, one would think it would be for the age group at whom this book is aimed...

The illustrations are great, as are the photographs, and the narrative, for what it covers, is good, but it just doesn't give enough of what I would think would be essential info. Still, several of the women here aren't covered anywhere else, so it's worth it to learn a bit about their lives.

Here's the pilots they cover:

Katherine Wright (Wright sister - never flew but was instrumental in their early success)
Jerrie Mock
Phoebe Omlie
Hanna Reitsch
Peggy Chabrian
Kitty Banner Seemann
Colonel Eileen Collins
Willa Brown
Mabel Bell
Patty Wagstaff
Beth Settlemyer
Janet Bragg
Anne Lindbergh
Susan Maule
Suzanne Asbury Oliver
Barbara Gilbertson
Patty Wagner
Dodie Jewett
Mary Feik
Martha King
Ellen Paneok
Anne Bridge Baddour
Commander Trish Beckman
Mae Jemison
Florence Klingensmith
Melba Beard
Lori Cline
Amy Laboda
Dorothy Hester
Fay Gillis Wells
Dot Lewis
Caro Bayley Bosca
Betty Skelton
Mary Haizlip
Laura Ingalls
Bonny Warner Simi
Ruth Maestre
Denise Waters
Connie Bowlin
Reddy Kenyon
Jean Batten
Aide de Acosta
Nicole Malachowski
Mimi Tompkins
E. Lillian Todd
Connie Tobias
Joann Osterud
Mildred Carter
Louise Thaden & Blanche Noyes
Kathy La Sauce

THe book is published by Women in Aviation, so any purchases benefit that organization, as well as you and your kid's (if any) knowledge of women pilots, so check it out.

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