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Soar, Elinor! Hardcover – October 12, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 3-6–Everyone has heard of Amelia Earhart, but she was not the only young woman fascinated by flight in the early 1900s. Elinor Smith began talking flying lessons in 1921 when she was only 10 years old. At 16, she was the youngest person in the U.S., man or woman, to earn a pilot's license. The climax of this picture-book biography is when Smith achieved acclaim as the first person to fly a plane under all four of New York City's bridges. Unlike the stories of Amelia Earhart and Harriet Quimby, this book has a happy ending. Smith lived to a ripe old age, and, according to an endnote, much of the book is based on interviews the author had with her before she passed away in March 2010. Brown's narration is fluent, engaging, and full of dialogue. The page-long endnote explains her research and sources. Realistic oil illustrations are similar in style to those in Muhammad Ali, Champion of the World (Random, 2007). Roca uses minimal background detail and skillfully arranges scenes to focus attention on the emotions and faces of the characters while still maintaining historical and geographical accuracy. This is an excellent introduction to a lesser-known but fascinating adventurer.–Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UTα(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Inspiration soars from every page of this introduction to Elinor Smith, a Long Islander who took her first flight in 1917 at age six, became a licensed pilot at 16, was voted “Best Woman Pilot in America” over the likes of Amelia Earhart, went on to be a test pilot, and at 89, to “fly” NASA’s space shuttle simulator. Presenting Smith as a capable young enthusiast steadfastly ignoring gender expectations to follow her dream, Brown centers the dramatic main narrative on the aviator’s daring 1928 flight beneath four of New York’s East River bridges, then tallies some of her many other accomplishments in an afterword. Smith displays star quality in Roca’s accomplished full-bleed paintings, too—a picture of slender, confident competence as graceful as the brightly colored, sturdy-looking biplanes she flies. Based on interviews with Smith herself (who died earlier this year) and archival material, Brown’s debut makes a worthy companion to Julie Cummins’ Women Daredevils (2008) and other celebrations of women who refused to do as they were told. Grades 2-4. --John Peters
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool and up
  • Lexile Measure: 780L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); First Edition edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374371156
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374371159
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 0.4 x 11.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #917,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

TAMI LEWIS BROWN holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College. She has been a lawyer, and more recently, writer-in-residence and librarian at The Sheridan School in Washington, D.C.

Elinor Smith's story, which later became Soar, Elinor!, inspired Tami to become a pilot and a lawyer. "Everyone in my family flew. Each time someone told me "it's a man's world" I thought of Elinor's unquenchable drive to be herself and live her dreams. Where others built barriers, Elinor saw nothing but wide open horizons."

As part of her research to write Soar, Elinor!, Tami and her ten-year-old son flew loops and spins in an antique Waco ZPF-7, similar to the plane Elinor flew.

Tami Lewis Brown grew up in Kentucky and attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Now she lives in one of the oldest houses in Washington, D.C.

Tami's website has an activity kit, interviews, newsreels and photos of Elinor Smith and more. Every day she posts a new milestone from women's aviation history. Visit Tami at www.TamiLewisBrown.com

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Yana V. Rodgers on October 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Elinor Smith, a pioneering female pilot, gained her first taste of flying when, at the age of six, she and her brother took a test ride in a rickety Farman pusher biplane. She immediately became enamored of flying and by age ten had begun lessons. Undeterred by obstacles such as fit (her instructor strapped blocks to the rudder bar so she could reach it) and age (her father would not allow her to fly alone until she was eighteen but her mother overruled), Elinor became the youngest person on record to earn her pilot's license at the age of sixteen.

Elinor went on to break gender barriers among pilots by setting numerous records in endurance, speed, and altitude. Perhaps as her biggest claim to fame, Elinor performed a stunt flight under the four bridges of New York City's East River in the face of unpredictable wind gusts, ship traffic, and the risk of losing her new pilot's license.

With its sweeping illustrations and engaging text, this book shines the spotlight on an important female pilot with whom young readers may otherwise not have much familiarity. The book's emphasis on a woman breaking into a non-traditional occupation adds to the book's substance and makes it a useful resource for teaching children about careers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By B. A. Peterson on November 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book. The story of Elinor Smith is quite an uplifting one (for all that the author only deals with one the early part of her life and her most famous achievement, flying under the four bridges spanning New York's East River) and I really loved the illustrations as well. They were very realistic and the characters seemed to almost be ready to pop off the page.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Tanenbaum VINE VOICE on November 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This stunning new picture book, by Tami Lewis Brown, tells the story of Elinor Smith, who by the time she was six years old knew she wanted to fly. But in 1917, girls were supposed to stay on the ground. From the time Elinor first begged her dad for a $5 ride in an airplane, she was hooked, and by the time she was sixteen, she was the youngest licensed pilot in the United States--boy or girl.

Like the much better-known Amelia Earhart, Elinor became world-famous in her day, and at age 19 was named best woman pilot in the U.S. by the nation's flyers. She achieved this fame partly by taking a dangerous dare from a fellow pilot--to fly under one of the bridges across New York's East River. But that wasn't daring enough for Elinor--she'd fly under all four of the bridges in one trip! No one had ever succeeded in such a crazy stunt--and flying under bridges was illegal as well. Can Eleanor do it?

In her first published book, Brown highlights for contemporary readers the inspiring story of a young woman who succeeds against the odds. She documents the development of Elinor's passion for flying, some of the obstacles she faced, and also her careful preparation for her challenging stunt. We then fly along with her as she flawlessly executes her spectacular flying stunt, even as unforeseen conditions pop up.

The book's appeal is greatly increased by its handsome illustrations by French artist Francois Roca, whose splendid paintings, rendered in a nostalgic realistic style, make us feel like we are soaring in a small plane along with Elinor. The well-paced narrative, with its refrain of "Soar, Elinor, Soar," would make it an ideal read-aloud for elementary school classes, as well as for parents looking for inspiring stories for their children.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. The combination of gorgeous illustrations and great text pair nicely in this title. I am also a big fan of books about people following their dreams and passions. I appreciated how Elinor's parents encouraged her in her dreams despite their unconventional nature. And one can't help but admire Elinor's courage and spunk in proving to herself and the world that women pilots were just as good as men. The longer text does make it more appropriate for older children, but the topic makes for a great sharing book. The topic would fit beautifully into discussions of American or women's history. The information at the end about the interviews with the real Elinor and the photographs are a great addition. I appreciated that the author went right to the source for her information (she interviewed Elinor herself). I highly recommend this book for curricular or personal use. The story can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates courage and determination as well as the power of dreams.
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Format: Hardcover
Elinor Smith was just sixteen when she got her pilot's license and she didn't wait long to do daredevil stunts, become an accomplished pilot and set numerous records. Indeed she was voted best female pilot of the year when she was only nineteen (besting Amelia Earhart!) Tami Lewis Brown's excellent book inspired me to learn more about this amazing and all-but-forgotten woman and want to share her story with others! [...]
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By Katherine Ward on January 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Aunt Elinor attended our wedding in 1985. I'm sorry I didn't get to know her better. I'm told she had quite a big personality and told many stories.

This book is directed toward a younger audience, but Elinor's message in following your passion is wonderful.
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