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Flygirl Hardcover – January 22, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Smith (Lucy the Giant) brings a gripping perspective to bear upon a lesser-known piece of America's past: during WWII, the government recruited women pilots to fly non-combat missions, e.g., ferrying planes. Driven by a desire to fly and wanting to help her enlisted brother, Ida Mae decides to pass as white so she can join the program. The author has an expert grasp on her subject, and readers will learn plenty about the Women Airforce Service Pilots, from their impractical uniforms to the dangerous missions they flew without reward. Ida Mae's unique point of view gives her special insight into the often poor treatment of women: when a pilot friend gets frustrated by a stunt they are asked to perform, Ida realizes, Lily's just finding out what I've been living with my whole life. She's never known what it was like to be hobbled by somebody else's rules. Key scenes demonstrate how much Ida has sacrificed by passing, as when her much darker mother visits her on Christmas and, à la Imitation of Life, poses as the family housekeeper. Although this book feels constructed to educate, readers will find the lesson well crafted. Ages 12–up. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Grade 6–10—Readers first meet 18-year-old Ida Mae Jones, a Louisiana girl who longs to be a pilot, in December 1941, on the eve of America's entrance into World War II. She is pretty and smart, but she has two huge strikes against her. She is black in an America where racism holds sway, and a competent pilot in an America in which she is denied her license because she is a woman. Smith explores these two significant topics and does a wonderful job of melding the two themes in one novel. Ida Mae is a likable character who is torn by the need to pass for white and fake a license in order to fulfill her dream. Readers learn a great deal about what it must have been like to be African American in the South during this period, as well as about the Women Airforce Service Pilots, WASP, a civilian group that performed jobs that freed male pilots for other things. The women's close friendships and the danger, excitement, and tragedy of their experience create a thrilling, but little-known story that begs to be told. The book is at once informative and entertaining. In the end, readers are left to wonder what Ida Mae Jones will do with the rest of her life.—Carol Jones Collins, Columbia High School, Maplewood, NJ
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: HL680L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers; Fifth or Later Edition edition (January 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399247092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399247095
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,695,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tara Chevrestt VINE VOICE on September 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have so many good things to say about this book, I don't know where to start... First, I loved the heroine, Ida Mae. Ida is a small town farm girl whose father introduced her to crop dusting at an early age. Ida loves to fly and when America enters World War 2, she gets tired of collecting silk stockings and cleaning houses and decides to join the WASP. Despite her amazing flying abilities, the WASP will turn her away simply because she is half black. Ida's desire to fly and aide her brother overseas in the only way she knows how overcomes her fears and she passes herself off as white so that she may do so. Her mother gets upset, her best friend gets upset, but Ida doesn't let them stop her and off she goes Sweetwater, Texas to fly.

On top of getting a firm feel for life at Avenger Field during world war 2 and the flight training and procedures, readers also get a look at what it is like to be black in the 1940s. Ida is always having to worry about her hair curling too much or somebody figuring out her secret because back then, her secret could get her killed. On top of the racial tension is the fact that she is a woman to boot. I doubt anybody had it harder back then. Women in general had it rough, but being a black woman... most of us would not have had Ida's courage.

Also in the story is how Ida deals with conflicting emotions regarding her family in New Orleans (she feels she is denying her own heritage and family, especially when her mom comes to visit and has to act like her maid) and her family in Sweetwater. How would her newfound white friends act if they knew the truth? My only complaint about this novel is we never found that out.

There is also a situation with the loss of a friend.
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Format: Hardcover
"'Yes, indeed.' Audrey salutes me this time. 'Isn't it funny, ladies, how there's always a man at the bottom of everything we do?'"

After reading FLYGIRL, I still have not the slightest desire to learn to fly an airplane. There are just too many problems that can pop up with such complex mechanical things. When something unexpected occurs with my Toyota pickup, I simply pull over and pull out the cell phone and the AAA card. One doesn't have the same luxury with an airplane, as we see all too vividly in FLYGIRL, Sherri L. Smith's high-flying tale of a young, light-skinned, southern woman of color who "passes" for white during World War II so that she can compete for a position flying in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program. Ida Mae Jones and her fellow women pilots go through months of rigorous training so that they can assume responsibility for military flight tasks on the homefront. The WASP pilots thereby free up the Army's male pilots so that the men can then head into combat overseas in the European and South Pacific theaters.

Ida Mae grew up in her father's crop duster -- after her father blazed his own trail by heading north to Chicago in order to get pilot's training and a license -- and she lives to fly. But now her father is dead in a tractor accident, there is gasoline rationing because of The War, and her big brother, Thomas, has enlisted as a medic. Free as a bird in the air, this young woman is one smart, careful, and damned-near fearless flygirl. Ida Mae's difficulties are, instead, encountered when she is back on the ground:

"Pretending to be white is like holding your stomach in at the lake when the boys walk by.
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Format: Hardcover
FLYGIRL is, quite simply, remarkable. It succeeds on many levels: as history of a little known aspect of World War II, as insight into being a patriotic black woman who yearns for the white male world of flying, and best of all, as pure, engrossing story.

Sherri L. Smith has clearly done her research in depicting the WASP experience, and she brings Ida Mae and her friends to vivid life. The world Ida Mae inhabits at the beginning of WWII is very limiting for too many people. By the end of the story, it's clear the world has changed. Ida Mae is not going to go back to cleaning houses, and I like to think of her creating a path that will let her fly not as a "colored" girl passing for white, but as simply Ida Mae Jones, pilot.

I noticed that an earlier review by a flying buff criticized the story for not showing pre-flight checks, but the gentleman must not have read carefully. The flight checks are there, and given exactly as much weight as they deserve by showing that the girl pilots know what they're doing.

I look forward to reading more of Sherri L. Smith's book
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Format: Paperback
Sherri L. Smith's `Flygirl' is definitely going on my 2010 favourite's list. I'm also counting it as one of my all-time favourite Young Adult reads. . . heck, it's a favourite book all round.

The book opens in December 1941, on the day that Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese. Not long after the attack the US army develop the WASP program - Women Airforce Service Pilots. Twenty-year-old Ida Mae Jones dreams of the sky. Her dearly-departed Daddy taught her to fly for crop dusting. . . but Ida dreams of more. She dreams of heading to Chicago to get her pilot's licence and joining the Women's Auxiliary. But she has one big strike against her - Ida Mae is black. The Civil Rights Movement isn't even a blip on the American radar and there's no way in hell Ida Mae will fly in the skies if she presents herself as a woman of colour.

But Ida's Daddy was a light-skinned black man (from years of his family trying to climb the social ladder by marrying and procreating with whites). Ida has `good hair' and can pass for Spanish blood. So Ida Mae lies. She pretends to be white in order to join WASP. Ida turns her back on everything she knows and everyone she loves in order to help her country and earn her place in the skies.

Ida joins WASP and flies to her heart's content. . . but if it means refusing her family and heritage, if it means acting white to get ahead in life. . . then what is Ida fighting for in the first place?

Everything about this book is breathtaking. Even the front-cover looks like a movie-poster and has a Rosie the Riveter feel to it. Sherri L. Smith's writing is divine - at once a beautiful slice of 1940's life and a jarring examination of race-relations in the Deep South.
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