Flygirl, by Sherri L. Smith, tells a very unique story. Ida Mae Jones wants to fly. She wants to fly bad. But I guess that proves a little difficult when you’re a black girl living in Louisiana in the 1940s. Actually, it proves very difficult. Ida Mae doesn’t even have a pilot’s license. But she most definitely does not want to just live out her days cleaning houses, even if it is with her best friend, Jolene. So she can’t help but get ideas when her little brother shows her an article about the WASP program: Women Airforce Service Pilots. This is exactly the chance Ida Mae’s been waiting for, the chance to really fly, and to even help her brother, who is overseas fighting WWII. But there is one key obstacle–the WASP won’t accept an African American. Ida can get around that, but it means passing for white, using her light skin to her advantage. Flying is easy, but Ida Mae realizes that turning her back on her heritage and self isn’t.This book not only brings the reader into the character’s struggles, it also shows them the struggles of the WASP itself. Well-written and interesting, Flygirl is a great addition to the book world.
Today, the great author Charles John Huffman Dickens turns 200 years old. Seriously. His story is one that started out with a poor boy working in Warren’s Shoe Blacking Factory, but gradually rose to immense fame and wealth through his words. You’ve probably heard of his works: Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol and more. Who would have thought the twelve year old boy who had to work to support his family would rise to such greatness? Being poor had a lasting effect on Dickens, and shows itself in many of his stories. He worked as a clerk, a court reporter, and published a number of sketches in the Morning Chronicle under the name Boz. Dickens published The Pickwick Papers when he was 24, and soon his popularity was soaring. He embarked on numerous book tours, and was a magnificent speaker. He was the 1800s version of a superstar celebrity. Think of him as one of the Beatles. That’s how huge he was. By this point he was married to Catherine Hogarth; they had ten children, and they also lived with her sister, Mary, until her death, which had an enormous effect on Dickens. Later, Dickens and his wife were separated, and he fell in love with an actress called Ellen Ternan. Dickens was also what you could call extravagant; he dressed in bright colors and jewels, and loved his hair. His book David Copperfield is thought of as a sort of autobiography. It contains a large number of the elements from his life, and Dickens himself called it his personal favorite. His final home was Gad’s Hill Place, where he died when he was 58 years old, and he was later buried in Westminster Abbey. Thousands mourned his passing, both in Europe and overseas. Charles Dickens was undoubtedly one of the most amazing and gifted authors in history. Happy birthday!
I last mentioned World Book Night at the end of my post What Do You Say, Dear?. This event takes place on April 23, but you have to sign up by February 6. (But it’s not guaranteed that you will be selected to be a book giver.) You choose three books from the website’s list. These will be sent to you, and then the rest is very simple–you give them away! Hopefully, this tremendous effort will create hundreds, maybe thousands of new readers. You can give them away practically anywhere, but it’s best not to give them where people who already love reading are likely to be, such as the library. It’s also a good idea to give them to people who might not have such good access to books as others, and who will really appreciate it. I think World Book Night is a pretty good idea. Are you going to do it?
This book, Part of Me by Kimberly Willis Holt, was something new for me. It’s follows the trail of a family, starting with Rose, on to her son Merle Henry, and continues. Each part of the book is composed of one generation’s voice, tracing the years, from 1939 to 2004. Rose is a fourteen year old living in Texas, but when her father walks out one day, her family is uprooted and taken to live with her grandfather in Houma, Louisiana. This world of bayous and Cajun accents is brand new to Rose, but she may have found her place driving the town’s bookmobile. Years later, Rose has a son, Merle Henry, whose sole dream is to trap a mink…and hopefully learn how to dance in time for the Sweetheart Dance. Of course, he’d rather read Old Yeller then some dance book. Before you know it, Merle Henry has his own family, and his daughter Annabeth is struggling to deal with one of the most baffling things in the world–popularity, and how to get it. But every now and then she can settle down enough to read a fairy tale. However, Annabeth’s son Kyle would much rather listen to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin than even think of picking up a book. So you can imagine his problem when he has to get a job at the library. All these people are real, interesting characters. The author’s writing is great, and kept me sucked in. There was just one problem: I found myself wanting to know what happened after the characters’ narratives switched, especially Rose’s. I want to know more about Rose’s grandfather, how the Sweetheart Dance went for Merle Henry, how Annabeth found her knight in shining armor, and if Kyle ever earned the respect of his father. I would definitely be pleased if the author wrote individual books for these characters, but this book is still great in its own right. You should give it a try.