Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine
Calkins Creek (Highlights), Honesdale, Pennsylvania, 2016. 40 pages.
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #5 Children's Nonfiction
Did you know that in 1916, the person to set the American longest nonstop flight record was a woman? This picture book tells the story of Ruth Law, an early American aviator.
100 years ago, flying was dangerous and primitive. The pictures speak volumes, with Ruth Law bundled up in layers of coats with only her feet protected from the elements, steering the plane using two levers. She navigated with a little scrolling six-inch map she strapped into her lap. She had to hold the right lever with her knee while she turned the knobs on the map box.
Early on, the book explains why Ruth Law was so successful:
Few aviators dared to fly cross-country in their flimsy flying machines. If an engine had trouble, by the time the aviator realized it, there was often nowhere to land.
Ruth had a secret weapon. She knew every nut and bolt on her machine.
“I could anticipate what would happen to the motor by the sound of it.”
The text in this book is straightforward, interspersed with quotes from Ruth. The story is of her plan to fly from Chicago to New York City and to show that what men can do, a woman can do.
Raúl Colón’s beautiful pictures evoke the time period beautifully. By seeing pictures, you realize just how early in the history of aviation were Ruth’s adventures. Her record-breaking flight happened in November 1916.
She didn’t have a radio or any instruments but a compass. She didn’t even have a cockpit. With two levers and a map box perched on a rickety-looking set of wings, Ruth Law broke the boundaries of what could be done.
“The sky was my limit and the horizon my sphere. It’s any woman’s sphere if she has nerve and courage and faith in herself. She’s got to have faith in herself.”
I expect this picture book will inspire more girls and boys to take to the sky.