I recently read Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine, written by Heather Lang, illustrated by Raul Colon and published by Boyd's Mill Press. This November will mark the 100th Anniversary of Law's historic flight from Chicago, Illinois to Hornell, New York. Her 521 miles nonstop flight broke the previous record.
"On November 19, 1916 Ruth bundled up in four flying suits and a skirt, ready to make history. She planned to fly her little biplane from Chicago to New York City in one day. No one had done it before. Aviation experts thought the flight was doomed. Impossible! But that didn't stop Ruth. What Ruth Law did next amazed America."
I read this book aloud to four consecutive classes and enjoyed it each time. My third grade students were riveted.
The writing is tight and yet flows easily. The shorter sentences allow for dramatic interpretation as well as absorption of the information. Well-placed and well-chosen quotes made the story feel personal, as if Ruth Law was recounting the whole thing.
My students wanted to place Law's feat with those of Amelia Earhart. I love these text-to-world connections. Well-written and produced biographies like this one, broaden readers' knowledge and help knit together a greater understanding of history.
Raul Colon's illustrations match the narrative energy and enhance the drama of the event. My students poured over the illustrations of the plane appreciative of the detail he brought to life. The map box tied to her leg was a fascinating and ingenious invention. The SLJ Review describes Colon's art perfectly:
"Colón’s harmonious palette is comprised, appropriately, of blues, yellows, and greens; his signature etched lines provide additional energy. He maintains interest by shifting perspectives and changing the color of the light."
Reading the author's note provided additional information on Law's life before and after the historic flight. The students were especially interested in the Wright Brothers connection and WWI service. It was easy for them to see how Ruth Law made a difference.
After reading the book and having a conversation, the students contributed their voices to three posters: one that asked for other book titles with characters that showed courage; one asked them to share what courage looks like, sounds like, and feels, like; and, the third asked them to share an example of a time when they themselves had shown courage.
Lang has provided excellent extensions to go along with the book on her website. In the "Get to Know Ruth" section readers can follow her flight path and
Look for Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine in bookstores on March 9th!