Books & Literature

Book Review: Skyward: The Story of Female Pilots in WW2, by Sally Deng

A book aimed at educating today’s children on the brave women who became pilots in World War 2 despite little or no recognition.

When I first saw this book it evoked memories of times gone by. It has been carefully produced to replicate books of the past. From the binding, to the illustrations and the thick, almost porous paper. It is set firmly in the 1940s.

Skyward is a well-intentioned book aimed at educating today’s children on the brave women who became pilots in World War 2. Sally Deng has chosen to tell the story of women pilots and has woven multiple narratives showcasing what it was like to step into the male-dominated world of war and flying.

Three women from different countries (USA, England and Russia) tell fictional stories of their experiences as they face sexism, racism and danger while flying for their countries. The narrative swaps between them as they dream of flying as young girls, to then realising this dream and flying for their countries. The author researched stories written about the real women who stepped up when needed and helped the war effort with little or no recognition. She has used these stories to give us a small window into what their lives may have been like.

While the stories were very interesting to someone who still has some small connection to WW2, I am unsure where to pitch the readership of this book, despite it being pitched to ages 7 and above. I do not think it would be a first choice for primary children because the illustrations are not eye catching for children and the story, while full of information, would not grab their attention. Upper primary children could possibly use it for research. The bibliography at the end of the book could also help with this research.

Teenagers would probably not choose this book either because it is the size of a picture book and can be read in less than 20 minutes. There is not enough meat to keep them interested. It is a wonderful idea to showcase these brave women but maybe a fictional novel would have been more suitable and captured the attention of our young people.

A great idea, but a missed opportunity.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Rating out of 10: 3

Distributed by: Walker Books
Released: September 2018
RRP: $29.99 hardcover

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