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FLYGIRL, Sherri L. Smith’s latest novel, takes place in 1941 during World War II. Ida Mae Jones’s life changes when her older brother Thomas announces he has joined the army. With Thomas off to war for over a year and a half, Ida Mae feels helpless. But then one day, she finds a newspaper article announcing a Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program, which sparks an idea about how she can help. Ida Mae already loves to fly, and now she can use this passion to help her country and make her father proud. 

She thinks, “It was at my daddy’s that I first learned to fly, naturally. As I got older, I read his manuals, took the same tests he did, and I was good. He told me so. Good enough to get my own license and be a genuine pilot. After he died, I kept up the crop-dusting work. I felt close to Daddy every time I flew. The war put an end to my flying days. Until today.”

But of course there’s a hitch. Ida Mae is black and doesn’t have as many opportunities as a white woman would. Yet she has very light skin. Putting herself in an extremely risky situation, she pretends to be a white woman and applies to the program. She is selected! Ida Mae is shipped off to Sweetwater, Texas for five intensive months of training. Does she have what it takes to make the cut? And what happens if her lie is revealed?

During her time at Sweetwater, Ida Mae makes new friends with her fellow trainees, including the bold and humorous Patsy Kake. Through her interactions with the other women and her teachers, Ida Mae realizes she has more to learn than merely the techniques of flying a plane.

Sherri L. Smith has written several novels for teenagers, including LUCY THE GIANT, SPARROW and HOT, SOUR, SALTY, SWEET. In FLYGIRL, she tells a not-so-well-known side of World War II through the story of the WASP program. Ida Mae is a brave, strong character who has more at stake than other women in the WASPs, which makes this book even more powerful. Smith does an excellent job of weaving in an interesting plot along with the background history of the program. Readers will want to learn more about this subject after turning the last page of this enlightening novel.


Reviewed by Kristi Olson on October 18, 2011

by Sherri L. Smith

  • Publication Date: January 22, 2009
  • Genres: Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
  • ISBN-10: 0399247092
  • ISBN-13: 9780399247095