Thursday, October 11, 2018

CYBILS JUNIOR NONFICTION REVIEWS: Fly Girls/Capsized


ABOUT THE BOOK

It the tradition of Hidden Figures, debut author Patricia Pearson offers a beautifully written account of the remarkable but often forgotten group of female fighter pilots who answered their country’s call in its time of need during World War II.

At the height of World War II, the US Army Airforce faced a desperate need for skilled pilots—but only men were allowed in military airplanes, even if the expert pilots who were training them to fly were women. Through grit and pure determination, 1,100 of these female pilots—who had to prove their worth time and time again—were finally allowed to ferry planes from factories to bases, to tow targets for live ammunition artillery training, to test repaired planes and new equipment, and more.

Though the WASPs lived on military bases, trained as military pilots, wore uniforms, marched in review, and sometimes died violently in the line of duty, they were civilian employees and received less pay than men doing the same jobs and no military benefits, not even for burials.

Their story is one of patriotism, the power of positive attitudes, the love of flying, and the willingness to do good with no concern for personal gain.


REVIEW

I'd heard of the WASP program before reading this book, but I didn't know much about it in terms of specific details.  I know a lot more now having read this book.  Pearson does an excellent job of describing the program as well as the events that led up to its creation and the events that led to its demise.  Specific individuals who played a key role in the program are mentioned by name throughout the book.  I especially enjoyed the experiences of specific WASP participants that Pearson shares throughout the book.  These personal experiences helped clarify the points the author was making about the challenges these women faced in terms of physical, mental, and emotional challenges.  I found it quite disappointing to read about the poor way many of the women were treated because other people didn't think women could be good military pilots, despite their proving their value over and over again.  And yet, I couldn't help but admire the skill and determination that so many of these ladies exhibited in the face of discrimination and poor treatment.  And their hard work did convert some of those around them to the value of the program.  Pearson has written a fascinating, well-written account of an important program in the annals of World War II, where over a thousand female pilots sacrificed a lot to come to the aide of their country.



ABOUT THE BOOK

On July 24, 1915, the SS Eastland, filled to capacity with 2,500 passengers and crew, capsized in the Chicago River while still moored to the pier. Happy picnic-goers headed for an employee outing across Lake Michigan suddenly found themselves in a struggle for their lives. Trapped belowdecks, crushed by the crowds attempting to escape the rising waters, or hurled into the river from the upper deck of the ship, roughly one-third of the passengers, mostly women and children, perished that day.
     The Eastland disaster took more passenger lives than the Titanic and stands today as the greatest loss of life on the Great Lakes. Capsized! details the events leading up to the fateful day and provides a nail-biting, minute-by-minute account of the ship's capsizing. From the courage of the survivors to the despair of families who lost loved ones, author Patricia Sutton brings to light the stories of ordinary working people enduring the unthinkable.
     Capsized! also raises critical-thinking questions for young readers: Why do we know so much about the Titanic's sinking yet so little about the Eastland disaster? What causes a tragedy to be forgotten and left out of society's collective memory? And what lessons from this disaster might we be able to apply today?


REVIEW

Sutton has written a compelling account of a tragic disaster that occurred on July 24, 1915.  The SS Eastland, a steamship, was loading up for a trip across Lake Michigan to deliver over two thousand people to a Western Electric picnic celebration.  The ship capsized sending hundreds of people into the water, and trapping hundreds more inside the ship.  Sutton takes the reader through an account of this event, detailing both general events and specific experiences.  The actions of both crew and passengers are explained as well as a general history of the ship.  After reading about the previous stability problems the ship had, I found it appalling that the ship was still in use as a passenger vessel, when the ship had over and over again demonstrated that it was not suited to such use.  Mistakes both old and new guaranteed that a disaster was bound to happen.  This one occurred without the ship even leaving the dock.  It's proximity to the dock allowed people nearby to come to their aid.  Despite the hundreds of people who helped, over 800 people still died, many of them women and children.  This compelling story demonstrates that so many accidents are caused by human error.  And so often those responsible aren't held responsible, leaving the victims and their families to suffer the consequences.  A little known historical tale full of tragedy and courage, loss and bravery, as an entire community faced a disaster that didn't need to happen.

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