by Sherri L. Smith


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For fans of Unbroken and Ruta Sepetys.

All Ida Mae Jones wants to do is fly. Her daddy was a pilot, and years after his death she feels closest to him when she's in the air. But as a young black woman in 1940s Louisiana, she knows the sky is off limits to her, until America enters World War II, and the Army forms the WASP-Women Airforce Service Pilots. Ida has a chance to fulfill her dream if she's willing to use her light skin to pass as a white girl. She wants to fly more than anything, but Ida soon learns that denying one's self and family is a heavy burden, and ultimately it's not what you do but who you are that's most important.

Read Sherri L. Smith's posts on the Penguin Blog

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142417256
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 09/16/2010
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 53,660
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile: HL680L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Sherri L. Smith was born in Chicago, Illinois and spent most of her childhood reading books. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she has worked in movies, animation, comic books and construction. Sherri’s first book, Lucy the Giant, was an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults in 2003. The Dutch translation, Lucy XXL (Gottmer, 2005), was awarded an Honorable Mention at the 2005 De Gouden Zoen, or Golden Kiss, Awards for Children’s Literature in the Netherlands. Sherri’s novel, Sparrow, was chosen as a National Council for the Social Studies/Children’s Book Council Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and is also a 2009 Louisiana Young Readers Choice Award Nominee. Upon the release of Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet in February 2008, Sherri was featured as a spotlight author for The Brown Bookshelf's Black History Month celebration, 28 Days Later. Flygirl, an historical YA novel set during World War II, is her fourth novel.

“Cloudberries,” Ladybug Magazine (2001)

Lucy the Giant (2002)

Various stories, Bart Simpson Comics (2002)

Sparrow (2006)

Hot Sour, Salty, Sweet (2008)

Flygirl (January 2009)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

-A dynamic, heartfelt novel.+ -The Washington Post

-A thrilling, but little-known story that begs to be told. The book is at once informative and entertaining.+ -School Library Journal

Customer Reviews

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Flygirl 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
SoaringLove More than 1 year ago
I love the author for this book. She captivates me with her amazing writing. This book was unforgetable and extremely amazing ! I will always remember it for its edgyness, amzingness, and happiness ! Smith drives me nutts while she constantly continues to prove to me how amazing of a writer she is. I'm thinking, if she hasn't already written another book, she should do so NOW ! Flygirl has no inappropriate parts and not too much cussing. This book is definitly great. Great Story, Great Author
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
World War II is raging across the globe and Ida Mae Jones is doing everything she can on the homefront to support the war effort. With her brother, Thomas, off fighting in the Pacific, Ida Mae wants nothing more than to see the boys come home safely.

Donating bacon grease and nylon stockings is not enough. Ida Mae cannot just sit at home when she knows that so many are dying overseas. When she sees an article in the newspaper announcing a new army initiative - WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) - she knows that she has found her calling. Like the Russians, Uncle Sam is finally letting women do more.

Flying has always been a passion for Ida Mae, since the first time her daddy took her up in his "Jenny," a Curtiss JN-4. She might not have a license, due to a sexist flight instructor, but Ida Mae is an experienced pilot. In fact, she feels more at home in the sky than on the ground. Her father flew to dust crops, and now Ida Mae wants to fly in the army.

There is just one problem. WASP is a program for white women, and Ida Mae is colored.

With her light skin and brown hair, she just might be able to pass for a white woman. To pursue her dream of becoming a WASP, Ida Mae must deny her identity and face unimaginable dangers. Graduating from the rigorous training in Sweetwater, Texas, to become a full-fledged WASP will be no easy task.

Can one colored girl prove to herself and the world that the sky really is the limit?

Sherri L. Smith smoothly incorporates extensive historical research to paint a bold and extraordinary portrait of the courageous women of the WASP. Like her idols, Jackie Cochran and Nancy Love, Ida Mae is a plucky, adventurous heroine, defying race and gender barriers to surpass even her own expectations. Smith is honest in portraying the often rough and unfair treatment that women of WASP endured, the unappreciated sacrifices that these women made all in the name of a country that did not see them as equals to men.

Ida Mae herself says it best - "We don't get any medals for the things we do. We don't get a parade when we go home." Even without the fanfare and celebrations that they deserved, the WASP played an essential role in winning World War II.

And for Ida Mae? "It's all the reward we need."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book that i loved so much i will recomend this book to all my friends. Not many books can make me cry at some of the event twists but this did. One reason why i loved it so much was because it takes place during world war two and talks about the first women allowed to fly in the military.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ida mae is very brave and strong I feel bad for her because of her is very sad and sad ehen her big brother had to leave to go to the army .she was trying to get her friend to do somthing to help snd the war is also like 9.1.1.
Airship27 More than 1 year ago
In the winter of 1941, Ida Mae Jones has graduated from high school in Slidell, Louisiana and lives on a strawberry farm with her widowed mother, her grandfather, older brother Tom and younger brother Abel. Tom is a student at a Negro college studying medicine and Ida Mae works as a maid for a well-to-do white family in nearby New Orleans with her best friend, Jolene. Before his death in a freakish accident, Ida¿s father had bought a plane for crop dusting and taught her how to fly. It is her life¿s passion. Sadly no respectable flight school will give her a pilot¿s license because of her gender. As December rolls around, she is resigned to the fact that she may never realize her dream of becoming a professional aviator. When Japan attacks Pearl Harbor and the United States enters the world war already raging in Europe, everything changes for this spirited young woman.

Two years later, Thomas is in the army serving in the South Pacific and Ida is going stir crazy at home wanting to get involved. When she learns that the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) program is recruiting women to help fly planes across the country, her dream is rekindled. This unique organization was a merger of WFTD (Women¿s Flying Training Detachment) and the WAFS (Women¿s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron) whereby the US Army Air Force employed civilian female pilots to fly military aircrafts on missions that ranged from ferrying planes from factories to military bases and towing aerial targets. They made it possible to free up thousands of male pilots for combat roles overseas. Sadly, in 1943 they were also discriminatory against blacks and qualified Negro women were refused entry into the corp.

Which is where Sherri Smith¿s story takes-off much like her high flying heroine. Ida Mae is a light skinned Negro who can easily pass for white. She is also a person of high moral character and the realization that she must lie to achieve her goal of joining the WASP is a truly bitter pill. Against her family¿s wishes, Ida applies for flight school and is accepted, her subterfuge successful. Soon she finds herself stationed at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, with hundreds of other would-be pilots. There she meets two other spirited girls in Patsy ¿Cakewalk¿ Kake, a veteran wing-walker and barnstormer and Lily Lowenstein, a wealthy socialite from New York. They become close friends and in the weeks and months ahead, support each other through the grueling training.

Smith¿s research is flawless and she vividly recreates the daily life of a WASP. For the most part, these brave young women were given very little credit by their male counterparts, when all too often they performed to higher standards then the men. Time and time again, WASP pilots were put to the test and their skills and courage always won out. Thus Smith weaves both a marvelous historical narrative that is one hundred percent factual with a warm and endearing fiction. It is a seamless tale that is both sad and inspiring. FLYGIRL is one of those rare books you wish would never end and Ida Mae Jones is a character you will never forget.
KarenBall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set during World War II, this is a story of courage, choices, and consequences. Ida Mae Jones has grown up in rural Louisiana on a farm, where her daddy flew a crop dusting plane until his accidental death. He taught her to fly with him, and even though she passed the test Ida Mae was denied a pilot's license because she is black and female. After her brother enlists as an Army medic, and goes to the Pacific to fight, Ida Mae decides to alter her father's license in order to apply for the Women Airforce Service Pilots program -- as a white girl. Light skinned and with "good hair", passing for white is her only chance to prove herself, but the consequences of that choice are devastating to her family. Ida Mae finds that the Army isn't a place where women are equal, no matter how good they are at their jobs. Prejudice against women is definitely the status quo. But she makes friends and reaches for her dreams while flying for the Army, and discovers the strength to find out who she really is. Based on true events from the history of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, this is excellent historical fiction, with strong characters and realistic portrayals of multiple kinds of prejudice. 6th grade and up.
Soniamarie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have so many good things to say about this book, I don't know where to start... First, I loved the heroine, Ida Mae. Ida is a small town farm girl whose father introduced her to crop dusting at an early age. Ida loves to fly and when America enters World War 2, she gets tired of collecting silk stockings and cleaning houses and decides to join the WASP. Despite her amazing flying abilities, the WASP will turn her away simply because she is half black. Ida's desire to fly and aide her brother overseas in the only way she knows how overcomes her fears and she passes herself off as white so that she may do so. Her mother gets upset, her best friend gets upset, but Ida doesn't let them stop her and off she goes Sweetwater, Texas to fly. On top of getting a firm feel for life at Avenger Field during world war 2 and the flight training and procedures, readers also get a look at what it is like to be black in the 1940s. Ida is always having to worry about her hair curling too much or somebody figuring out her secret because back then, her secret could get her killed. On top of the racial tension is the fact that she is a woman to boot. I doubt anybody had it harder back then. Women in general had it rough, but being a black woman... most of us would not have had Ida's courage. Also in the story is how Ida deals with conflicting emotions regarding her family in New Orleans (she feels she is denying her own heritage and family, especially when her mom comes to visit and has to act like her maid) and her family in Sweetwater. How would her newfound white friends act if they knew the truth? My only complaint about this novel is we never found that out. There is also a situation with the loss of a friend. Ida has to deal with her grief as she watches a friend die and her conflicting emotions about the situation as she realizes it could happen to her. I absolutely loved the courageous flight Ida takes with Lily in a B-29. Great way to end this novel. Readers see how the WASP was literally used and discarded. I feel for all the women that were involved. Yet, this does not stop Ida Mae. Despite the fact that the Army betrays her and her female comrades in the end, Ida Mae still wants to fly, not as a white woman, nor a black woman, but as Ida Mae. Ms. Smith, I would like to see a sequel to this book. I would like to see Ida Mae go work for Walt and come clean about her heritage. I'd like to see her overcome the 1950s and keep on flying despite all odds. We need more books with strong female heroines, white, black, latina.... Thumbs up, Ms. Smith.
callmecayce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up because of the cover. What I found was a well writing, moving historical fiction novel. Flygirl is a fast paced novel that takes place before and during World War II in the Southern US. It's about a girl whose only dream is to fly, except that the world's against her, not only because she's a woman, but because she's black. What makes Smith's novel so good is that she embraces all the controversy, struggles and inner turmoil that Ida Mae goes through to be able to fly. The story was strong, the characters were lovable and I was attached to them in no time. Highly, highly recommended.
lilibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ida Mae's father taught her to fly his crop duster - and she loves it. She wants nothing more than to fly. But there doesn't seem to be any way for a young black girl to get a pilot's license.Then she hears about the WASP - a group of women pilots being trained to help with the war effort. They are not taking black women, but Ida Mae is pale enough to pass.
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story is about a girl who also longs to fly, and sees her chance when the U.S. enters World War II. The barrier of gender has been temporarily lowered because of the war, but not that of race. But Ida Mae Jones in Flygirl can do something most girls of color cannot: she can pass for white.This YA book, set in World War II, is based on the true story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP, which was an experimental Army Air Corp program enabling volunteer women civilian pilots to relieve men for overseas duty. (The women couldn¿t fly in combat but they were allowed to do tasks such as ferrying planes, perform engineering tests, give flight instruction, tow targets for aerial gunnery practice, and various other similar support functions.)The WASP were stationed at 120 Army Air Bases in the U.S. and flew 78 different types of planes, including the B-29, which men would not fly until they saw it could be handled by the women. The decision was made to deactivate the WASP in December 1944. The WASP finally gained their belated militarization from Congress in 1977.It is not known if there were any girls in WASP who were (secretly) black, although it is a fact that African-American women pilots were rejected from serving. In the book, Ida Mae is constantly torn between her love of flying, and the reality that she can only do it by denying her heritage and her family:"¿I don¿t feel Negro any more than I feel white. I¿m just me. Ida Mae Jones¿ Take away the uniform and I really am nothing at all. Take away the wings and I¿m someone else¿s. Someone¿s maid, someone¿s daughter, someone¿s sister, and maybe even someone¿s wife one day. But I can¿t have one life without giving up the other. ¿ It¿s not fair.¿When Ida Mae sees her mother at Christmas and can¿t throw her arms around her for fear she'll be discovered, but has to pretend her mother is her maid, your heart breaks right along with hers.Adding to her dilemmas, Ida Mae meets a flight instructor with whom she may be in love. He, of course, is white, and he does not know she is not.As Ida¿s heart gets pulled back and forth, yours will go with her. She feels she can¿t win no matter what she decides.Evaluation: This is a book that will inspire any girl who has ever wanted to fly. You learn plenty about the actual WASP program and the conditions under which the women ¿ who were all volunteers ¿ had to serve. You also get to experience the camaraderie of women in a flight training program for a change, instead of the usual and perhaps expected tale of male bonding. But most poignantly, you learn about life on the edge of the color line as Ida Mae straddles two worlds and struggles to be happy in a society unwilling to give her a chance.
theepicrat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I know that I gave FLYGIRL a semi-mediocre rating, but the story just was not my cup of tea. That said, I firmly believe that Ida Mae is a character that I would have appreciated at a much younger age. She possesses a quiet strength that only grows as she comes to terms with how society runs. Yes, Ida Mae may have pretended that her mother was her housekeeper when she visited the training camp. Yes, Ida Mae may have acted "white" to help a fellow African American get a fair trade at the hardware store. Eventually she realizes that all this pretense hurts her and those close to her in the long run, and she must stay true to herself as she pursues her dream to fly.The girl on the cover does not look African American - at least, I had to look more closely after discovering Ida Mae's background. I suppose she looks a little ambiguous, and I did not think that FLYGIRL was about ethnicity when I first picked it up. Which makes me wonder how many would pass this by as they looked for book with ethnic protagonists. Very unfortunate since I think Ida Mae's dilemma was fairly interesting - I never thought that African Americans would try to marry "white" in order to have lighter-skinned children.However, I cannot hide my disappointment that FLYGIRL indirectly referenced World War II and did not incorporate much of it into Ida Mae's story. This focused more on her training and building relationships with her superiors, fellow flygirls, and family. I had hoped that she would get to fly on more real missions instead of being shown off like circus elephants. Secretly I think Ida Mae also wished that as well, but FLYGIRL did not fulfill that expectation.
theokester on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received an ARC of Flygirl ages ago and let it sit idly on my bookshelf. I procrastinated reading it thinking it was going to be a trite, stereotypically emotional book pounding its message into my head at the expense of good writing and good storytelling. Once I finally picked up the book and started reading, I was dismayed that I'd waited so long to read this book.In some ways, the story and plot were what I expected to find. A black girl living in the south in mid-1900s¿trying to find her own identity while having it constantly defined by those around her (by both whites and blacks). As the title and synopsis indicate, she finds her strongest sense of identity defined by her absolute passion for flying¿and especially for the freedom and exhilaration it brings to her.The synopsis explains that this story is about Ida Mae Jones and what happens when she decides to join the WASP (Women's Airforce Service Pilots). However, the first third of the book is about her life in Slidell, Louisiana. We meet her friends, her family and see a bit of her interactions around town. We also learn about Ida Mae's passion to be a pilot. The writing is smooth and believable and really draws you into what it might have been like to be a young black girl in Louisiana in 1941.Before long, we are given historical notes about America entering the war and about the sacrifices that people had to make. Finally, we learn about the WASP program and see Ida Mae grapple with the difficult decision of what she should do. As you know from the synopsis, she decides to try out for WASP and she ends up being accepted into the program. But in order to do so, she finds herself needing to "pass" as a white woman. She never explicitly says to anyone that she is white¿but she doesn't have to. By dressing herself more "white" and by moving into white circles, she is essentially silently telling people she is no longer "black." I loved that this book was written in first person. By having it in first person it allowed us to get very close to Ida Mae and to feel her anxieties, her regrets, her successes and her fears. I was very worried for her safety many times through her training and missions¿not just because of the military aspect, but because her "passing" would have gotten her into a lot of trouble.I found this book not only very entertaining but very interesting and educational. It was clear that the author did a lot of research on the era, on the war, on the WASP program and on most everything she shared with us in this novel. I really felt like I was reading about true moments from 1940s America.My only real problem with the book was how it ended¿not that it ended bad, but the position in which it ended. The end of the book leaves Ida Mae with a difficult decision about what to do with her future. And while I felt the author handled the ending very well and had Ida Mae make the decision that best fit her character and her life, I really wanted to know what happened next¿in the following months, years, etc. Granted, that sort of speculation would be a hard ending to make and would result in a lot of problems for a writer and a reader. So it's probably best that we're left not knowing what happened next and we're thus left having to assume what happened based on what's presented in our novel and our own knowledge of the history of the times.Overall I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick but very engaging read. The history, descriptions, characters, and actions were all vivid, entertaining and thought provoking. While not an action packed war novel, you did feel the anxiety of being in America during World War II as well as the stress and worry of Ida Mae as she struggled to find part of her identity while hiding another part. Even though this is a "young adult" novel due to its young characters and simpler writing/plot style, I found this to be a great read and could recommend it to teens or adults without problem. If you have any
ewyatt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ida Mae Jones, "Jonesy", wants to help in the war effort especially after her brother has enlisted. When her younger brother shows her an article about women pilots joining a group called WASP to help fly and test planes, she knows she has to sign up. Ida Mae is African-American, and only white women are allowed to join up. With her light skin, she decides to take a huge risk and try to pass as white to pursue her passion for flying. There is lots about discrimination in this book, both in the ways women were treated and particularly the struggles of black women. I enjoyed the book, the bonds Ida Mae formed in WASP, and her determination to make her dream come true - despite the costs and risks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rowdycat More than 1 year ago
Ida Mae is a young girl with a passion--for flying, but even though her father taught her to fly, when she goes to get her flying license she is turned down because she is "colored." It's the beginning of World War II in Louisiana, and things are not good for black people in the South. Ida is very light-skinned and when she reads that the government is training young women to fly as WASPs to free up the men for combat, she decides to see if she can "pass" for white and get into the program. Thus starts the beginning of her dream--to fly, even if she has to lie to get into the program. She sees all around her how very different things are for "coloreds" and whites and knows how dangerous her ruse could be for her if she's found out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book!! You should read it! :-D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A gret book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, it was such a beautiful story i want to read it over and over again !!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very nice book. It really explains about Ida's life and her challanges when she lost her father.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is there going to be a second book?????? I read this a long time ago and i though it deserved a sequal? I looked it up and can up with no info so i am now looking to u guys. HELP!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago