Posted by: jeannineatkins | February 7, 2011

Soar, Elinor! by Tami Lewis Brown, Pictures by Francois Roca

The grinning young woman in the cockpit of a cherry red plane, the dash of the title on the cover, convey the spirit of this book. Amelia Earhart is fascinating, but the early twentieth century saw many more female pilots, and I’m glad to see Elinor Smith featured in a picture book.

Soar, Elinor (FSG) begins when Elinor is six and took her first ride in a flimsy biplane from a Long Island potato field. Four years later she began flying lessons. She managed to convince her parents to fly solo at age fifteen: her father, a vaudeville showman, knew the importance of dreams (as well as passing along a flare for drama), and her mother was perhaps even more determined that her daughter pursue her passion, since she remembered how her parents had refused to give her voice lessons.

The book focuses on a dare in 1928 when Elinor was seventeen. A man bet she wouldn’t fly under one of the bridges spanning New York’s East River. Elinor decided to fly under all four. We see her train, both piloting and doing mathematical calculations, take off in a Waco 10 – with a goodbye from pilot Charles Lindbergh – and deal with the unexpected. Tami Lewis Brown’s sentences are as crystal clear as the sky on a sunny day. The plot moves swiftly toward and through the events that brought Elinor early fame, as well as the danger of losing her pilot’s license. Or perhaps even her life.

The paintings are stunning. We see a lot of sky in this big book, and planes and vistas are often shown on two-page spreads. Francois Roca is as talented at capturing the features on a face as he is at showing period cityscapes and aircraft.

The afterward offers information about the rest of Elinor’s life on ground or in the sky, as well as the research and writing process. This is a great book for anyone who likes reading about adventure or women in history. And visit Tami’s website to learn about how to win a free Skype visit for your scout troop or book club. which Tami is offering in honor of Women History’s Month.

For more Nonfiction Monday posts, please go to: Wild About Nature.



  1. LOVE!!!!!
    I have a print of Kevin Slattery’s Amelia in my studio! As a reminder to go farther!

  2. Gosh, I wish there had been nonfiction books like these when I was growing up. I would have eaten this one up. Thrilled that I’ll be able to share this one with my daughters someday.

  3. Ooh – this looks fabulous!

  4. Yes, go farther but don’t necessarily fly over the Pacific in a small plane. Amelia is great, but it’s nice to read in the afterward that Elinor raised four kids and was chatting about flight when she was 89. She had a daring streak, but clearly made some rational decisions along the way.

  5. Yes, I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to find books like this. Your lucky daughters.
    (thank goodness, though, for Laura Ingalls Wilder. and Louisa May Alcott)

  6. Soar, Kelly! Even if that doesn’t rhyme. Elinor and Soar is a very good one, I think.

  7. I’m happy to read that Elinor had such supportive parents. It makes all the difference when you have people who believe in you and your dreams. Lucky Elinor. Lucky me.

  8. Elinor’s parents were definitely a warm note in a book filled with danger.
    When I wrote Girls Who Look Under Rocks, moms who encouraged their daughters to get dirty on the way to strange places their curiosity led them to was a theme. Rachel Carson’s mother bought her books about fossils and insects and studied along with her when she was small. When Jane Goodall needed a chaperone to live in the wild in Africa, her mom came along.
    I’m happy to hear you had that kind of luck and appreciate it.

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