Book Review: The Roaring 20

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

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Many readers will know who Amelia Earhart is. But how about Louise Thaden or Bobbi Trout or Ruth Nichols? They were all female airplane pilots, and they made names for themselves in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. This was at a time, of course, that women didn't do a lot of things that men did.

Those four women and 16 others took part in a cross-country airplane race in 1929. It was dangerous, it was a media circus, and it was legendary.

The book focuses mostly on the race, which was actually a series of flights, a sort of multi-stage event. However, the book also includes short biographies on each of the women, so the picture is bigger than just the race.

Women at this period in American history had a hard time depicting themselves as anything other than genteel homemakers. By doing things like flying airplanes (and making their own repairs, as some of the pilots did), these women were making the argument that they could do the same things that men could do. The cross-country flying race was one of those things.

The author, Margaret Whitman Blair, does an excellent job of capturing the mood of the country at that time, including how much these women wanted to prove themselves. We the readers also learn how much danger these women were in: Several planes were sabotaged (perhaps by men who didn't women being pilots at all), and one of the pilots died when her plane crashed. Still, the women flew on.

Amelia Earhart, perhaps the most famous woman flyer ever, was a participant in the race. This was a full eight years before her famous transatlantic flight. She was famous way before then, as this book shows. And despite what the reader might think, she didn't win the race.

Try this book out for a fun-filled, informative portrait of life in the 1920s as a whole and this famous event in particular. Shine the spotlight on what is for most readers a relatively unknown (yet terribly important) event. 

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David White