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Book Review - Skyward - Will this Children's History Book take you higher and higher?

Updated: Sep 5, 2022

Written By: Sally Deng

Published by: Flying Eye Books

Recommended Reading Age: 8+

“Skyward: The Story of Female Pilots in WWII” follows the lives of three females in their journeys to become pilots during the Second World War. The three females are based in different Allied countries; Hazel from America, Marlene from Britain, and Lilya from Russia. The author, Sally Deng, charts their struggles to join in the war effort and do their part to defend their countries.

Deng’s book largely focuses on the personal and emotional journeys of Hazel, Marlene, and Lilya. She intertwines the experiences of the three females into one narrative, bringing their encounters with similar struggles all together on the same page. This is a nice way of connecting the women and reduces the risk of storylines becoming repetitive for the reader.

However, it is worth mentioning that the book’s emotional focus means a lot less space dedicated to facts and stats. Historical information is dropped in, but often not fully explored or explained. So if you’re looking for more of an informative or educational book to learn more about female pilots in World War II, you are best looking elsewhere.

The artwork is a great accompaniment to the stories Deng weaves in the book. Her illustrations bring key moments to life and spark the inspiration of the reader. She creates emotionally-charged images that beautifully exhibit the characters’ celebratory high notes and their grief-filled lows.

The book’s finest moments come when the illustrations are used to highlight the similarities and differences between the three female pilots. Reflecting on the narrative featured on the page, Deng occasionally illustrates each female’s experience and places them clearly alongside the paragraph they connect to, allowing the reader time and space to absorb each woman’s story before comparing the three. These pages are the ones where Deng’s intertwined narrative style punches through with its greatest effect.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and at times it is easy to get your wires crossed with the stories of the three females. Though the intertwined narrative of the book is refreshing, it can often become confusing. With no clear signalling to define which character is which, you may find yourself having to flip back to the beginning to remember who was who. By the end of the book, the three different storylines become muddled and it’s hard to remember just who did what. Because of this, I found myself left without much emotional investment in the characters, which causes a problem later in the book when Deng tries to hit poignant chords about the injustices these women came up against.

To summarise, although the storylines of the characters can become muddled and the book lacks some historical detail, “Skyward” is a wonderfully illustrated tale documenting the emotional journey of Hazel, Marlene, and Lilya.

A huge thank you to Flying Eye Books for providing us with a review copy of Skyward.

If you'd like to buy Skyward, then please head to Flying Eye Books website here.


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