Sunday, November 9, 2008

Skies Over Sweetwater by Julia Moberg

Skies Over Sweetwater

Skies Over Sweetwater
by Julia Moberg

Trade Paperback: 148 pages
Publisher: Keene Publishing
First Released: 2008

Source: Bought from Amazon

Back Cover Blurb:
Bernadette Thompson (Byrd to her friends) is 18, the year is 1944, and she is about to fulfill her life-long dream: to become an Air Force pilot. Leaving her poverty-stricken Iowa home, Byrd boards a train in route to Sweetwater, Texas—home of Avenger Field—where the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) training camp teaches women how to fly bombers, pursuits, trainers, and utility planes. At camp, Byrd meets Cornelia the rich girl, Sadie the college girl, and Opal the city girl. Together they struggle to master not only handling a plane, but some of life’s most important challenges.

The WASP were the first women in history trained to fly American military aircraft. Still in their teens, these courageous pioneers, heroes in their own right, left their homes to serve their country doing what they loved to do—fly! Their story inspires us all to follow our dreams and find our own place in the world through courage, integrity, and passion. Readers of all ages will love the WASP’s story of achievement, friendship, and patriotism.

This book is a historical fiction book aimed at teenagers. I read this book more to learn about the WASP program than for the story. Sometimes, I felt like the author had made a list of information she wanted to include and forced the story to fit around that list, but I expect it wasn't 'forced' enough to bother most readers.

The information about the planes was detailed and appeared to be well-researched, and the WASP program information was accurate. However, some of the things in the story seemed questionable. For example, Byrdie remembers how a rattlesnake once crawled through the water pipes and out the water faucet in the wash room of her house. But water pipes are full of water, not air, and the snake wouldn't have been able to get past the valves. Then there's the farmer who apparently has chickens (since he mentions having chicken feed) but who used his ration stamps to buy eggs. But why buy eggs when presumably he can get them from his own hens?

Also, none of the girls (except Byrdie) has any mechanical malfunctions on their planes, but Byrdie has several mechanical failures. I kept wondering why the instructors never once suspected sabotage. Finally, Byrdie feels the wind caress her face when she's in a closed cockpit, which was confusing since I thought you wouldn't be able to.

I also want to warn readers that the book was written in present tense, which I found very distracting. (People don't tell each other stories or even talk in present tense, so it sounds unnatural to me.)

Despite all this, the story was engaging and the characters were likable. I kept reading because I wanted to find out what happened to the characters. There was no sex, no profanity, and the lessons learned were good ones. I'd rate this book as "good, clean fun."

Excerpt: Chapter One
The train pulls up to the station, right on time. The conductor helps lug my trunk up the stairs and into my compartment. I sit down on the gorgeous plush red velvet bench where I will be spending the next 12 hours. I run my fingers over it, realizing how long it has been since I felt anything so wonderful.

Outside the window the Iowa sun is starting to come up all purple and orange over the horizon. I think about Mom and my sister, Charlotte, and I wonder if they are awake yet and if they've noticed I'm gone. And then I think about Pa, and it hurts, so I open my trunk and find my favorite and only book I own, West with the Night, by Beryl Markham. I get lost reading about her adventures flying her plane across the Atlantic. Then, without realizing it, I am asleep.

I can never sleep long because the fire comes. When I doze off, my eyes fill up with orange and red. They burn, and someone is always screaming my name, and my head feels like it's going to explode. Right before it does, I wake up.

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