Lang’s portrait commemorates the centennial of Ruth Law’s record-breaking flight from Chicago to New York.
Law, who performed daredevil tricks for spectators in her Curtiss Pusher biplane, set a higher goal: to best the new nonstop-flight record just set by Victor Carlstrom. Law petitioned Glenn Curtiss for his newest model, which Carlstrom had flown—a large one, with a 205-gallon fuel tank. Curtiss refused, doubting Law’s ability to handle the powerful plane and long flight. Instead, Ruth and her mechanics modified her little open-cockpit biplane, installing a metal wind guard and extra fuel tanks that increased capacity from 16 gallons to 53. (Oddly, Lang omits a significant detail: the plane’s lights were removed to lighten it.) Effectively employing short, staccato phrases, Lang creates a riveting, “you are there” narrative. Law correctly interprets her engine’s sounds, gauges, compass, map, and landmarks, prudently touching down twice before reaching New York City—but after besting Carlstrom’s record. Well-chosen quotes from Law further enliven the text (though two, inserted within the flight’s narrative, predate it). Colón’s rich compositions—in colored pencil and crayon on paper “etched” with swirling lines—use a primary palette of gold and charcoal brown, with layers of turquoise for water and sky. Colón correctly depicts Law’s lever controls; there’s a captioned photo highlighting the detail. Readers may feel the absence of a contextualizing timeline.
A well-crafted tribute to a fascinating aviation pioneer. (author’s note, photographs, bibliography, collections and exhibits, websites, source notes) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)