Ever hear of Betty Skelton? Most people haven’t, yet this woman was a whirling daredevil who liked to go fast and broke records in aviation and auto racing.
In the 1930s, most girls played with dolls, but not Betty: She was obsessed with airplanes, and at age 16, she soloed. She wanted to be a commercial pilot and fly in the Navy, but she was laughed at. So she became a stunt pilot with her dog, Little Tinker, by her side and no shoes on her feet. In 1951 she broke an altitude record. Then she traded planes for race cars and drove into a new career, breaking the women’s record at the Bonneville Salt Flats with a speed of 315.74 mph. Those challenges weren’t enough for Betty, and she went on to driving a stunt boat. What was next? She trained to be an astronaut, but NASA wasn’t ready to send a female into space. Even so, Betty had “proven that women could do it as well as men.” The acrylic cartoon illustrations play up Betty’s spunk and derring-do with McCarthy’s trademark googly eyed expressions. Her achievements are stated in the straightforward narrative, but the author allows readers to tap into her personality through use of quotes: When Betty flew higher than Mount Everest, she said: “My feet darn near froze to death.”
McCarthy has spun an adventurous story about this little-known woman, highlighting her groundbreaking triumphs with respectful whimsy. (“Fun Facts,” additional quotes, timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)