Some of my most favorite children's books are ones that introduce children to people and events of American history, but are told from an unique viewpoint, one that goes beyond the barebone facts that we are all expected to know. MY BROTHERS' FLYING MACHINE: WILBUR, ORVILLE, AND ME is one of those books. Written by the talented Jane Yolen, whose works for young readers are numerous and varied, and illustrated by Jim Burke, this nonfiction picture book is told from the view of Katherine Wright, younger sister to the famous Ohio brothers who first flew at Kitty Hawk. She tells of the brothers' fascination with a flying toy which eventually translated into their quest to take to the air themselves. All of that may be already known by young readers and listeners, but they will be surprised to learn that Katherine kept the bike shop open while Orville and Wilbur went to Kitty Hawk multiple times. She even quit her teaching job when necessary to help the brothers. Observant eyes will find that illustrator Burke has filled the pages with details which silently tell us more about how the family lived and worked.
Yolen published this book in 2003 for the 100th anniversary of the first recognized successful flight. That is when I purchased this book for our elementary school library and I certainly enjoyed reading it with classes. As I said, I delight in books which put a "fresh" but accurate spin on history. Giving Katherine some credit for her part in this scientific quest was fun, and she has always stayed in my mind. This book came back to me in full force when Russ and I started listening to David McCullough's newest best seller THE WRIGHT BROTHERS. I will be posting about that audio book soon. While titled for the brothers, McCullough's book even more fully shows Katherine's role in the family's success. I encourage those looking for "mighty girl" role models to check out Katherine Wright!