Happy National Aviation Day! This holiday celebrates all the great accomplishments the world has made in air travel. It’s amazing to think that some brilliant brains out there decided they wanted humans to be able to soar through the air and BAM! look where we are now! But, of course, it didn’t all happen in an instant. It took brave heroes testing the limits of flight and breaking down barriers to give us the ability to fly, but also the hope that anyone can steer the plane. Black, white, Asian, man, woman, or cat (okay, maybe not cats in real life but shhh)— the picture books featured in this list are all about persevering pilots, both real and fictional, who take to the skies and get the job done no matter what obstacles get in their way! Consider these empowering story time reads for your potential pilot-to-be.
Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Before Bessie Coleman blazed a high trail with her plane . . . Before she performed in death-defying flying shows that would earn her fame as “Queen Bess” . . . Before she traveled the country speaking out against discrimination, Bessie was a little girl with a big imagination that took her to the sky, through the clouds, and past the birds.
Knocking down barriers one by one, Bessie endured racism and grueling training to become the first black female pilot and an inspiration to Mae Jemison, Josephine Baker, and many more influential people of color for years to come.
by Julie Leung
Illustrated by Julie Kwon
Discover an inspiring picture book biography about Hazel Ying Lee, the first Chinese American woman to fly for the US military.
Hazel Ying Lee was born fearless—she was not afraid of anything, and the moment she took her first airplane ride, she knew where she belonged. When people scoffed at her dreams of becoming a pilot, Hazel wouldn't take no for an answer. She joined the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II. It was a dangerous job, but Hazel flew with joy and boldness.
This moving, true story about a groundbreaking figure will inspire young readers to challenge barriers and reach for the sky.
With Kate Fillion
Illustrated by The Fan Brothers
Inspired by the childhood of real-life astronaut Chris Hadfield and brought to life by Terry and Eric Fan’s lush, evocative illustrations, The Darkest Dark will encourage readers to dream the impossible.
Chris loves rockets and planets and pretending he’s a brave astronaut, exploring the universe. Only one problem–at night, Chris doesn’t feel so brave. He’s afraid of the dark.
But when he watches the groundbreaking moon landing on TV, he realizes that space is the darkest dark there is–and the dark is beautiful and exciting, especially when you have big dreams to keep you company.
by Molly Brooks
Illustrated by Molly Brooks
Everything is up in the air when the problem-solving best friends Sanity and Tallulah find themselves co-pilots on an unplanned adventure filled with action, adventure, and dangerous situations.
Tallulah is great at piloting! And with her learner's permit freshly reinstated, she has the perfect opportunity to prove it: filling in on the mail route to nearby stations while all the regular pilots are out sick. It's her first big solo flight, and yeah, okay, her parking could use some work, but she's not even a little bit nervous—she's got Sanity along as copilot, plenty of old flight logs for navigation, and they'll be in radio contact with Wilnick almost the whole time. All they have to do is follow the pre-approved route and stay out of the dangerous, uncharted, explosives-littered debris cloud . . . no matter how tempting a shortcut it is. Oh, and don't cross the military blockade into the United Territories, obviously. See? No sweat!
Sanity and Tallulah's pre-approved route didn't say anything about space stations exploding, enemies in need of rescue, or getting caught in the middle of a border crisis in danger of escalating into all-out war, but sometimes totally awesome pilots have to change plans on the fly, and only an excellent copilot can keep things from going completely upside down.
CatStronauts, you are needed!
When the world is thrust into darkness due to a global energy shortage, the Worlds Best Scientist comes up with a bold plan to set up a solar power plant on the moon. But someone has to go up there to set it up, and that adventure falls to the CatStronauts, the best space cats on the planet! Meet the fearless commander Major Meowser, brave-but-hungry pilot Waffles, genius technician and inventor Blanket, and quick thinking science officer Pom Pom on their most important mission yet!
In this graphic novel, debut author and illustrator Drew Brockington breathes life into a world populated entirely by cats, brimming with jokes, charm, science, and enough big boxes and tuna sandwiches for everyone!
Discover the daring aviation pioneers who made the dream of powered flight a reality, forever changing the course of history.
Aviator Lincoln Beachey broke countless records: he looped-the-loop, flew upside down and in corkscrews, and was the first to pull his aircraft out of what was a typically fatal tailspin. As Beachey and other aviators took to the skies in death-defying acts in the early twentieth century, these innovative daredevils not only wowed crowds, but also redefined the frontiers of powered flight.
Higher, Steeper, Faster takes readers inside the world of the brave men and women who popularized flying through their deadly stunts and paved the way for modern aviation. With heart-stopping accounts of the action-packed race to conquer the skies, plus photographs and fascinating archival documents, this book will exhilarate readers as they fly through the pages.