Book Awards Reading List 2015


Reviewed by Melinda Waterhouse:

The Wright Brothers
By David McCullough
Simon & Schuster 2015

This is a delightful book. McCullough is a wonderful storyteller, and the book is a great read and very informative. Although the subject matter was not of particular interest to me, I learned a lot. What the Wright brothers managed to accomplish is truly amazing. As a bonus, the photographs are wonderful. I recommend this book for our citation, but a citation might be an insult for a #1 New York Times Bestseller!

Whistle Stop
By Philip White
ForeEdge 2014

I encountered difficulty with this book. The narrative did not engage me. I liked the incorporation of original source material — speeches, letters, etc. Although I appreciate that this period of history has been addressed in a book, I cannot recommend it for an award. The brevity of my review says it all.

Reviewed by Marilee Reiner:

MADISON’S GIFT: Five Partnerships that Built America
By: David O. Stewart
Simon & Schuster

The title suggests an exciting “read” . However, the book lacks “snap” like other writers such as Thomas Fleming would have provided. Therefore, in my judgment, it doesn’t appear to meet our standards. However, I would like to hear other reviews by our committee.

Reviews submitted by members of the Chapter XVII Book Award Committee, read by Anne Hurley:

Reviewed by Cindy Hoyt , Chapter XVII:
By David McCullough
Simon & Schuster

The Wright Brothers was an enjoyable and easy book to read. It was well-written and organized so that key events followed an understandable time-line. The book detailed an important piece of our country’s history. It was most interesting to learn how great an impact the Wright Brothers had world-wide and the early skepticism that preceded their success in the air. Especially, it was a tribute to American hard work and ingenuity in the face of huge obstacles. The descriptions of Dayton were very accurate and most interesting to me. I think this was a great book…but I am somewhat biased. My grandparents and father were from Dayton. My grandfather knew the Wright brothers and had many stories to tell about them. In later years my grandparents lived near the Wright home in Oakwood. Having said that, I would recommend the book for recognition.

Reviewed by Helen Goodhue, Chapter XVII:

By the end of the 19th century a lot of inventions had been created: the camera, the modern bicycle, motorcycles, the electric sewing machine, the elevator, the electric adding machine, the automobile, large gas filled balloons and gliders. For centuries man had wanted to fly and dreamt of creating a machine which would enable them to do so. It seemed that fate would now decree that the Wright Brothers – Wilbur and Orville – had the qualifications to succeed.

It was a toy French helicopter (called the bat) that aroused their interest in aviation. In 1896 they started their experiments in flight in their Bicycle Shop in Dayton, Ohio. They had no engineering education, but they read everything about gliders and they continually studied the different flight patterns of birds. Their glider had one long wing at the top and the pilot lay on his stomach in the middle of the lower wing so he could adjust the angle of the wings. They learned from their failures to reconstruct their glider so they could control its flight.

In 1901 they chose Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks of North Carolina to test their new man-controlled glider because of its strong steady winds and sandy hills for soft landings. They made many glider flights of 300 to 400 feet with landing speed of 30 mph. In the winter of 1902 they built a model wind tunnel to scrutinize the various wings and rudders. They made almost a 1000 man-controlled glides some more than 600 feet. Now the only thing the glider needed was a motor.

Their mechanic figured how to design a light weight motor and after 4 months of trials, the motor was installed. The glider, now called the Flyer, was tested again at Kitty Hawk. On December 17, 1903 Wilbur and Orville alternately had taken off in the Flyer under its own steam and flew it with no loss of speed or height and the pilot landed it smoothly. The best result of the 4 flights was flying half a mile in 59 seconds! The newspaper reporters, covering the flights, sent telegrams saying that Wrights had successfully flown their plane! Wilbur and Orville instantly became national heroes.

They were thrilled that all their testing of ideas to create a Flyer had finally succeeded. Their expenses were about $1000 which they paid from the profits of their bicycle shop. The Flyer was never flown again.

By now there were a few pilots attempting to fly their aircraft and some did not survive. Wilbur and Orville never flew together. Their solo flights meant that the survivor would be able to continue their work and accomplish their goals.

In the following years the brothers worked on building and testing larger and sturdier Flyers. They also were able to balance the plane so that the pilot and a passenger could sit upright. France, England, Germany, Italy and finally America were interested in buying the Wright planes.

In 1908 Wilbur went to Le Mans for 6 months where he flew his Wright Flyer, trained 3 French fliers to fly his planes and had an audience of over 200,000 fans. He raced December 31st in the first aviation race – The Michelin Cup – and won with a record of flying for 2 hours and 22 minutes and covered 77 miles!

Meanwhile Orville had been flying daily at Fort Miles breaking many records and teaching American pilots until he was seriously injured in a crash. Upon his recovery, he joined Wilbur who had chosen the site of Pau in the Pyrenees for his 1909 exhibitions. He continued to draw large crowds of people including socialites and royalty. Afterwards Wilbur went to Rome in April where he made 50 flights and trained Italian officers to fly his planes. In May Wilbur, who had now been in Europe for a year, and his family sailed home. They received a hero’s welcome in New York and in Dayton.

The brothers continued to improve the Flyers design, build and sell their planes. Aviation was now a success. A Frenchman flew across the English Channel – 23 miles in 20 minutes. There was the first International Air race at Rheims in August 1909. The Wrights were too busy to accept, but 22 pilots races and they broke the Wright’s records.

Wilbur, who spent the rest of his life involved with business matters and patent infringement suits, died of Typhoid Fever at the age of 45 in 1912. Orville piloted Wright Company’s planes until 1918. He then concentrated on scientific research and developed the Wright Hydroplane. He was saddened to see what damage a plane could bause in World Wars I and II. He died in 1948.

This fascinating book written by David McCullough, the distinguihed historian, shows us how the Wright brothers, with no formal engineering training, were able to create the Flyer due to their tremendous patience, imagination, intellectual curiosity and mechanical ingenuity. His book describes the exciting early history of aviation dominated by Wilbur and Orville. The author based this book on the abundant, detailed files and correspondence of the Wrights.

I feel that this book is definitely worthy of the Colonial Dames Book Award.

FIRST TO FLY: The Story of the Lafayette Escadrille . The American Heroes Who Flew for France in World War I.
By Charles Bracelen Flood
Atlantic Monthly Press, and imprint of Grove Atlantic

Charles Bracelen Flood’s “First to Fly” is a fascinating story of young Americans who wanted to help the French fight the Germans in the First World War. Since America was a neutral country until 1917 when it declared war on Germany, it was illegal for Americans to serve in a foreign army. This did not really discourage these idealistic courageous young men who sought adventure and they signed up with the French Foreign Legion so some of them could attend the French Aviation schools where they learned to fly the French planes and would wear their French army uniforms.

It had only been 11 years since the Wright brothers made their historic flights in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The idea of flying had become an ideal sport. The first fighter or bomber planes they flew were still largely made of canvas and wood held together with metal wire. The men who piloted these planes were subjected to rain, snow and freezing temperature when they did their 2 hour stints at 15,000 feet. Moreover these planes had faulty engines and machine guns that were prone to jamming which was very disturbing when they were in a dogfight with German planes. As the war progressed so did the improvements to the British, French and German planes.

The French learned that these planes were invaluable as a piece of military equipment, With the use of airplanes the French, English and Germans developed new wartime programs. From the air the pilots could see large or small formation of troops behind the enemy lines and find enemy bombers for dogfights.

The book describes how this French squadron was the only one composed completely of American pilots, how it grew, how it got the name of the Lafayette Escadrille and briefly describes the men who joined and how they lived and unfortunately died. Their success was attributed to their innate skill and courage. The author also includes amusing anecdotes – the 2nd glove, or the adoption of 2 lions they named Whiskey and Soda which creates happy moments to balance the sadness.

I liked the way Charles Flood describes the popular arrival of the American soldiers who tried to run their inexperienced Army Air Service better than the well trained French Squadrons that had been successful for 3 1/2 years. They finally learned to use the French tactics in their dealings with the famous German pilots – Ernst Udet, Manfred von Richthofen, and Hermann Goering.

This book is well written and very interesting but I think it would appeal more to men than women. I think it should be awarded at least a Citation.

Reviewed by Audrey Svensson

GALVEZ, Spain, Our Forgotten Ally in the American Revolution War: A Concise Summary of Spain’s Assistance
By: Judge Ed Butler
Southwest Historic Press

The author became interested in Spain’s involvement in the American Revolutionary War when he was appointed
The Sons of the American Revolution Ambassador to Mexico and Latin America. Both the SAR, and the DAR have recognized Spain’s assistance for years, and there are members in both societies who have ancestors who were Spanish solders.

Ed Butler felt that the Spanish had been neglected about the American Revolution, and set about publishing articles to correct this situation. His articles reached His Royal Majesty Juan Carlos I de Borbon, King of Spain, who sent a personal letter of thanks.

In May, 2010, Ed Butler and his wife led a group of SAR and DAR members on a tour of Spain. They were granted a private audience with Crown Prince Felipe. Crown Prince Felipe said “I want you to write a book about Spain in the American Revolutionary War. Then I want you to write a screen play and make a movie. I would like to see Antonio Banderas play the part of Galvez”.
The author replied:
“I told the prince that I could write the book, (but) that it would be up to Hollywood to make a movie and they would select the stars.” (page xxxii)

This is the Book that Butler wrote. It is written with many charts and lists of events in Chronological order. The Spanish heroes are given their due ( especially General Bernardo de Galvez). There is a lengthy Bibliography, and Appendix.
“Appendix N .
Chronology of events surrounding Spain’s participation in the American Revolutionary War; noting other important dates between Spain and England Leading up to War.”

There is an Index.

It is indeed an interesting subject. However, the book reads a little like a Doctoral Dissertation. Although I did enjoy all of the material (much of which was new to me), I would like the opinion of others before recommending it for a Citation.

Parent Chapter book Award Committee suggests the following books for consideration for an award:

1. THE WAR THAT FORGED A NATION, Why The Civil War Still Matters
By James McPherson
Oxford University Press

2. MADISON’S GIFT, Five Partnerships That Built America
By David O. Stewart
Simon & Schuster

By David McCullough
Simon & Schuster

By Thomas Fleming
Da Capo Press

5. GALVEZ/SPAIN, Our Forgotten Ally in the American Revolutionary War: A Concise Summary
Of Spain’s Assistance
By Judge Ed Butler
Southwest Historic Press

6. FIRST TO FLY: The Story of the Lafayette Escadrille, the American Heroes Who Flew for France
In World War I
By Charles Bracelen Flood
Atlantic Monthly Press

The meeting was adjourned at 12:45.
Our next meeting will be held on November 12, at 12 noon.

Respectfully submitted,

Audrey Svensson

Members of the Committee were invited to stay after the meeting and read Children’s books. The following reviews and comments were added on to the minutes :

Just since September we have received a wonderful supply of Children’s books. More reviews will follow.
For now, here are reviews of four Books for Children:

Reviewed by Audrey Svensson:

1. REBEL WITH A CA– USE: The Daring Adventure of Dicey Langston, Girl Spy of the American Revolution
By: Kathleen V. Kudinski
Illustrator: Rudy Faber

Based on true events, this is the story of how a little girl, Dicey Langston, helped her brothers in the cause for freedom. Not even her parents knew that she was working undercover to help the rebels. She brought them supplies, and then warned them when the enemy was ready to attract. She did the warning under cover of darkness, when supposedly she was tucked in her own warm bed and asleep.
The illustrations are lovely, and the story of Dicey’s courage appealing.

2. DEAR MR. WASHINGTON, Rules of Good Behavior for Boys and Girls.
By: Lynn Cullen
Illustrator: Nancy Carpenter

George Washington is having his portrait painted by Gilbert Stuart at the Stuart’s home. The Stuart’s have 12 children, and the story starts with the rules George Washington suggests the children could live by. The rules are fun but hard for the Children to follow. However in their trying (and often failing) to comply, they bring a smile to George’s solemn expression. That slight smile is captured in the portrait, which makes this portrait very special.
The illustrations are delightful. I wish I could pick up and hug the little ones, they are so appealing.

3. JOHN DEERE’S POWERFUL IDEA: The perfect plow.
By Terry Collins
Illustrator: Carl Pearce

This is a rags to riches story of how a hard working and dedicated blacksmith invented and produced a plow that
eventually developed into the mammoth John Deere Corporation. Nice illustrations.

4. THE NUTCRACKER COMES TO AMERICA: How Three Ballet–loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition
By Chris Barton
Illustrator: Cathy Gendron

This book is nothing short of spectacular. With my ballet background I may be somewhat prejudiced. The story tells of how three American brothers choreographed the Nutcracker, and how from a humble start the ballet became synonymous with Christmas all over the country. Who knew? ( I always thought it came from Imperial Russia).
The illustrations are fabulous, and obviously the illustrator knows how to draw real dancers in real poses.
“Nutcracker” would make a lovely Christmas Gift for any child- girl or boy. Especially nice for a young person fortunate enough to see a production of the ballet this Christmas Season.

NUTCRACKER Reviewed by Marilee Reiner:

A wonderful book for young aspiring boys and girls—and especially for Christmas gifts.
It gives history of the beginning of this popular program—The Nutcracker–including names and pictures of famous dancers, scenes from various dances, etc.
I believe we should have this book on our children’s list.