I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for the children’s book Pilot Jane and the Runaway Plane written by Caroline Baxter and illustrated by Izabela Ciesinska. Not only do I have my review of Pilot Jane and The Runaway Plane, but I also have a guest post from Caroline, all about the importance of girl power.
Published by Big Sunshine Books on 8th March 2017, Pilot Jane and The Runaway Plane is available for purchase in paperback here.
Pilot Jane and The Runaway Plane
Join Pilot Jane, a fun and fearless airline captain, as she travels the world with her best friend Rose, a high-speed passenger jet. Together Jane and Rose have exciting adventures and form a perfect team, delivering their passengers safely to destinations as far afield as Alaska and Australia. But when disaster strikes and Rose falls ill, Jane is paired with ‘lean, mean flying machine’ Mighty Mitch. Can she still get the Queen to her party on time? Featuring a clever and courageous heroine, this action-packed rhyming story celebrates ‘Girl Power’ and shows what you can achieve if you work together. Fasten your seatbelt and get ready for take-off!
Why ‘Girl Power’ is Important
A Guest Post by Caroline Baxter
My new children’s picture book, Pilot Jane and the Runaway Plane, was published recently on International Women’s Day to mark the fact that it celebrates ‘girl power’. The story follows the adventures of Pilot Jane, a clever and courageous airline captain, who travels the world with her best friend Rose, a high-speed passenger jet. And while my aim was, first and foremost, to create a fun and entertaining book for young children, I was also eager to do so with a strong female lead.
Well, on a personal level, I have a young daughter and I was tired of reading the same old stories about princesses, fairies and witches (brilliantly written, though many are). There seemed to be very few interesting female protagonists, particularly for the preschool age. And while over the years I have even managed to grow fond of Peppa Pig, in mainstream books at least there seemed to be a notable absence of female adventurers, explorers, scientists, doctors, leaders – and girls with something to say.
My feelings were borne out by the statistics. A recent US study of almost 6,000 children’s books, all of which were published between 1900 and 2000, found that male characters far outnumber females. The research showed that males were central characters in 57% of children’s books published each year, but only 31% had female central characters. Similarly, in the same period, books with male animal characters were more than two-and-a-half times as common as those featuring female animals (Gender in 20th Century Children’s Books, 2011).
Across children’s media, more widely, less than a fifth of female characters were found to hold jobs or have career aspirations.
Some may argue that this doesn’t make a difference in the ‘real’ world. After all, women have come a very long way since International Women’s Day began back in 1911. The choices and opportunities available to us have increased beyond measure. Girls are now outperforming boys at school and, in many countries, including England, this continues at every level of education. We’re also pouring into a number of traditionally male-dominated occupations, such as law, medicine, finance and veterinary science. But there are also serious challenges. As we all know, across the world women are still paid less than men. Even in Britain today, the pay gap is almost 14% for full-time workers. Women are seriously under-represented in a range of professions and an Ofsted study (2011) confirms that girls continue to hold stereotypical views about the types of jobs available to them.
Even more worryingly, girls are losing confidence in their abilities early on. Recent research has shown that, by the time they are just six years old, girls start to see themselves as less innately talented than boys (BBC news article 27 January 2017 – Girls lose faith in their own talents by the age of six).
Clearly some things need to change . . .
So what does ‘girl power’ mean? To me, it means girls and women supporting, celebrating and empowering each other. It means promoting inspiring messages for young girls and a wide range of positive role models. It means instilling in them, as well as boys, real faith in their own abilities through the books they read, the movies they watch and the images they see. Among her many talents, Pilot Jane, for example, can surf, speak Chinese and practise tai chi, as well as, of course, being a (very young!) airline captain. And together, Jane and Rose are “an awesome pair” who pride themselves on their ability to deliver their passengers safely to destinations worldwide, whatever the weather. No man – or plane for that matter – could stand in the way of Pilot Jane!
Of course, these types of changes cannot happen overnight. But fortunately there are already some brilliant resources out there. I’d recommend Almighty Girl as a good starting point for anyone who wants to look for books, toys and movies intended to empower girls. As their website rightly states, “Girls do not have to be relegated to the role of sidekick or damsel in distress; they can be the leaders, the heroes, the champions that save the day, find the cure, and go on the adventure”.
Women already occupy so many of these roles in real life. Surely reflecting that in the books that we read to our young children, and the range of characters that we show them, should be the easy bit?
Is girl power important today? Absolutely.
To borrow a phrase from Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh, girls “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
So, Pilot Jane and the Runaway Plane was published on 8 March 2017, International Women’s Day. Thank you for hosting me on Linda’s Book Bag!
(My pleasure Caroline.)
My Review of Pilot Jane and The Runaway Plane
Pilot Jane flies a pink plane called Rose and they have many adventures together, but when Rose is ill, a new plane Mitch thinks he can outwit Jane.
I have one tiny criticism of this lovely book that I’m going to get out of the way first. I have a personal aversion to random font sizes in children’s books for emphasis because when we’re teaching children to write we want them to be consistent. That said, in Pilot Jane and The Runaway Plane different font sizes are used to emphasise events or proper nouns and they introduce more difficult vocabulary so they could be used as teaching or discussion points with children when reading the book together.
Pilot Jane and The Runaway Plane is a brilliant children’s book. The rhymes are flowing and not contrived so that there is a natural rhythm to the narrative. The places Jane and Rose visit are exciting and exotic, from Australia to China, introducing children to others and their countries.
The illustrations are absolutely glorious with such vibrant and attractive pictures that I can imagine parents, teachers and children discussing them for a long time after the story has been read.
But the best aspect of Pilot Jane and The Runaway Plane is the fabulous themes. Jane is promoted as a strong female and she is not at all fazed when Mitch tries to outwit her. He too learns a lesson about not judging people by appearances or gender that is important for children to learn and he changes for the better as a result. The concept of responsibility and not letting down other people is clear, as is the understanding that there is a world of possibility and opportunity to explore. These are worthy themes, with the potential to be stuffy, but they are presented in a lively and engaging way so that Pilot Jane and The Runaway Plane is a real joy.
About Caroline Baxter
Caroline Baxter lives in Oxford with her husband and two young children. From an early age she always had her nose in a book – and now does so for a living!
Caroline grew up in South Wales and, after graduating with a BA in English Literature from Cardiff University, held a variety of management roles at UK universities including, most recently, at the University of Oxford. The Bear Cub Bakers, her first book, was written while on maternity leave with her daughter. Her second book, Pilot Jane and the Runaway Plane, was published recently on International Women’s Day (8 March 2017). Caroline loves travelling, yoga, baking (and eating) cake, dogs, days out and snuggling up with a good story.
About Izabela Ciesinska
From her earliest days in the crib, Izabela spent most of her time looking at pictures and then attempting to draw them. As a child she absorbed every picture book she could get her hands on. She read them all, drew them all, and she smelled all the pages.
Soon enough she discovered the amazing world of animation. She even tried to animate her own scenes only to discover that tracing 24 frames per second was easier seen than done. Eventually her ambitions evolved into film and illustration, and many broken pencils and torn up pictures later, she went on to illustrate over 50 picture books, as well as direct her first short film, “NEDE”, which premiered at the 2010 Montreal World Film Festival. Currently Izzi is working on a number of illustration projects alongside some film projects in development.
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