In 1999 I was 9 years old, and the world was a place where anything was possible. The ability to follow my dreams, whatever they might turn out to be, was an absolute guarantee. I wanted to be a writer? Sure! I wanted to build a skyscraper? Go for it! I’m going to be a millionaire! Why not?
Ninety years prior to my wild scheming, it wasn’t so easy for women of any age to follow their dreams. Miss E. Lilian Todd, the first woman in the world to build and design an airplane and the inspiration behind Miss Todd and Her Wonderful Flying Machine; and other women living in the early 20th century didn’t grow up knowing they could be whatever they wanted to be. I sometimes worry that the young women in my generation forget this particular history lesson – some things weren’t always given freely to all. That’s why I plan to read Kristina Yee and Francis Poletti’s book, Miss Todd to my own daughter early and often.
It’s a heartwarming story with an important lesson. While the real Miss Todd may have never flown one of her planes, the storybook Miss Todd refuses to take no for an answer. She never gives up her dreams to build and fly a plane; her courage and perseverance are an inspiration to girls of all ages. A child just beginning to sketch her dreams, a young woman with absolutely no idea where her dreams will take her or an aging woman who has learned which dreams are worth continuing to pursue, could all learn a thing or two from Miss Todd. She is a fierce spirit who insists on going after that which she wants most. She has doors slammed in her face and is repeatedly told “NO!” but she never gives up. Sadly the real Miss Lilian Todd likely faced some of the same opposition, and according to Yee and Poletti she never flew. I love that this book is their imagined ending to Miss Todd’s story, an ending wherein she learned that nothing, not even gravity, can hold her down.
Before this story was made into a book, it was an award winning animated short-film. The film is a stunning work unto itself and is something I will also be watching with my daughter. It won a Student Academy Award in 2013 and was the first animated film to ever win in the Foreign Film category in the 40 years of the awards. The film also won the Royal Television Award in 2014 and played at dozens of film festivals around the world.
If you’re looking for a story that teaches your young children to always follow their dreams regardless of the opposition, Miss Todd and Her Wonderful Flying Machine; is the book for you.