BookPage Top Pick in Young Adult, starred review, February 2019
Award-winning author Elizabeth Wein is renowned for her vivid prose, compelling characters and riveting plots in historical fiction like Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, both of which feature female pilots in World War II. In her new nonfiction work, A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II, Wein brings her masterful storytelling skills to the little-known role of female Soviet combat pilots known as the Night Witches.
Wein is a pilot herself, and her respect for these intrepid airwomen and the challenges they faced is clear. “This is the story of a generation of girls who were raised in the belief that they were as good as men, and who were raised to believe that it was their destiny to defend their nation in battle,” she writes.
At the heart of the Soviet training program for women was pilot Marina Raskova, and by chronicling Raskova’s youth against the backdrop of Russia’s political climate, Wein effectively provides historical background for her audience. Raskova’s achievements made her a natural as a flight instructor, and her three regiments of Soviet airwomen, including the famed 588th Night Bomber Regiment, became the first women to take part in combat operations. Wein follows a number of women whose exploits made history and also examines the social and political climate that caused the number of female pilots to drop after the war.
At a time when books on World War II are increasingly in demand, this fascinating story is sure to appeal to readers of all ages. In a closing section, Wein notes that only about 5 percent of commercial pilots today are women. By bringing attention to this little-known history, A Thousand Sisters just might help inspire some young readers to change that.