Amazing women fliers of WW2

This Remembrance Day, as I keep learning and writing about Canadian women veterans from the Second World War, I thought I’d share just a few links with you. I hope you find them as fascinating as I do!

For too long, women’s stories were ignored or overlooked, but luckily this is changing.

In the case of the WASP in the U.S., this was an intentional forgetting at the highest levels of the government and military. It took decades for former WASP to get the recognition they deserved, and the military honours they had earned. The history is coming to light more and more, in such fascinating documentaries as Fly Girls and one in progress called Coming Home: Fight for a Legacy. And, of course, at the National WASP museum in Sweetwater, Texas, which I visited in 2019!

From the WASP Museum in Sweetwater, Texas

We’re seeing more details on the “Night Witches” of the Soviet Union as well. Thanks to Dick Pickering for sending me this link to a recent article about these pilots!

And here in Canada (and across the pond in Great Britain), we had the ferry pilots with the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). It’s mostly this history that I’ve been digging into – off and on – the past decade, most recently for the Canadian Aviation Historical Society with a small grant from the Canadian 99s.

If you’re looking to toast this history, what better way methinks than with an adult beverage from B52 Winery or Lucky Girl Brewing in Michigan! 

Also, if there are young people in your life, you might consider passing along these books to get them hooked on this history!

Alis the Aviator: More Reader Reviews!

A book on aviation to delight big and small

This ABC book is all about aviation. The cut paper art is part of the charm of this unique book, but for young readers who love airplanes they will learn the A to Z of different kinds of aircraft. A must have for future pilots.

Barbra Hesson

An Alphabet book that will grow with your reader

Oh the alphabet book…so, so many on the market so how does an author, illustrator or publisher set theirs apart from the crowd? Well first you tap the incomparable Kalpna Patel (aka @ghostfaceknitter) as your illustrator and then you choose a somewhat uncommon subject, throw in a little history lesson and you have a unique alphabet book sure to inspire the next generation of aviators. Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail chose real life pilot Dr. Alis Kennedy as her inspiration for Alis the Aviator an alphabet book full of flying machines, 26 to be exact. While this book is very interesting and will certainly appeal to those young fans of flying machines and adventure but it’s the illustrations that take it to the next level.

The incredibly talented Kalpna Patel creates the most gorgeous vignettes all made from cut paper. The detail in this book is out of this world. Each and every detail in the illustrations is intentional and precise. It’s vivid and playful and so engaging. If you want to see more of her work, you may already be familiar if you ever peak in the windows at Type Books and Type Book Junction in Toronto. Her cut paper designs grace the windows of these lovely independent bookstores and she also organizes the craftapalooza City of Craft.

Now back to the story itself, Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail gives us a lovely flowing rhyming adventure featuring different historical means of flying. This book is lovely for a read aloud or to curl up and learn more about flight. It’s the historical information and photographs of Dr. Alis Kennedy at the back that will extend the life of this book beyond the early years. Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail and designer Kelly Hill’s inspiration to include not only information about Alis, who not only a pilot but a veteran of the Canadian Navy Reserve and a humanitarian, but also information about all the modes of flight found in the book. Such an important choice to ensure this book weaves its way into readers’ hearts for years

Stephanie

Habitat Halloween Spooktacular

Didn’t get enough creepy stories, songs and poetry this Halloween season? Support Jasper Habitat for the Arts and get grownup story time with creators from BC to Newfoundland!


I read my debut ghost story, “Ship in a Bottle” along with Marty Chan and many other talented and best-selling Canadian creatives!


Eventbrite tickets are $5 for this spooky virtual variety show. Tickets on sale until November 8th 2020. All proceeds go to this arts space in the beautiful Rocky Mountains!

Ship in a Bottle

I have loved ghost stories since I was a little kid, and have often gone on haunted walks of cities in the different places I’ve lived and visited. From New Orleans to Vancouver to Edinburgh, every city has its tales of heartbreak, injustice, and unfinished business – and spirits that have never quite been put to rest.

Recently I was inspired to write my very own ghost story – a fictional one, mind you. But like any fiction, there are kernels of truth and the edges of true stories and people that still haunt us.

If you follow this link, you can download a free PDF of the story (it’s about a ten-minute read). If you like it, please share the link and consider leaving a small donation so that I can keep writing ghost stories of the true and made up variety.

I peeked through the woods to make sure it was still there. That it hadn’t been a figment of my imagination, a trick of the eyes in the half light. But there among the grey-brown tree trunks and rocks in the woods next to our new yard was the unmistakable shape of a building.

FREE online reading of Alis the Aviator + printable craft

Like so many of you, my family and I are practicing physical distancing here in Houston, Texas, and it can be challenging to come up with activities to fill the hours that are fun but also maybe a teensy bit educational.

Until the libraries and bookstores and schools are open again, a lot of us children’s authors are trying to find ways to connect kids to stories (and keep them occupied for parents and guardians!).

Luckily we’ve got great online ways to do that now!

In that spirit, I offer you my short FREE VIDEO READING of Alis the Aviator through Fort Bend ISD here in Texas. (Along with lots of other books, including some Spanish ones!)

The publisher has also created this FREE CRAFT you can download and print off its website: https://tundrabooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/alis-the-aviator_activity-sheets.pdf

E-book copies of Alis the Aviator are still available if you and your kids want to see the glossary and bio of Dr. Alis Kennedy. And if you’d like to have the real, hard-copy book in your hands lots of retailers are still shipping books. The first 10 people in the US and 10 people internationally who email me at info@daniellemc.com for a FREE signed bookplate/sticker will get one in the mail along with a note for your kid(s)! [If you see this message, there are still some available!]

Stay safe and well!

Sincerely,

Danielle

Alis the Aviator a top 19 picture book of 2019!

I was absolutely thrilled to learn that Alis the Aviator was selected as one of the top 19 Canadian picture books of 2019 by CBC Books. Just wow!

The book was so much fun to work on, and it was amazing to see it come to life in the creative hands of Sam Swenson at Tundra Books – and, of course, the incredible illustrator, Kalpna Patel.

It’s been amazing to see people connect with the words, images, and Dr. Alis Kennedy’s story at schools, libraries, and in the comfort of their own homes. The days where people send me a snapshot of the book out in the real world, I always have an extra boost and smile. Thanks to everyone who believes in this book and how important it is to tell these stories!

Shoutout to Shamrock School Library in Winnipeg, Manitoba for this amazing book mini golf they did with Alis the Aviator!
Thanks to storyteller extraordinaire Danica Lorer for snapping this pic of Alis the Aviator at a Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) public library branch.

Remembering Bill Wheeler

By John Chalmers
CAHS Membership Secretary

Bill
Wheeler 300

With the passing of William J. Wheeler, the Canadian Aviation Historical Society has lost one of its original members and one who made a great and lasting contribution to the CAHS. For 45 years from 1963 to 2008, Bill served as the original editor of the CAHS Journal, working as a volunteer in a job he regarded as a labour of love.

A talented artist, writer and editor, through his work for the CAHS, Bill came to know personally many important Canadian aviators through publishing their stories. Born November 19, 1931, Bill died at Markham Stouffville Hospital on January 21, 2020 at the age of 88.

In an article published in the Markham Economist & Sun in 2011, the year Bill was inducted as a Member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame for his contribution in editing and publishing the Journal, CAHS vice-president Gord McNulty wrote, “Wheeler’s unassuming nature belies his many accomplishments as a teacher, artist, author and encyclopedic aviation historian. His home is a virtual art gallery of fine renditions of aircraft in flight and albums of illustrations he drew for high-profile clients.”

McNulty’s article also stated, “Wheeler worked as a freelance illustrator during the early 1960s for the de Havilland Canada aircraft company, the Toronto Star Weekly and various publishers. He also illustrated a boy’s book on First World War flying – Knights of the Air – for Macmillan Canada. A bestseller, it achieved about eight printings in at least two editions. Wheeler illustrated 60 books in whole or part, often collaborating with his wife, Pat, also an Ontario College of Art graduate, and a distinguished cartoonist.”

As an author, Bill published three other books about aviation: Images of Flight, Skippers of the Sky, and Flying Under Fire. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts degree and became head of the art department at West Hill Collegiate Institute in Toronto. He held that post for 28 years until retiring in 1994. A resident of Markham, Ontario, Bill was predeceased by his son, Donald, and is survived by Pat and sons Douglas and Christopher.

License plate 5

The fifth member to join the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, Bill was active in publicizing the CAHS and encouraging fellow enthusiasts to sign up as members. Proud of his association, Bill had his membership number produced on a custom Ontario licence plate.

Bill Wheeler leaves behind a lasting contribution to Canadian aviation history in a legacy of publishing the CAHS Journal, which he developed as Canada’s premiere aviation history magazine. He is remembered and honoured with the CAHS William J. Wheeler Volunteer Service Award. His biography in the web site of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame can be seen when you click here and then click on William J. Wheeler.

CAHS chapters or individual members who wish to remember Bill with a donation can do so with a contribution to the Canadian Cancer Society or the Markham Stouffville Hospital at mshf.on.ca.

Elsie MacGill Awards Honour Top Canadian Women in Aviation

Joy Parker Blackwood of the Northern Lights Foundation, award-winner
Jasmine Stevens, and Murray
Strom, VP of Flight Operations at Air Canada.

Air Canada introduced a new Indigenous award for male and female students enrolled in post-secondary aviation programs. Called the Indspire Awards. Jasmine Stevens is from Eskasoni First Nation in Nova Scotia.

Pictured here (R to L): Dr. Suzanne Kearns, Education, Maj Alexia Hannam, RCAF, Flight Operations, Kathrine Stewart, Government, Taylor Williams, accepting the Business Award for mother Wendy Taylor, Lyndsey Poynter, Engineering, Capt Mary Cameron-Kelly, RCAF, Pioneer, Lauren Egglestone, Rising Star, Dr. Joelle Thorgrimson, Rising Star, Joy Parker Blackwood, President, Elsie MacGill Northern Lights at the gala event on the evening of Sept. 28. Andy Cline Photo

The presentation began with special awards for young Indigenous women starting their careers in aviation. Jazz and Northern Lights jointly sponsor an award for two recipients, presented by Jazz vice-president of Flight Operations, Steve Linthwaite. The scholarships went to Doris Ipeelee, a student at the First Nations Technical Institute, who was inspired as a child when an RCAF helicopter landed at her elementary school on Canada Day. Another FNTI student, Zoie Michelin from North West River in Labrador, received the other award.

For more information about the organization, awards, and recipients, check out this Skies Magazine article!

Of Planes and Pilots: Guest Post by Anne Gafiuk

“Today, as I read Alis the Aviator with my cousin, Laura, and her 8-year-old nephew, Kyle, the three of us learned more about the different aircraft seen in the skies.  We took turns reading about each plane.  I told them that when I first started writing about WWII RCAF aviators, I had never heard of a Tiger Moth or a Mosquito.  I thought they were flying insects! 

As we read through the book, memories of men who I had the honour and privilege of interviewing came to mind.  I told Laura and Kyle about them.  George Hogg, Mosquito pilot.  Bob O’Connor, Mosquito navigator.  Hugh McGregor, Lancaster mid-upper gunner.  Bob Petersen, Lancaster rear gunner.  Cliff Black, Lancaster pilot.  Larry Robinson, Lancaster rear gunner.  And of course, Gordon Jones, Tiger Moth pilot instructor.

I met other World War II veterans because of Gordon and his Tiger Moth:  Rae Churchill, Albemarle and Whitley pilot.  Bob Spooner, Tiger Moth instructor then Typhoon pilot.

After reading the book and putting it aside to start the paper airplane craft I brought along with me from Danielle’s book launch at Owl’s Nest Bookstore here in Calgary, I asked Kyle what his favourite plane was from the book.  He said it was the Lancaster.  He told me that he and his family during their summer trip across the country visited the National Air Force Museum in Trenton, Ontario.  He was able to sit in a Hercules.  I suggested he visit The Hangar Flight Museum in Calgary and the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton, Alberta to see more planes featured in Alis the Aviator.

My cousin, a teacher (like I used to be), commented to me afterwards how wonderful the book was for school and she was going to recommend it to many of her colleagues who teach Grade 6 Science.  Always looking for connections, she thought about reports on each type of aircraft — and then of course, creating paper airplanes.

Alis the Aviator brought back fond memories for me — not just of the Tiger Moth and Gordon Jones, but also of the many men, most no longer with us now,  who trusted me with sharing of their wartime stories and experiences.

Gordon Jones and Anne Gafiuk (photo by Don Molyneaux)

Anne Gafiuk is a Calgary-based researcher, writer, and personal historian. Check out her work at www.whatsinastory.ca and www.thetyphoonproject.org

Calgary Herald features Alis the Aviator!


“This ABC adventure is all about aviation. The cut paper art is part of the charm of this unique alphabet book. Young readers who love airplanes will learn the A to Z of different kinds of aircraft. A must have for future pilots. “
© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.