The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview of Jennifer Lane Wilson and Review of Soaring in Style

It is with a heavy heart that I bring you this interview about the talented Jennifer Wilson and review of her debut nonfiction picture book.


Jennifer Lane Wilson was a lifelong Kansan who grew up learning about the state's hero, Amelia Earhart. Before becoming a children's writer, Jennifer devoted her time to legal writing, parenting, and volunteering. She authored Soaring in Style while living with her husband and very fluffy dog in Shawnee, Kansas, a Kansas City suburb.


A year ago, Jennifer died of Metastatic Breast Cancer, just after signing with Capstone. Her husband, Kevin Wilson, saw the book through to publication and has generously agreed to do this interview about Jenifer and her debut book, Soaring In Style: How Amelia Earhart Became A Fashion Icon, which releases January 31, 2021.

Welcome Kevin and thank you so much for agreeing to this interview,


Can you tell us a little about Jennifer? (Where/when did she write? How long had she been writing? How did she get started?)


Jennifer was a wonderful wife and mom of two kids. She stayed home with the kids until they reached school age, then she worked part-time as a legal research writer. Later, she decided to try her hand at writing children’s books, as it combined her research and writing talents with her love of children. She found non-fiction to be her favorite genre as that played to her strength in research. Jennifer was a voracious reader whose “hold” list at the library was always full.


She’d been writing for a few years before her breakthrough with Soaring in Style.


Jennifer did a great job researching a lesser known aspect of Amelia Earhart's life. Do you know who was her favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child? Or which inspired her as an adult?


Her favorite author was Annie Dillard whose quote “[y]ou were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment” was posted above Jennifer’s writing desk. I think as a kid Jennifer liked Charlotte’s Web by E.B White.


That a great quote. What was Jennifer's inspiration for Soaring In Style: How Amelia Earhart Became A Fashion Icon?



Jennifer grew up in Kansas and as a child she heard a lot about Amelia Earhart (Amelia’s hometown of Atchison, KS is only about 45 minutes from our home). Jenifer viewed Amelia as a strong female role model who was more than just a pilot.



It's fun learning something new about Amelia Earhart. Is there something you think the readers should know about Soaring In Style?


Most people think they’ve heard everything about Amelia Earhart. Then along comes Soaring in Style to recount an aspect of her life that few are aware of. Jennifer had a way with words, and I think she did a great job telling the story.


I totally agree with you! Although Jennifer didn’t get to see Lissy Marlin’s illustrations, was there anything about them that surprised or delighted you? Do you have a favorite spread?


Wow! Lissy did an amazing job with the illustrations, didn’t she? She was able to beautifully capture Jennifer’s vision for this story. I’m an engineer, so I was way out of my comfort zone as I tried to see Jennifer’s book to completion, but Capstone and Lissy were a pleasure to work with. They treated all my questions or comments with respect, and I’m delighted with the finished product. I know Jennifer would have loved it.

Text © Jennifer Wilson, 2022. Image © Lissy Marlin, 2022.


My favorite illustration is the one of Amelia powdering her nose after crash landing. Jennifer really liked that anecdote.


That one cracked me up! Do you happen to know what was the toughest part for Jennifer in researching Soaring In Style? Did she talk with you about how she discovered or came up with this little known aspect of Amelia Earhart’s life?


I’m not sure how Jennifer uncovered this story, but I know she thoroughly researched it. We took a day trip to Amelia’s childhood home of Atchison, KS and visited the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum and the Atchison County Historical Society Museum to gather information. Jennifer was able to visualize Amelia running around and playing as a child. We also visited Purdue University, which has a trove of Amelia Earhart information.


I believe the toughest part of Jennifer’s research was all the cross-referencing of information/stories. There’s no shortage of information on Amelia Earhart, but sometimes it didn’t always agree. Jennifer was a stickler for detail!


That's one the things which makes this such a great book. Is there anything you want us to know about Jennifer?


Jennifer was such a kind and loving person. She loved her kids and family more than anything and was always putting us first. Though she wasn’t a sport’s nut, she loved to exercise. During our kids’ high school years, you could find her out on the cross-country course rooting them on – rain or shine.


Soaring in Style was Jennifer’s debut picture book, but she had many more stories to tell. The world’s going to miss out on a lot of superb writing that will never make it to print (I’m a little biased here).


We are indeed! What was her favorite animal? Or one that she was enamored with. Why?


Easiest question to answer! Jennifer loved her standard poodle Bunnie. Bunnie would lie within sight of Jennifer’s writing desk while the stories were being written. If Jennifer needed a break, she could pet Bunnie or play fetch with her.


I am very sorry for your family's loss. Thank you so much for agreeing to the interview Kevin. It was a pleasure getting to know Jennifer through your eyes.


*Please note, as stated on the back cover of the book, all author proceeds are being donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.*


To find out more about Jennifer Wilson check out:

Website: https://www.jenniferlanewilson.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jenwilsonkc


Review of Soaring in Style:
How Amelia Earhart Became A Fashion Icon

It's exciting when a biography highlights and explores a little known aspect of a hero or heroine. With numerous books published about Amelia Earhart over the years, I was excited to stumble upon one with a stylish twist. One that showed how this brave, adventurous woman tackled fashion as well as gender norms.


Soaring in Style: How Amelia Earhart Became A Fashion Icon


Author: Jennifer Lane Wilson


Illustrator: Lissy Marlin


Publisher: Capstone Publishing (2022)


Ages: 8-10


Nonfiction


Themes:

Fashion, defying expectations, following your dreams, and flying.


Synopsis:

Long before Amelia Earhart became a superstar, she was a girl who longed to touch the stars. But the dresses women had to wear at the time made those dreams seem almost impossible. Amelia didn't let that stop her. As a young aviator breaking records and expectations, she learned to fly her plane with flair. Later, she dared to create a trendsetting fashion line for active women like herself. Soaring in Style tells the groundbreaking story of how Amelia Earhart defied expectations in the air and on the ground to become America’s first celebrity fashion designer.


Opening Lines:

In Kansas, where there are no mountains or oceans, the sky was the most

beautiful thing for miles. Long before she became a famous aviator, young

Amelia Earhart wanted to touch that beckoning blue and wrap it around

her like a cape.


In those days, girls had to wear dresses everywhere. That made

reaching the sky seem almost impossible.


What I LOVED about this book:

It is fun to discover little known facts and facets of famous people. Like most, I'd learned about Amelia Earhart's daring, bravery, and record setting flights. But I'd never hear about Amelia as a fashion icon or a designer. After learning about the role that fashion played in Amelia Earhart's life, Jennifer Lane Wilson created a lively, lyrical, and informative biography that shows how even her foray into fashion exemplified Amelia's daring & rule breaking personality.


As a child, Amelia dreamed of flying, of touching the sky. I love the way Lissy Marlin captured Amelia's longing on the opening pages (with purposefully indistinct birds reflected in the puddles) and mirrored that joy on the cover (adding her red plane to the birds' reflections).

Text © Jennifer Lane Wilson, 2022. Image © Lissy Marlin, 2022.

With a little internal rhyme and sprinkling of analogies, Jennifer does a great job of drawing in the reader and immediately establishing the dichotomy between Amelia's rough and tumble, active personality - a girl who convinced her strict grandmother to ignore convention and let her wear trousers on Saturdays (so she could climb trees and roofs) and one who built a homemade roller coaster to produce a feeling of flight (I love the image of a victorious, disheveled Amelia with a missing tooth and a crashed cart) - and her fascination with fashion. Though Amelia found the clothing girls were required to wear - dresses - both unsuitable and too fragile for her preferred activities, she'd don a dress for the "most fabulous, splendid...HAT."


After she moved from Kansas to California, as a young woman, Amelia finally got to fly in a plane. She was hooked and never looked back. Jennifer and Lissy do a great job of weaving Amelia's practical (getting lessons, chopping her hair, wearing trousers and a leather jacket) with her budding fashionista (powdering her nose before existing a crash, wearing a chain of pearls or a silk scarf) personality as they show the results of Amelia's early flights. I love the newspaper "sidebar" which accompanies the brief statement, "And soon, when she broke record after record, crowds followed her everywhere." What a great idea!

Text © Jennifer Lane Wilson, 2022. Image © Lissy Marlin, 2022.


Out of necessity, Amelia created her own tailored flight suit with deep-pocketed slacks. And out of a dream, that clothes could be "pretty and practical," she created her own fashion line. What better way to pay for more flight lessons? As the first celebrity fashion designer, Amelia daringly created clothes for "real" women, in all shapes and sizes and for all activity levels, -"putting the freedom that is in flying into the clothes." I adore the softly-colored, meticulous and realistic, yet creative illustrations. Such as when Lizzy includes an image of the actual label on Amelia's clothes and a wonderful notebook page of clothing sketches.

Text © Jennifer Lane Wilson, 2022. Image © Lissy Marlin, 2022.


After wrapping up the story of an amazing woman who followed her dreams, with the encapsulation of her place in American history as the "First in flight. First in fashion.", the author's note further explores Amelia's fashion line, her place in history as a fashion icon, and an important final choice she had to make. This is a wonderful biography which expands our knowledge and understanding of Amelia Earhart. I appreciate the acknowledgement offering locations of collections and information, but would have liked a bibliography.


Overall, this is a wonderful addition to biographies about Amelia Earhart and in fact any nonfiction collection. It's a lyrical and engaging look at a little known aspect of a daring and brave woman who conquered the skies and the world of fashion.


Resources:

- make your own biplane, like Amelia's (https://diyinspired.com/airplane-clothespin-kids-craft/).

- try creating your own fashions. Make your own paper model. Then color the provided clothes or design your own. (https://www.designeatrepeat.com/coloring-paper-dolls/)


- draw a picture, or write a story, about the most exciting ride you've ever been on.


- before there were skorts, baseball hats, or duct tape clothing, someone had to dream them up. If you could design some new or different combinations (colors, styles, materials, etc.), what would you create? Draw an image or write a description of your special clothing line.

Decorative scroll design
Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

Decorative scroll design

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