This 40 page early elementary book based on the efforts of the real life woman, Loujain AlHathloul, and her work to change the laws regarding women driving in Saudi Arabia, had a lot of promise. Unfortunately, the symbolism connecting flying and driving, just didn’t work for me. No one can flap their arms and fly, so to demand gender equality for an unrealistic action, is a big stretch that ultimately stretches itself too thin. There is nothing Islamic, except women wearing a hijab in a few illustrations, or even Saudi specific in the book. It talks of the desert, but the country is unnamed. Overall, I just had so many questions such as: if she was flying before sunrise- how was she not seen returning from the sunflower patch, can women then never leave an area, are there ways they can fly as passengers, are there other modes of transportation, at what age are children allowed to fly, and so many more, that they prevented me from being inspired by the story.
The book starts with Loujain believing in her self and knowing that one day she will fly. She dreams of a place of a million sunflowers, a picture her dad has given her inspires her to seek out bright colors, capture them on film, and hang them in her room.
In the morning her father straps on his wings, and flies off. Loujain is not allowed to fly because she is a girl. Her family tells her that one day she will. When she tells the kids at school, they laugh at her. When she pushes her dad to teach her, her mother advocates that he should.
Loujain and her father practice flying before the sun rises, and finally they make the long journey to see the sunflowers. Her father takes a picture of Loujain, and it appears the next day in the newspaper. Other girls are inspired and begin to demand the right to fly too.
I love the mom in the book, and her encouraging of Loujain’s dad to teach her. She asks him, “if you don’t support her, who will?” I don’t know why the mom isn’t wearing a hijab on the last page though. It seems like there is a subtle message there about hijab being legally required as well.
The book is a reach, and for me it didn’t connect or leave an impression. The information about the prison sentence and push back to achieve the legal change was far more interesting and memorable, but only a few paragraphs long at the end.