The Girl with her Head in the Clouds: The Amazing Life of Dolly Shepherd; Karen McCombie, illustrated by Anneli Bray
I love a good historical read that is centred around real people and actual events and the story of Dolly Shepherd is a wonderful story of determination, heroism and incredible bravery.
Dolly’s story starts in Edwardian Britain in the early 1900’s when she is fifteen years old. She dreams of flying but so far this has only amounted to jumping off the garden shed using an umbrella to help her fly. Dolly seems destined for a career working for her auntie’s fashion house making fancy hats for the wealthy but a weekend at the Alexandra Palace show-ground with its rides, stalls, shows, performances, musicians and dare-devil acts changes everything. It is here, after a chance meeting with hot-air ballooner Captain Gaudron, that Dolly would realise her dreams of flying and she would become Dolly Shepherd…factory worker in the week, dare-devil flier on the weekend.
Sometimes you read a book that makes you desperate to find out more and this is certainly one of those. The Girl with her Head in the Clouds is a wonderful read about an incredible lady who I knew absolutely nothing about but I am now completely captivated by her story. There is so much to admire about Dolly and her story and readers will delight in her death-defying stunts and life of risk-taking as she floats up into the clouds in a hot-air balloon and then calmly drifts back down to the ground attached to her parachute. There are thrills a plenty, an incredible act of heroism thousands of feet above the Earth and a career-threatening injury that would have no doubt ruined the life of a less determined and weaker person.
Dolly is such an inspirational role model for children. She faced many challenges in achieving her dreams but was always ready to meet them with fierce determination and resilience. What is perhaps most incredible about Dolly is that she achieved what she did in a society that had very fixed views on what they thought as suitable for men and women. Dolly was one for breaking conventions, whether it be standing up for herself, going against the wishes of her aunt, the ‘shocking’ clothes that she would wear for her flying stunts or challenging the views that flying was something for the men. Against the backdrop of the Suffragette movement, Dolly was doing her own bit for empowering women, she was a girl aeronaut and there were not many in the world who could say that. She was a rule-breaker, a risk-taker and found freedom and thrills in the most wonderful of ways.
Barrington Stoke pride themselves on producing books for all and this one with with its dyslexic friendly font and colours is a read accessible to everyone, and any reader of 8+ who picks up The Girl with her Head in the Clouds is in for a wonderful flying adventure. The book is illustrated throughout by Anneli Bray and the illustrations really bring alive Dolly’s incredible story. Delightful back-matter includes a great author’s note with information on the Ally Pally and what inspired Karen McCombie to write the book. Plenty of extra information about Dolly’s extraordinary life and how she inspired others is in chapter fourteen that serves as a bonus chapter.
Recommended for 8+.
With huge thanks to the lovely team at Barrington Stoke for the advanced reader copy. Publishes March 2021.