Pilot Mom

Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing, July 2003,

Age group: 4-8

Jacket illustration: Alan Marks.

Genre: Realistic Fiction

ISBN 10: 1570915555
ISBN 13: 978-1570915550

To buy this book

  • Description
  • Book Club Ideas
  • Discussions


Jenny’s mom, Major Strom, is a tanker pilot. Before she leaves on a training mission, she takes Jenny and her best friend, K.C. to see the air base. K.C. thinks being a pilot is exciting. Jenny worries about her mom’s safety and wonders if her mom likes flying more than she likes being her mom.

Kathleen Benner Duble’s story reveals the strength of mother-daughter bonds. Alan Mark’s art is evocative and captures the love Jenny and her mom share.

Human Resources Top Five Book – Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children.

“Mark’s pictures are quite wonderful, gorgeous depictions of the planes, inside and out, on the ground and in the air. Jenny’s blonde, K.C. is African American; they and Jenny’s parents and other people at the air base are fully and realistically rendered. A lot of information made palatable for young people while responding to their questions and fears in a post- ‘shock and awe’ world.” – KIRKUS REVIEWS.

“As preparations continue, Mom talks about past adventures, which Duble fits smoothly into the narrative, along with a good deal of information about airplanes and flying. The pastel watercolors, sometimes showing cloudy skies in shades of gray, reflect the girl’s emotional roller coaster as she sees her mother off. A paean to flying, this is also a strong ‘can do’ message for girls.” – BOOKLIST.

For a great book for kids about handling loss, click here

Book Club ideas


VENUE: How about arranging a tour of your local airport? A lot of the smaller ones have coffee shops in them with great home cooking. Why not meet there, watch the planes take off and have a bite to eat? (And I bet a local pilot will be willing to show you his plane!) You can also visit the Museum of Women Pilots in Oklahoma City (if you live close enough.) And if neither of these is an option, create your own “world of dreams”. Ask each child to bring a poster to display what they dream of doing when they are older.

FOOD: As Jenny’s mom had an emergency while flying in Saudi Arabia, why not try some of the foods they eat there while discussing the benefits of being a woman in the US? Start the meeting off with a homemade hummus and toasted pita bread. For dinner, Kapsa (Chicken with rice) would be a great main meal! (I’ve listed the recipe for you below) and finish with some purchased sesame candy.

Kapsa (Chicken and Rice)

* 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
* 1 small to medium onion, chopped
* 3 teaspoons ground cardamom
* 1 can (about 2 cups) chicken broth
* 1½ cups water
* 1 tomato, chopped
* 1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
* 2 teaspoons garlic powder
* 1 teaspoon lemon rind
* 1 cinnamon stick
* Salt to taste
* 1 small snack box of raisins
* 1 package of skinless, boneless chicken (4 breast halves)
* 1 package of skinless, boneless thighs (4 to 6 thighs)
* 1½ cups white Basmati rice


  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Wash chicken thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Put chicken in a baking dish and bake in preheated oven until fully cooked (about 30 minutes).
  4. While the chicken is baking, heat oil (medium-high) in a large pot. Add chopped onions and 1 teaspoon of cardamom, stirring constantly until browned.
  5. Add chicken broth and 1½ cups water to pot. Add remaining 2 teaspoons of cardamom, tomato, tomato paste, garlic powder, lemon rind, cinnamon stick, salt, and raisins to the browned onions and water.
  6. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for 2–3 minutes. Add the rice.
  7. Bring to a boil then immediately turn the heat down to low. Cover the pot tightly and simmer for 15 minutes.
  8. After 10 minutes, check the rice to see if it has absorbed all of the liquid.
  9. If the rice is dry but not soft yet, add a little more water and continue to simmer. Do not stir the rice! The rice is done when all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is soft.
  10. When both the rice and the chicken are cooked, place the rice on a platter and put the chicken on top in the middle.

Serves 6 to 8.

ONLINE RESOURCE: https://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/women-aviation-and-space-history

SPECIAL GUESTS: Most women in the military are willing to visit and talk about their jobs with students who are interested. Try and find a local woman pilot to come and speak with you about the difficulties and rewards of this career choice.


The Social Studies Connection

Jenny Strom’s mother is a tanker pilot. Today, she is planning on leaving the family to undertake a training mission. Her absences are hard on Jenny, yet Jenny knows there are important decisions as to why her mother has chosen this career. Pilot Mom provides a unique forum for teachers and students to discuss the differences in families and how sometimes we all must cooperate to make a family run smoothly.

Hands On Activity: Using a chart, teachers can engage children in a discussion of family differences and what “family” means to each student, listing the ways in which Jenny’s family is similar to theirs and ways in which her family is different.

The Science Connection

When Jenny and her best friend, K.C., go to look at the tanker planes, they are both in awe that Jenny’s mom could handle something that large. Jenny tells her friend of the many emergency situations her mother has been in. In reviewing how a tanker refuels other planes while in the air, students will become aware of another part of their physical world. Jenny’s reference to the tanker as “a gas station in the sky” will allow students the opportunity to relate a tanker to their own world.

Hands On Activity: A simple construction of paper airplanes will allow the student to discover the science of flying. Teachers can use the following book as a resource for making your paper airplane: Blackburn, Ken & Jeff Lammers, The World Record Paper Airplane Book, Workman Publishing, New York, 1994.

The History Connection

Besides the fact that Jenny will miss her mother while she’s gone, she is concerned about the possibility of war. Jenny remembers when her mother was away at the Gulf War. Some of the incidents of that war are related, including the time when Jenny’s mom was trying to land and the control tower would not answer her calls. In light of recent events, a discussion about the history of our relations with Iraq can occur, along with how sometimes war, while unwanted, may be inevitable.

Hands On Activity: Using a world map, the location of Iraq and its surrounding neighbors can be identified. Using pictures, a discussion of differences in cultures can be undertaken (e.g: clothing, religions, government, architecture and art).

The Art Connection

In designing a book like Pilot Mom, attention to detail was extremely important. As a result, the illustrator, Alan Marks, sent his drawings to my sister, who is a tanker pilot, to have her verify all the details. In one drawing, Lauren found that he had drawn “Captain Strom” with the rankings of a major. Rather than change the drawings, “Captain Strom” was changed in the text. Thus she became “Major Strom”.

Hands On Activity: Provide drawings or photos to the students of the classroom environment or some other activity they may be studying at the time. Drawings should have mistakes that the student will be able to recognize and correct. These drawings can prompt a discussion of the importance of the job of an illustrator or artist to correctly reflect text, whether it is a children’s picture book or a tapestry depicting scenes from history.