Night Witches: A Novel of World War Two by Kathryn Lasky
They were known as Nachthexen, young female aviators recruited by Stalin's military to destroy specific German targets behind enemy lines. In small wood and canvas biplanes they conducted bombing missions against Nazi military from 1942 until the conclusion of World War II. These aircraft were so small that they could only deliver six bombs per run with about eight missions per night. Under cover of darkness the bombers would idle the biplane’s engine near the target and glide down to a release point. These planes emitted a soft wind-like noise. This whooshing sound was similar to the sound of broomsticks traveling through the skies. Hence the name Nachthexen, or Night Witches.
Kathryn Lasky brings the story of these incredible young women to life in the historical novel Night Witches: A Novel of World War Two. At an early age, both Valya and her older sister Tatyana were taught by to fly by their father, head of a flight training program near Stalingrad. Flying was bred into her bones. "To fly is to slip the cords of earth and join the sky." When the Germans invaded Russia, her familiar life is gone: her father is declared missing and her grandmother dead. Tatyana volunteers to join the Russian female aviation regiment. Then Valya's world completely shatters when she witnesses her mother's death at the hands of a sniper.
With nothing left and very little hope, Valya becomes determined to find her sister and to join her "Up there...In the sky, with them. With the witches and my sister." She receives help from an unlikely source and manages to find her way to Tatyana's regiment. Over time Valya proves herself to her superiors and becomes a valuable asset in this military operation.
Once you start reading Valya’s story, you won't be able to put this down until the final page.