cover image The Fastest Girl on Earth! Meet Kitty O’Neil, Daredevil Driver!

The Fastest Girl on Earth! Meet Kitty O’Neil, Daredevil Driver!

Dean Robbins, illus. by Elizabeth Baddeley. Knopf, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-12571-7

Bursting with clouds of dust and rocket flames, realistic mixed-media spreads by Baddely (Leave It to Abigail!) deliver concentrated energy to this picture biography of sportswoman Kitty O’Neil (1946–2018). On the cover, O’Neil looks intently out of her helmet, giving a hint of what’s to come. Robbins (Margaret and the Moon) first sketches in the backstory: fearless and obsessed with speed, O’Neil, who “lost her hearing in a childhood fever,” sets records “as the fastest water skier and the fastest boat racer.” Soon, she decides to pursue becoming the fastest driver; Baddeley shows her training in her rocket-powered vehicle, the Motivator, which she must learn to keep in control at dizzying speeds of hundreds of miles an hour. At last, she’s ready, and suspense is high (end papers show her mechanic counting down in sign language). After O’Neil fulfills her goal, then surpasses it, “Everywhere she went, fans cheered. She could not hear their cheering, but she could feel it in her bones.” Robbins’s portrait moves as quickly as O’Neil did, bringing readers’ attention to a woman focused on excellence and undaunted by obstacles. Back matter includes an author’s note and information about the subject’s vehicle and world records. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Marietta Zacker, Gallt & Zacker Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Alexandra Penfold, Upstart Crow Literary. (Aug.)