From School Library Journal
Grade 2–4—A child recounts his great-great uncle's lifelong passion for flying-which began at age five with a leap from the roof of a chicken coop and climaxed with wartime flights as one of the Tuskegee Airmen. The man is depicted as a slender figure with distant eyes contemplating the wild blue yonder or, later on, posing with massive-looking, antique aircraft. The slightly misty look of Long's illustrations artfully evokes that sense of remembered times and matches the lyrical tone of Johnson's brief, poetic monologue. "He cried when they landed/because then he knew/what it was like to go/into the wind,/against the wind,/beyond the wind." A final view of the child and his uncle flying off into the "magical wind" in an oversize biplane caps this soaring double tribute to both the Second World War's still-underappreciated African-American pilots and to the profound longing to fly that impelled them.—John Peters, New York Public Library
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In spare, poetic lines, a young African American boy introduces his great-great-uncle, who was a Tuskegee airman. His uncle's love for flying begins in boyhood, when he "catches air" in jumps from haylofts and takes his first rides in a "flying barnstormer." Later he becomes a Tuskegee wind flyer and serves in World War II, and his delight in piloting lasts his lifetime. Johnson introduces the history in oblique, pared-down words. Many children will need adult help to place the story in context, and they may want to talk about the story's references to war, including a scene of planes in combat. Long's acrylics beautifully extend the evocative words. Resembling WPA murals in clearly defined, rounded figures and realistic scenes, the artwork shows thrilling expanses of sky and gives a sense, in aerial views, of what it must feel like to touch clouds from an open aircraft. Pair this title with Lynn Homan and Thomas Reilly's The Tuskegee Airmen Story
(2002). Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved