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Wingwalker Hardcover – May 1, 2002

5 customer reviews

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Hardcover, May 1, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Studded with Selznick's evocative illustrations, Wells's affecting chapter book opens in 1933, when the young narrator wins an airplane ride with a stunt pilot at the Oklahoma Air Races. Reuben is terrified, but his airplane-mad father can't see it: "I saw pride shining in his eyes like stars," Reuben observes. "If I did not go, I would forever cut a little diamond shape of disappointment out of my father's heart." After the dreaded wild ride, Reuben swears he will never go higher than his attic window. But Reuben's sights are to be radically expanded. When dust storms turn the green prairies "the color of meal crackers," Reuben's parents lose their jobs. His father, answering an ad for a "wingwalker" who "must be brave and light on the feet" (the job entails standing on the wing of a plane as it circles above paying onlookers), moves the family to join a carnival in Minnesota. In a voice at once ingenuous and wise, Reuben relays his mutually enriching encounters with the kind carnival performers, who help him soar, literally and figuratively. Rendered in a muted palette, the art has a quiet gravity, whether showing Hopper-like streets of small towns or even people queuing at carnival attractions, their eyes averted or hidden from the viewer. The final spread has all the more power for its contrast: sunlight illuminates a cloudy sky as the hero, finally, takes wing. Ages 7-10.

From School Library Journal

Grade 3-6-In this deceptively slim, slice-of-life chapter book, the narrator recounts a pivotal childhood summer. Reuben is a carefree second grader living in rural Oklahoma with his mother, a caf‚ cook, and his father, a dance instructor, when the Depression and Dust Bowl end the family's stable, quiet way of life. Desperate for work, the boy's father takes a job as an airplane wingwalker in a Minnesota traveling carnival. Reuben's retelling of the dramatic events is subtle and matter-of-fact, filled with the small, everyday details that color memories and help readers to see life through his eyes. Although some youngsters may need historical background to understand the family's experiences, they will relate to Reuben's feelings, and to the timeless themes-coping with teasing, peer pressure, unwelcome change, and overcoming one's fears. The carnival workers are portrayed with dignity and humor. Filled with muted earth tones and hinting of folk art, Selznick's striking, bordered paintings create an evocative portrait of the era, and aptly complement the quality text. Even the endpapers reflect the period, resembling popular wallpaper patterns of the '30s. An engaging story, and a well-crafted, thoroughly enjoyable book.
Heide Piehler, Shorewood Public Library, WI
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 2 - 5
  • Lexile Measure: 650L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; 1 edition (May 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786803975
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786803972
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.6 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,388,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in New York City, Rosemary Wells grew up in a house "filled with books, dogs, and nineteenth-century music." Her childhood years were spent between her parents' home near Red Bank, New Jersey, and her grandmother's rambling stucco house on the Jersey Shore. Most of her sentimental memories, both good and bad, stem from that place and time. Her mother was a dancer in the Russian Ballet, and her father a playwright and actor. Mrs. Wells says, "Both my parents flooded me with books and stories. My grandmother took me on special trips to the theater and museums in New York. "Rosemary Wells's career as an author and illustrator spans more than 30 years and 60 books. She has won numerous awards, and has given readers such unforgettable characters as Max and Ruby, Noisy Nora, and Yoko. She has also given Mother Goose new life in two enormous, definitive editions, published by Candlewick. Wells wrote and illustrated Unfortunately Harriet, her first book with Dial, in 1972. One year later she wrote the popular Noisy Nora. "The children and our home life have inspired, in part, many of my books. Our West Highland white terrier, Angus, had the shape and expressions to become Benjamin and Tulip, Timothy, and all the other animals I have made up for my stories." Her daughters Victoria and Beezoo were constant inspirations, especially for the now famous "Max" board book series. "Simple incidents from childhood are universal," Wells says. "The dynamics between older and younger siblings are common to all families."But not all of Wells' ideas come from within the family circle. Many times when speaking, Mrs. Wells is asked where her ideas come from. She usually answers, "It's a writer's job to have ideas." Sometimes an idea comes from something she reads or hears about, as in the case of her recent book, Mary on Horseback, a story based on the life of Mary Breckenridge, who founded the Frontier Nursing Service. Timothy Goes to School was based on an incident in which her daughter was teased for wearing the wrong clothes to a Christmas concert. Her dogs, west highland terriers, Lucy and Snowy, work their way into her drawings in expression and body position. She admits, "I put into my books all of the things I remember. I am an accomplished eavesdropper in restaurants, trains, and gatherings of any kind. These remembrances are jumbled up and changed because fiction is always more palatable than truth. Memories become more true as they are honed and whittled into characters and stories."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom on May 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In large type (maybe 16 pt), with dusty 1930's illustrations, the authors recreate a prairie boy's life during The Great Depression. Reuben, a small second grader, is called shrimp-boats by his classmates, and a scaredy cat by Mary Ellen, until he wins a ride in a barrel rolling, Curtiss Jenny barn storming bi plane. His mother serves chicken a la king to truckers at the Lariat Café. His father teaches dancing, and wears a silk handkerchief, just like the U.S. President. But as the Depression continued, both his parents lose their jobs, and his father must find work with dangerous oil drilling rigs. Reuben expects to start 3rd grade in his comfortable Oklahoma town, but his father loses his job, and must find work anywhere doing anything. When he finds an ad for a wingwalker, the family leaves Oklahoma for a new adventure. While his father works in the circus, more as a wing-dancer than a wing walker, Reuben must make new friends, and some are quite unusual, like the Tattooed Lady. Traveling with the circus, they cross Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. A sweet, quiet, timeless book for summer reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Frank Murphy on April 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This story of a young boy who lives through the Great Depression will give readers a delicious taste of the period. Imagine your father losing his job and becoming a stuntman who walks on the wings of an aeroplane!! Scary! Selznick's unique illustrations complement Wells' vivid writing. I always feel like I'm right there in the story when I look at Selznick's illustrations...Wells' text pulls me in even farther.
Wow!! Read this to a whole class group (2-8) to get a flavor of the Era and to study the craft of writing - Wells stuffs this story with passages that should be highlighted and analyzed as models of how to capture a reader's imagination.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kathy Draughn on March 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
WINGWALKER by Rosemary Wells is the story of a young boy, who at the age of seven experiences the loss of security as a result of his parents losing their home and jobs during the dust storms of the 1930's. The family is forced to move and meet new challenges and people. During the time his mother and father go to work for a traveling carnival, Reuben grows from a young boy very afraid of riding in an airplane to being able to ride the wings of a carnival airplane with his father. The book is a touching story of a young boy's growth from babyish insecurity to courageous adolescence. The illustrator, Brain Selznick tells the family's story through muted pastel color paintings that have a dusty overglazed appearance. He does an outstanding job of capturing the thoughts and feelings of the characters, especially Reuben, with very meaningful facial expressions. Overall, the book shows skillful blending of text and artwork.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Heiss on March 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful story for family read-alouds. Great family dynamics, although I was cautious at first. Great book about accepting life's circumstances and accepting other people.

It's just a great book.
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By Linda Townsend on March 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As we had watched wing walkers at an airshow in the Summer, and he enjoyed talking to the walker after the show, this was a good choice for him. Also, it was about Oklahoma.
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