cover image Wind Flyers

Wind Flyers

Angela Johnson, , illus. by Loren Long. . S&S, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84879-7

The team behind I Dream of Trains masterfully presents a story of the Tuskegee Airmen, as light and graceful as the air in which they navigated their planes. A boy recounts his great-great-uncle's experience as one of these unsung heroes. Long's humorous early paintings show the young would-be pilot jumping from a hayloft, conveying his early love of heights and flight. Likening the very idea of flying to Heaven ("with clouds, like soft blankets, saying, 'Come on in, get warm. Stay awhile and be a wind flyer too' "), Uncle makes flying seem so inviting to the boy, that readers will likely wish to be just like Uncle, too. When, as a Tuskegee Airman, Uncle finally puts his own dream into motion and his plane takes off for the first time, readers may well want to stand up and cheer. The occasion is all the more celebratory because of how rare it was for African-Americans to get an opportunity like this, as Johnson's poetic text subtly conveys: "Air Force didn't want us at first," Uncle says. (A closing author's note explains the founding and achievements of the airmen trained in Tuskegee, Ala.) Long's illustration of this momentous occasion features brushstrokes so vivid, they practically launch Uncle's plane right off the page. Both author and artist guard a careful balance between nostalgia and the timelessness of childhood aspirations. Together, they turn a quiet moment in history into a story that will send spirits soaring. Ages 5-9. (Jan.)