cover image Good-Bye, Charles Lindbergh: Based on a True Story

Good-Bye, Charles Lindbergh: Based on a True Story

Louise Borden, Thomas B. Allen. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81536-2

""In 1929, on an ordinary day, in a Mississippi field, something big happened,"" begins this promising if not fully achieved picture book based on a real-life farm boy's chance encounter with Charles Lindbergh. Borden (Paperboy; The Little Ships) sets the scene convincingly as young Gil rides across the field bareback (he doesn't use the saddle, ""because... it was a Kentucky saddle. And Kentucky saddles were for old men""), catches sight of a biplane and races for its likely landing area. The pilot turns out to be Lindbergh, whom Gil and other neighbors recognize from newspaper photos. A preliminary author's note has explained that Lindbergh was traveling from Mexico to New York City to attend a funeral; in the story, everyone is too awed and respectful to ask where he is going or where he has been. Instead, they warn him of an impending storm, and next morning they help free his plane from the resulting ""ankle-deep"" mud. Some readers may need help appreciating the significance of the transatlantic trip that built Lindbergh's astonishing fame, but the details about the flight here are enough to sustain their interest. Allen's (A Place Called Freedom) low-contrast colored-pencil art, however, has a wispiness that wraps the story in nostalgia, distancing the audience from the action. In the end, readers will understand why the incident is ""something big"" to Gil, but they are unlikely to share his excitement. Ages 5-9. (Apr.)