cover image You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen

Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Jeffery Boston Weatherford. S&S/Atheneum, $16.99 (96p) ISBN 978-1-4814-4938-0

Weatherford (Voice of Freedom) again wields the power of poetry to tell a gripping historical story, reinforced by dramatically shaded scratchboard illustrations by her son, making a notable debut. Gentle yet stirring, Weatherford’s 40-plus free-verse poems create a composite portrait of the first African-American military pilots, trained at the Tuskegee Institute before fighting on the front lines in WWII, and the rampant racial prejudice that these military heroes battled throughout the war. Addressing the pilots collectively as “you,” the present-tense narrative has a palpable sense of immediacy, urgency, and encouragement: “Finally, your moment./ After eight hours of lessons,/ it’s your turn to fly solo,/ to conquer a new world./ You steer as if you and the plane are one./ You have never felt freer./ Never.” Weatherford also offers appreciative nods to the first black women allowed to serve in the Army Nurse Corps, as well as black and white civilians and officers who decried the hypocrisy inherent in a soldier risking his life to defend a country “that doesn’t respect his rights.” A timeline and other resources wrap up this absorbing book. Ages 9–12. (May)