cover image Nobody Owns the Sky: The Story of Brave Bessie Coleman

Nobody Owns the Sky: The Story of Brave Bessie Coleman

Reeve Lindbergh. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56402-533-3

In 1922 Bessie Coleman, born in Texas in 1893 to a Native American father and an African American mother, became the first licensed black aviator in the world. Her tale is one of extraordinary perseverance; among other obstacles, she was denied admission to U.S. flying schools and ended up traveling to France to get her pilot's license. Lindbergh (The Midnight Farm) relates Coleman's life story in the broadest of strokes, couching it in bouncy if sometimes heavy-handed rhymed verse: "" `Come and fly, boys and girls! Black or white, short or tall,/ Come and fly, everybody! Come, answer my call-/ The air has no barrier, boundary, or wall./ The blue sky has room for us all.' "" She chooses the elements likeliest to inspire a young audience and throws in the occasional unfamiliar term (""a Richthofen Glide""), but leaves out, even in her explanatory note, such facts as the year of Coleman's death. Giving the narrative additional lift, Paparone's (Who Built the Ark?) lustrous, appealingly primitive acrylic art effectively conveys a sense of the '20s. Not surprisingly, the sky figures prominently in most of the pictures; a number offer an airborne view of the world, conveying the excitement of a perspective obviously dear to Coleman. Ages 6-9. (Nov.)