All he ever wanted to do was fly.
Three-time Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Angela Johnson and New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long invite readers to ponder a band of undercelebrated World War II heroes -- the Tuskegee Airmen. With fleeting prose and transcendent imagery, this book by the masterful author/artist duo reveals how a boy's love of flight takes him on a journey from the dusty dirt roads of Alabama to the war-torn skies of Europe and into the hearts of those who are only now beginning to understand the part these brave souls played in the history of America.
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.