November 9 – National Aviation History Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wind-fliers-cover

About the Holiday

If you look back in history you see that people have always been fascinated with flight. The first kite was invented in 1000 BCE in China; around 400 BCE Archytas of Tarentum developed a steam-powered pigeon; and most people are familiar with the designs of flying machines that Leonardo de Vinci created in the late 1400s. An important discovery that led inventors in the right direction came in 1680 when an Italian mathematician determined that human muscles were incompatible with flight.

Zip ahead about 100 years and the first hot-air balloon flight was undertaken, which led to more and more complex technology, resulting in Wilbur and Orville Wright’s flight in 1903. From there, it seemed, the sky was the limit. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to complete a trans-Atlantic Ocean solo flight in 1932, and in 1947 Charles Yeager broke the sound barrier. But it’s astounding to think that from that modest 12-second first flight by the Wright Brothers to the first man in space—Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin—it took only 58 years! Today astronauts from countries around the world live and work in the International Space Station, and spacecraft are traversing deep space.

Wind Flyers

Written by Angela Johnson | Illustrated by Loren Long

 

With pride a young African-American boy tells the story of his great-great-uncle who was a Tuskegee Airman in World War II. His uncle was “a smooth wind flyer. A Tuskegee wind flyer…,” the boy says. He knows well his uncle’s history—how like a bird, his uncle believed he was born to fly. “With his arms flapping, he jumped off a chicken coop at the age of five,” and when he was only seven he soared from a lofty barn into a pile of hay. His first real flight came at the age of eleven, when he paid 75 cents to be a passenger with a barnstormer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wind-fliers-jumping-from-hayloft

Image copyright Loren Long, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Flying over lakes and fields, his uncle felt as if he were in Heaven, among clouds “like soft blankets, saying, ‘Come on in, get warm. Stay awhile and be a wind flyer too.’” The experience changed him forever. In fact he “cried when they landed because then he knew what it was like to go into the wind, against the wind, beyond the wind.” As a young adult his uncle contributed his dream and his skills to the World War II effort, becoming a Tuskegee Airman, one of the first black pilots in the United States military.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wind-fliers-tuskegee-arimen

Image copyright Loren Long, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

As the pair sit in the uncle’s barn, surrounded by his military uniform, leather jacket, and other memories of his flying career—after the war to continue flying he became a crop duster—the pair look through old photographs, seeing once more those young and brave pilots—the Tuskegee wind flyers. Planes are different now, Uncle says, but the clouds remain the same. The boy and his uncle climb to the highest point of the uncle’s barn to watch the jets—and in those moments they once more become the smooth wind flyers, flying into the wind and beyond.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wind-fliers-grandfather-and-grandson

Image copyright Loren Long, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

In her soaring, rhythmic language, Angela Johnson captures the dreams and yearning of a young boy whose greatest desire is to fly among the clouds. Her combination of straight narration with lyrical lines as he joins the Tuskegee Airman in World War II enhances the sense of achievement and pride the young pilots felt. The structure of the story is well chosen, as relating the uncle’s life from childhood through old age through the eyes of his nephew strengthens the themes of strong familial relationships as well as shared dreams across generations.

Loren Long gives Wind Flyers additional power with his strong, vibrant paintings. Two-page spreads provide a sense of the vastness of the skies that so enticed the young would-be pilot. Even the clouds echo the emotion of the page—fluffy, floating, and alive in the flight scenes while linear, flat, and stationary when the plane and the uncle are earthbound. Realistic portrayals of the boy, his uncle, and the other Tuskegee Airmen are reminiscent of the WPA murals of the 1940s while still setting this book firmly in today for a new generation.

Wind Flyers is a wonderful book to share with aviation buffsm budding historians, and dreamers of all types and would make a welcome thoughtful book for quiet story times.

Ages 4 – 9

Simon & Schuster Books for Young People, 2007 | ISBN 978-0689848797

To learn more about Angela Johnson‘s books for all ages, visit her website!

View a gallery of artwork for picture books and other media by Loren Long, visit his website!

National Aviation History Month Activity

CPB - Biplane side

Head in the Clouds Box Biplane

 

If you love airplanes and flying, you’ll have fun making your own plane from recycled materials! Use your creativity to decorate your plane while you imagine yourself flying through the clouds on a beautiful day. Younger children will have fun sharing this activity with an adult or older sibling too!

Supplies

  • Travel-size toothpaste box
  • 3 6-inch x 1/2-inch craft sticks
  • 2  2 1/2-inch x 7/8-inch mini craft sticks
  • 5 Round toothpicks, with points cut off
  • Paint in whatever colors you like for your design
  • 4 small buttons 
  • 2 mini buttons
  • Paint brushes
  • Strong glue or glue gun

CPB - Biplane front

Directions

  1. Empty toothpaste box
  2. Paint toothpaste box and decorate it
  3. Paint the craft sticks and 5 toothpicks
  4. Paint one small craft stick to be the propeller
  5. Let all objects dry

To assemble the biplane

  1. For the Bottom Wing – Glue one 6-inch-long craft stick to the bottom of the plane about 1 inch from the end of the box that is the front of the plane
  2. For the Top Wing – Glue the other 6-inch-long craft stick to the top of the plane about 1 inch from the front of the plane
  3. For the Tail – Glue one mini craft stick to the bottom of the box about ¾ inches from the end that is the back of the plane
  4. For the Vertical Rudder – Cut the end from one of the painted 6-inch-long craft sticks, glue this to the back of the box, placing it perpendicular against the edge and half-way between each side

CPB - Biplane bottom

To assemble the front wheels

  1. Cut 4 painted toothpicks to a length of ¾-inches long
  2. Cut one painted toothpick to a length of 1-inch long
  3. Glue 2 of the 3/4-inch toothpicks to the back of 1 button, the ends of the toothpicks on the button should be touching and the other end apart so the toothpicks form a V
  4. Repeat the above step for the other wheel
  5. Let the glue dry
  6. Glue the 1-inch long toothpick between the wheels at the center of each wheel to keep them together and give them stability. Let dry

To make the back wheel

  1. Cut two ¼-inch lengths of painted toothpick and glue them together. Let dry
  2. Glue two mini buttons together to form the back wheel. Let dry
  3. Glue the ¼-inch toothpicks to the mini buttons. Let dry
  4. Glue these to the bottom of the plane in the center of the box directly in front of and touching the tail

Display your biplane!

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

May 22 – National Maritime Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-toy-boat

About the Holiday

National Maritime Day commemorates the day in 1819 that the steamship Savannah sailed from the United States to England. This event marked the first successful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by steam propulsion. The US Congress proclaimed May 22 National Maritime Day in 1933. The day gives us an opportunity to honor the ships and seafarers who have served our country in peacetime and during war and to remember the benefits the maritime industry.

Toy Boat

Written by Randall de Sève | Illustrated by Loren Long

 

A little boy makes a toy boat from a can, a cork, a pencil and some white cloth. He loves his boat and carries it with him everywhere. Every day the boy takes his boat to the lake and sails it all afternoon. The boy always keeps his toy boat on a string so he won’t lose it. The boat feels secure, but sometimes it gazes out at the big sailboats gliding across the lake and wonders “what it would feel like to sail free.”

One afternoon a squall blows up on the lake, and the boy’s mother pulls him quickly from the edge of the thrashing water. Startled, the boy drops the string and his toy boat floats away. The boat is buffeted by the wind and rain and is carried into deep water where it rides the crests of the wind-whipped waves. As the storm subsides a tug chugs along, pushing the little boat further aside.

The tiny craft rights itself just in time to avoid being sunk by a ferry that blows its horn, warning, “Move Along!” But the tug and the ferry aren’t the only dangers on the water. A fierce speedboat roars past, its engine screaming, “Move Along!”, and its draft sending the little boat reeling. The toy boat feels small and scared as it drifts into the middle of a fleet of sailboats racing to port. For a moment the toy boat and a large sloop “cut through the choppy waves side by side. And the little toy boat felt big. Then the white boat tilted high on its side, spraying the little toy boat with water, warning, “Move along!”

Half drowned and its sail soaked, the little toy boat misses the boy. It bobs all night on the open water, “alone and scared.” As the sun rises an old fishing boat, dented and with peeling paint, put-puts by. It spies the little boat and, knowing how it feels to be pushed around, begins to circle the tiny craft. In the fishing boat’s wake, the toy boat turns and catches the wind in its sail. Soon it is sailing alongside the fishing boat.

“The little toy boat felt strong! ‘I am moving along,’ it shouted to the wind.” The little boat feels so good that it doesn’t realize it is now sailing alone or that it is nearing the shore, where the little boy is watching out for it. When the boy shouts, “Boat! Boat!” the now brave craft waves its sail excitedly and sees the boy wave back.

That night the little boat sails bathtub seas and sleeps on a soft mattress. The next day the boy takes the boat back to the lake, and while he still holds the boat by a string, every so often he lets go, and the little toy boat always comes back. “It knew just where it wanted to be.”

Randall de Sève’s tale of independence sought and found by both the little boat and the boy will resonate with both children and adults. The safety of the “string” set against the perceived freedom of older or bigger others is a universal and on-going rite of passage for every child and their parents and is treated by de Sève with gentleness and understanding. The various dangers and even personalities children meet with are introduced here allowing kids to see that while they may be buffeted by change or adversity, they will not sink.

Loren Long lends his well-known artwork to this story in beautiful two-page spreads that depict the security of first the small bathtub and then the calm lake as well as the storm-tossed waves that take the toy boat into unknown territory. The smallness of the toy boat compared with the size of the tug, ferry, speedboat, and racing sloops well reflects the experiences of children in the wider world. When the friendly face of the fishing trawler comes on the scene, kids will identify with the toy boat and realize help and support are out there and that they are always welcomed home with love.

Ages 3 and up

Philomel Books, Penguin Young Readers, 2014 (board book edition) | ISBN 978-0399167973

National Maritime Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maritime-flag-puzzle

 

Show Your Colors! Word Puzzle

 

While ships can’t talk to each other, they can communicate using a system of flags. These colorful flags carrying different designs are recognized internationally as representing letters and symbols. Individual flags have specific meanings related to safety, emergency, or warning issues or they can be combined to form a code that only certain ships can understand.

Use the provided maritime flags code to decipher a special message! Print the Show Your Colors! word puzzle and get decoding! Here’s the Solution!

March 22 – Tuskegee Airmen Day

Wind Flyers by Angela Johnson and Loren Long Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black military aviators in the U. S. armed forces during World War II. The regiment consisted of 996 pilots and more than 15,000 ground personnel who were trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field and other locations. These brave pilots have been credited with 15,500 combat sorties and earned more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses. The success of the Tuskegee Airmen paved the way for the integration of the U.S. military under President Harry S Truman in 1948.

Wind Flyers

Written by Angela Johnson | Illustrated by Loren Long

 

With pride a young African-American boy tells the story of his great-great-uncle who was a Tuskegee Airman in World War II. His uncle was “a smooth wind flyer. A Tuskegee wind flyer…” Like a bird, his uncle tells his nephew, he was born to fly, jumping off a chicken coop at the age of five and into a pile of hay from a barn when he was seven. He has his first real flight at the age of eleven, when he pays to be a passenger with a barnstormer.

Flying over lakes and fields, his uncle feels as if he’s in Heaven, among soft clouds that beckon for him to be a wind flyer too. The experience changes him forever, and always there is the desire to fly “into the wind, against the wind, beyond the wind.” As a young adult his uncle contributes his dream and his skills to the World War II effort, becoming a Tuskegee Airman, one of the first black pilots in the United States military.

The boy and his uncle look through old photographs, seeing once more those young and brave pilots—the Tuskegee wind flyers. After the war, his uncle crop dusted in order to fly. Now planes are different, he says, but the clouds remain the same. The boy and his uncle climb to the highest point of the uncle’s barn to watch the jets—and in those moments they once more become the smooth wind flyers, flying into the wind and beyond.

In her soaring, rhythmic language, Angela Johnson captures the dreams and yearning of a young boy whose greatest desire is to fly among the clouds. When he gets his chance by joining the Tuskegee Airman in World War II, Johnson combines straightforward narrative with poetic lines to enhance the sense of achievement and pride the young pilots felt. The structure of the story is well chosen, as the relating of the uncle’s life from childhood through old age through the eyes of his nephew, strengthens themes of strong familial relationships as well as shared dreams across generations.

Loren Long gives Wind Flyers additional power with his strong, vibrant paintings. Two-page spreads provide a sense of the vastness of the skies that so enticed the young would-be pilot. Even the clouds echo the emotion of the page—fluffy, floating, and alive in the flight scenes while linear, flat, and stationary when the plane and the uncle are earthbound. Realistic portrayals of the boy, his uncle, and the other Tuskegee Airmen are reminiscent of the WPA murals of the 1940s while still setting this book firmly in today for a new generation.

Wind Flyers is a wonderful book to share with aviation buffs and dreams of all types.

Ages 4 – 9

Simon & Schuster Books for Young People, 2007 | ISBN 978-0689848797

Tuskegee Airmen Day Activity

CPB - Biplane side

Head in the Clouds Box Biplane

 

If you love airplanes and flying, you’ll have fun making your own plane from recycled materials! Use your creativity to decorate your plane while you imagine yourself flying through the clouds on a beautiful day. Younger children will have fun sharing this activity with an adult or older sibling too!

Supplies

  • Travel-size toothpaste box
  • 3 6-inch x 1/2-inch craft sticks
  • 2  2 1/2-inch x 7/8-inch mini craft sticks
  • 5 Round toothpicks, with points cut off
  • Paint in whatever colors you like for your design
  • 4 small buttons 
  • 2 mini buttons
  • Paint brushes
  • Strong glue or glue gun

CPB - Biplane front

Directions

  1. Empty toothpaste box
  2. Paint toothpaste box and decorate it
  3. Paint the craft sticks and 5 toothpicks
  4. Paint one small craft stick to be the propeller
  5. Let all objects dry

To assemble the biplane

  1. For the Bottom Wing – Glue one 6-inch-long craft stick to the bottom of the plane about 1 inch from the end of the box that is the front of the plane
  2. For the Top Wing – Glue the other 6-inch-long craft stick to the top of the plane about 1 inch from the front of the plane
  3. For the Tail – Glue one mini craft stick to the bottom of the box about ¾ inches from the end that is the back of the plane
  4. For the Vertical Rudder – Cut the end from one of the painted 6-inch-long craft sticks, glue this to the back of the box, placing it perpendicular against the edge and half-way between each side

CPB - Biplane bottom

To assemble the front wheels

  1. Cut 4 painted toothpicks to a length of ¾-inches long
  2. Cut one painted toothpick to a length of 1-inch long
  3. Glue 2 of the 3/4-inch toothpicks to the back of 1 button, the ends of the toothpicks on the button should be touching and the other end apart so the toothpicks form a V
  4. Repeat the above step for the other wheel
  5. Let the glue dry
  6. Glue the 1-inch long toothpick between the wheels at the center of each wheel to keep them together and give them stability. Let dry

To make the back wheel

  1. Cut two ¼-inch lengths of painted toothpick and glue them together. Let dry
  2. Glue two mini buttons together to form the back wheel. Let dry
  3. Glue the ¼-inch toothpicks to the mini buttons. Let dry
  4. Glue these to the bottom of the plane in the center of the box directly in front of and touching the tail

Display your biplane!