About the Holiday
Today is set aside to honor the first manned air flight to win a Kremer Prize, a series of monetary awards established by Henry Kremer to commemorate pioneers in human-powered flight and administrated by the Royal Aeronautical Society. The first Kremer Prize was won on this date in 1977 by Dr. Paul MacCready when his Gossamer Condor, piloted by Brian Allen flew a figure eight around two markers one half mile apart. Three Kremer Prize milestones still remain to be accomplished. Today people are encouraged to spend time outdoors catching the wind with a kite, pinwheel, sailboat, or maybe with a toy airplane like the little boy in today’s book!
The Boy and the Airplane
By Mark Pett
A little boy receives a present and watches the giver as he leaves. When the boy opens the box, he is thrilled to find a red airplane inside. He runs outside to play with it, zooming it up and down. Laying it on the ground, he then becomes an airplane, zooming around with his arms out as wings.
The boy looks at his plane and wonders. He picks it up and gives it a good, hard throw. It soars upward…upward, its propeller spinning as it speeds away. The boy chases after it then stops. His plane has come to a landing…on the roof. He ponders what to do for a moment, then gets a ladder. He leans the ladder against the house and climbs to the top rung, but he’s not nearly close enough. With child-like persistence, he tries different tactics—lassoing it, hitting it off with a baseball, jumping on a pogo stick, spraying it off with a hose—nothing dislodges his new toy.
He sits down under a tree to think. As he reflects a whirlybird seed spirals down in front of him. He gazes at it, then goes to the garage for a shovel. He digs a hole, tosses the whirlybird in, pats down the dirt and waits. Snow falls on a tiny sapling as the boy in his coat, cap, and scarf keep it company. A future springtime sees both the boy and the tree older, with a little more height and hair and a little more height and leaves, respectively.
The tree grows tall and sturdy, complete with a bird’s nest and little peepers as the boy becomes an adult, complete with suit and tie and wiser peepers. By the time the boy reaches middle age, the tree’s trunk is thick and powerful, and as the boy matures to old age, the tree is strong enough to hold him. The elderly man climbs his tree’s branches and reaches over the eaves. His red plane is waiting for him, a little dusty now and tied down with cobwebs, but just as it was on that afternoon so long ago.
With the exuberance of his youth, the man pulls back to give the plane a good, hard throw, but he stops. He considers his recovered toy and keeps it close instead, devising another plan for the airplane. He knows someone else who will like that plane as much as he did. he puts it in a box, wraps it and gives it to his granddaughter.
Mark Pett’s lovely, wordless picture book is a tribute to childhood, imagination, patience, and generational longevity. The subtle, vintage-style drawings in hues of brown on sage green backgrounds, punctuated only with the deep maroon red of the airplane, convey the feeling of permanence and the enduring presence of nature and familial love. The figure disappearing off the left-hand side of the first page after presenting the gift of the airplane to the little boy mirrors the clothes of the elderly man the boy has become as he gives the airplane to his granddaughter, passing down tradition and heritage.
Kids will also enjoy spotting the little bird that follows the boy on every page and hatches its own family in the branches of the mature tree. A close reading reveals deeper meanings and metaphors, comparisons and humor, making The Boy and the Airplane a perfect book for quiet story times or bedtime.
Ages 4 – 8
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013 | ISBN 978-1442451230
Discover more books by Mark Pett and what’s coming next on his website!
Ride the Wind Day Activity
Tiny Toy Airplane Coloring Page
Is this airplane in the sky or at the airport? Or maybe it’s sitting in a field or at an airshow. It could be an attraction at a fair, or maybe it’s waiting to take you for a ride! Draw in whatever background you imagine and then color it! Get your Tiny Toy Airplane Coloring Page here!
Picture Book Review