Saturday, March 19, 2016

Spring Reading 2016 You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen
Weatherford has put together the story of the Tuskegee Airmen through a collection of poems. Each poem marks another step in the journey that took these servicemen from being stuck as support personnel to owning the skies as Red Tail Angels. Although the poems work as a whole to tell the story, each one captures a specific event or impression that can also stand on its own. There is the irony in "The Civilian Pilot Training Program," which mentions the recruiting posters showing Uncle Sam, but everyone knew that the young black men were not wanted for any of the glamorous jobs. "The Other War" reminds us that these pilot trainees not only fought to succeed in ground school, but still had to face racism every day, too. And "A Long Line" sounds a roll call of heroic black men from the pharaohs of Egypt, Crispus Attucks, Robert Smalls, the Harlem Hellfighters, up to the Tuskegee Airmen.

It's not just the poetry, but also the extras that make the book so useful. Jeffery Boston Weatherford's scratchboard artwork provides images of recruiting posters, the Joe Louis/Max Schmeling fight, and other visuals to support the content of the poems. The Author's Note gives a brief explanation of the history of African-American soldiers serving in the U.S. military up to the time of World War II. A timeline covers major events from the end of the Civil War to the invitation for the Tuskegee Airmen to attend the inauguration of President Obama. The resource section lists books, films, and primary source documents for further information.

This would be an excellent book to use in social studies classrooms when the students are studying World War II or the Civil Rights Movement. It could support student understanding of the issues, but could also be used as examples for students to mimic in creating their own responses to the material they are studying. And the same applies to the artwork - the scratchboard style could be imitated, or other styles could be used to illustrate key scenes from the time period.

Highly recommended for 5th grade and up.

I read an advance galley provided by the publisher for review purposes.

No comments:

Post a Comment