Sunday, February 23, 2014

Book-A-Day 23: Wind Flyers

Wind Flyers
Written by: Angela Johnson
Illustrated by: Loren Long

This book is a wonderful collaboration between children's author Angela Johnson and Illustrator Loren Long that tells the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black group of fighter pilots that was formed in 1942 and trained in Tuskegee, Alabama.   Told through the eyes on a young boy, simple yet powerful words, describe the story of his great-great-uncle and how he came to be a pilot for the United States Air Force during World War II.  Although the story is fiction it is based on historical facts and does a wonderful job of honoring the men who played an important role in our country's history through the lens of story that even young children can understand and appreciate.  The author's note at the ends provides a short history on the Tuskegee Airmen and describes how the 332nd fighter group was the only military escort group that never lost a single bomber to enemy fire.  A fascinating history that has often been overlooked but played a significant role in helping pave the way for civil rights in the 1960's. 

At the upper grades, this story could be used to spark interest around the role  of minorities in the military.  Students could brainstorm a list of questions they have about the Tuskegee Airmen and use those questions to drive their research.  Have students complete a comparison between the Tuskegee Airman and the Native American Code Talkers during World War II.  Students can dive deep into understanding the critical role both of these minority groups played in the history of our country and how they were treated upon returning from war.  What can we learn from those historical experiences? How can we inform our community about these histories to learn from them? For younger students, this would be a wonderful book to discuss the concept of "then and now".  The young boy learns his great-great-uncle's history and in doing so learns about the past.  How could our students interview their own parents or grandparents to learn from the past?  How could they use that information to create their own story that teaches others about a historical event from the past? 

Angela Johnson has written many books for children including the first one featured on the Book-A-Day blog challenge. I adore how she creates simple yet powerful stories for children that model the art of writing.  Loren Long is a celebrated illustrator who has written numerous books for children.  They should be celebrated for their work on this story!

**To learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen click here.  

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