This straightforward biography engages young readers’ imaginations, respects their intelligence and takes them along on an exciting, real-life adventure.
From Chuck Yeager’s childhood in the Depression, through his experience in World War II, flight school and finally his chance to pilot the first supersonic flight, this debut children’s book brings his biography to life and includes a science lesson for eager young minds, as well. Biermann expertly weaves vignettes from Yeager’s life—like the time he plowed a test plane through a chicken coop—into the narrative, creating a tale with a cinematic, easy-to-follow rhythm. These anecdotes illustrate Yeager’s character in a natural, show-don’t-tell fashion. Biermann’s explanation of the science behind sound waves, the sound barrier and supersonic flight is so clear and memorable, it’s sure to stick with readers well into their adulthood. (Some adults who read this to kids will be relieved to have this burden lifted from them, so they don’t have to sputter out shaky explanations themselves.) While this story may inspire a lifelong interest in science, it’s unlikely to inspire a lifelong love of poetic language. From the very first paragraph—“Chuck Yeager loved to fly airplanes. He loved to fly high. He loved to fly fast.”—the language is a bit unadorned. But it is crystal clear, precise and geared with almost mathematical accuracy to a young elementary reading level. Science- and adventure-minded readers who are just here for the sonic boom won’t care that the book reads more like a technical manual than poetry. The illustrations are of a piece with the language: precise down to the buttons and badges on Yeager’s flight suit but flat and stylized, reminiscent of old-school film strips. And, like the language, while the illustrations are not inspiring or beautiful, they are perfectly suited to the book’s likely audience, who will probably be scrutinizing the cockpit controls.
An excellent work of children’s nonfiction that just may inspire the next Chuck Yeager.