FLY HIGH! by Louise Borden


The Story of Bessie Coleman
Age Range: 8 - 11
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Borden (Good Luck, Mrs. K!, 1999, etc.) and Kroeger collaborate for the second time (Paperboy, 1996) in this easy biography of the first African-American to earn a pilot’s license. Bessie Coleman was born in 1892, and despite an impoverished childhood and limited education, she became determined to make her mark on the world by learning to fly. Remarkably, she saved enough money to travel to France, the only place where an African-American woman could study aviation, and she earned an international pilot’s license in 1921. She performed at air shows throughout the US, always urging young African-Americans to “fly high” and “be somebody.” Coleman was planning to open her own flight school when she died in a plane crash at the age of 34. Her story is told in a positive, forthright style that reflects Coleman’s lifelong self-education through reading and additional adult-education classes and her strong will to succeed, with an obvious but not preachy message that attitude plus aptitude equals altitude. Flavin’s bright gouache paintings help bring Bessie and her era to life, with carefully researched costumes, airplanes, and backgrounds adding to the authenticity of the story. Readers who can’t handle longer chapter-format biographies will fly right through this thoughtfully designed book, aided by lots of illustrations, short line length, and plentiful white space surrounding the interesting text. Most libraries will want to make room on the biography shelves for this one, which will be useful during Black History Month and for those inevitable biography book-reports. (author’s note) (Biography. 8-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-689-82457-2
Page count: 40pp
Publisher: McElderry
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2001


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