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by Phil Bildner and illustrated by John Holyfield

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-399-24789-7
Publisher: Putnam

Pioneering aviator James Banning dreamed of becoming the first African-American to fly across the country, though his biplane was old and worn. Co-pilot Thomas Allen relates how that dream came true in 1932 thanks to the help of people across the country, who contributed encouragement and practical support and wrote their names on the airplane’s wings to be part of the adventure. Based on both fictional and nonfiction sources, the story is briskly told in Allen’s voice, with plenty of imagined dialogue. Holyfield’s gorgeous oil paintings are done on textured backgrounds in a palette of blues and browns. Occasional double-page spreads emphasize the breadth of Banning’s vision, while the majority of scenes show events along the way: their tiny biplane above the Grand Canyon; angry white townspeople refusing to serve them food; a ferocious storm in Pennsylvania. Naysayers called them the “Flying Hoboes” but they called it “The Hallelujah Flight.” Hallelujah, indeed, to Bildner for finding and telling this story. Pair with Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride, by Pam Muñoz Ryan and illustrated by Brian Selznick (1999), to illustrate the excitement of early flight. (Picture book. 5-8)