WINGWALKER by Rosemary Wells
Kirkus Star

WINGWALKER

by , illustrated by
Age Range: 6 - 10

KIRKUS REVIEW

This big-hearted, Depression-era, American fairy tale seems to come alive out of a former generation like a well-worn family yarn. Reuben’s perfect childhood in Oklahoma disintegrates with the arrival of the Dust Bowl that deprives his parents of their jobs. This presents his father, a teacher of ballroom dance, with a thrilling opportunity to become a “wingwalker” with a traveling county fair, an opportunity that his wife strongly opposes. Physically small, Reuben himself has a reputation for being a bit of a sissy whose nickname is “shrimp-boats.” He can barely stand to watch his father execute his ballroom steps on the plane wing, let alone think of accompanying him. But the folks of the fair take Reuben to their hearts and give him encouragement. When his father wants to take Reuben up on the wing with him, the Human Snake advises, “Hold your father’s hand.” This enables the boy to stand hand-in-hand in the air with his proud father. Wells’s prose is spare but has both richness and freshness of simile and image, e.g., “a drilling rig pumping away like a big iron grasshopper.” If some details (the purchase of a new Studebaker) strain credibility, it is true to a form in which repeated telling establishes confidence in the rightness of a story. Selznick has a lock on the iconography of history as it intersects with dreams. As if keeping a promise to the story’s symbolic metaphor, his paintings are full of sky, airplanes, and upward-looking faces. Handsomely designed, the glossy stock and neat, consistent framing lend serenity and a sense of looking into stopped moments in a vintage album. A small disappointment is the final painting, to which readers will turn eagerly, and which depicts the father, not in his trademark “best black suit,” but in far less dapper attire. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7868-0397-5
Page count: 80pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2002




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