The Year We Learned to Fly

by Jacqueline Woodson (Author) Rafael López (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López's highly anticipated companion to their #1 New York Times bestseller The Day You Begin illuminates the power in each of us to face challenges with confidence.

On a dreary, stuck-inside kind of day, a brother and sister heed their grandmother's advice: "Use those beautiful and brilliant minds of yours. Lift your arms, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and believe in a thing. Somebody somewhere at some point was just as bored you are now." And before they know it, their imaginations lift them up and out of their boredom. Then, on a day full of quarrels, it's time for a trip outside their minds again, and they are able to leave their anger behind. This precious skill, their grandmother tells them, harkens back to the days long before they were born, when their ancestors showed the world the strength and resilience of their beautiful and brilliant minds.

Jacqueline Woodson's lyrical text and Rafael Lopez's dazzling art celebrate the extraordinary ability to lift ourselves up and imagine a better world.

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Publisher's Weekly

Starred Review

Two Black siblings use their imaginations to escape their immediate surroundings throughout the seasons in this picture book by previous collaborators Woodson and López (The Day You Begin). During “the spring when the rain seemed like it/ would never stop,” the children’s grandmother—who wears butterfly wings as earrings—encourages the bored duo to “Lift your arms,/ close your eyes,/ take a deep breath,/ and believe in a thing.” They do, “flying over the city we’d known/ our whole lives,” and from then on, nothing can keep them down—neither anger in summer, nor loneliness in autumn, nor unfriendly kids in a new neighborhood during winter. Learning to soar “from the people who came before,” the children are told both that their feelings have been experienced by others, and that “nobody can ever cuff/ your brilliant and beautiful mind,” a lesson they pass on in turn. Energetic layered multimedia illustrations accompany the poetically repeating lines, vividly depicting winged escapes over images of a slave ship and contemporary real-world high-rises. An author’s note acknowledges the work of Virginia Hamilton in this book’s origins. Ages 5–8. Author’s agent: Dorian Karchmar, William Morris Endeavor. Illustrator’s agent: Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel and Adriana Dominguez, Full Circle Literary. (Jan.)

Copyright 2021 Publisher’s Weekly, LLC Used with permission.


Starred Review

With this book (simultaneously released in Spanish), Woodson and Lopez create a path that children may follow as they gain confidence and imagine a way forward no matter what challenges arise.

Copyright 2021 Booklist, LLC Used with permission.

Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson is the recipient of a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship, the 2020 Hans Christian Andersen Award, the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and the 2018 Children's Literature Legacy Award. She is the 2022 Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence, and was the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Her New York Times bestselling memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, won the National Book Award, as well as the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, and an NAACP Image Award. She also wrote the adult books Red at the Bone, a New York Times bestseller, and Another Brooklyn, a National Book Award finalist. Her dozens of books for young readers include Coretta Scott King Award and NAACP Image Award winner Before the Ever After, New York Times bestsellers The Day You Begin and Harbor Me, Newbery Honor winners Feathers, Show Way, and After Tupac and D Foster, and the picture book Each Kindness, which won the Jane Addams Children's Book Award. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

Leo Espinosa is a New York Times bestselling illustrator and designer from Bogotá, Colombia. His picture books include Islandborn (by Junot Diaz), for which he was awarded a Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor, No More Naps (by Chris Grabenstein), and Goldfish on Vacation (by Sally Lloyd-Jones). His award-winning illustrations have been recognized by American Illustration, Communication Arts, Pictoplasma, 3x3, and the Society of Illustrators (Gold and Silver Medals). In addition, he has given multiple lectures and workshops at schools and institutions such as Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute, as well as serving on the faculty of the Rhode Island School of Design.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication date
January 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV039050 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emotions & Feelings
JUV011010 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JUV013000 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | General
Library of Congress categories
Brothers and sisters
African Americans
Picture books
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, 01/01/22

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