Wind Flyers

by Angela Johnson (Author) Loren Long (Illustrator)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade
All he ever wanted to do was fly.

Three-time Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Angela Johnson and New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long invite readers to ponder a band of undercelebrated World War II heroes -- the Tuskegee Airmen. With fleeting prose and transcendent imagery, this book by the masterful author/artist duo reveals how a boy's love of flight takes him on a journey from the dusty dirt roads of Alabama to the war-torn skies of Europe and into the hearts of those who are only now beginning to understand the part these brave souls played in the history of America.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

The team behind "I Dream of Trains" masterfully presents a story of the Tuskegee Airmen, as light and graceful as the air in which they navigated their planes. A boy recounts his great-great-uncle's experience as one of these unsung heroes. Long's humorous early paintings show the young would-be pilot jumping from a hayloft, conveying his early love of heights and flight. Likening the very idea of flying to Heaven ("with clouds, like soft blankets, saying, 'Come on in, get warm. Stay awhile and be a wind flyer too' "), Uncle makes flying seem so inviting to the boy, that readers will likely wish to be just like Uncle, too. When, as a Tuskegee Airman, Uncle finally puts his own dream into motion and his plane takes off for the first time, readers may well want to stand up and cheer. The occasion is all the more celebratory because of how rare it was for African-Americans to get an opportunity like this, as Johnson's poetic text subtly conveys: "Air Force didn't want us at first," Uncle says. (A closing author's note explains the founding and achievements of the airmen trained in Tuskegee, Ala.) Long's illustration of this momentous occasion features brushstrokes so vivid, they practically launch Uncle's plane right off the page. Both author and artist guard a careful balance between nostalgia and the timelessness of childhood aspirations. Together, they turn a quiet moment in history into a story that will send spirits soaring. Ages 5-9. (Jan.)

Copyright 2006 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission

School Library Journal

Gr 2-4—A child recounts his great-great uncle's lifelong passion for flying-which began at age five with a leap from the roof of a chicken coop and climaxed with wartime flights as one of the Tuskegee Airmen. The man is depicted as a slender figure with distant eyes contemplating the wild blue yonder or, later on, posing with massive-looking, antique aircraft. The slightly misty look of Long's illustrations artfully evokes that sense of remembered times and matches the lyrical tone of Johnson's brief, poetic monologue. "He cried when they landed/because then he knew/what it was like to go/into the wind, /against the wind, /beyond the wind." A final view of the child and his uncle flying off into the "magical wind" in an oversize biplane caps this soaring double tribute to both the Second World War's still-underappreciated African-American pilots and to the profound longing to fly that impelled them. - John Peters, New York Public Library

Copyright 2007 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

This is beautiful! A perfect way to educate young people and make them aware of the contributions of the Tuskegee Airmen. This book makes me even prouder that my dad was a member of this prestigious group. — Robin Roberts, anchor, ABC News, Good Morning America
Angela Johnson
Angela Johnson has won three Coretta Scott King Awards, one each for her novels The First Part Last, Heaven, and Toning the Sweep. The First Part Last was also the recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award. She is also the author of the novels Looking for Red and A Certain October. Her books for younger readers include the Coretta Scott King Honor Book When I Am Old with You, illustrated by David Soman; Wind Flyers and I Dream of Trains, both illustrated by Loren Long; and Lottie Paris Lives Here and its sequel Lottie Paris and the Best Place, both illustrated by Scott M. Fischer. Additional picture books include A Sweet Smell of Roses, Just Like Josh Gibson, The Day Ray Got Away, and All Different Now. In recognition of her outstanding talent, Angela was named a 2003 MacArthur Fellow. She lives in Kent, Ohio. Visit her at

E.B. Lewis is the award-winning illustrator of such books as Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys by Elizabeth Fitzgerald, which was a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, and This Little Light of Mine. He received the Caldecott Honor for Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman by Nikki Grimes. E.B. Lewis lives in New Jersey, and you can visit him online at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date
January 20, 2007
Red Clover Award
Nominee 2009 - 2009
Delaware Diamonds Award
Nominee 2008 - 2009
Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
Recommended 2008 - 2008
Georgia Children's Book Award
Nominee 2011 - 2011

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