Freddie the Flyer

by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail (Author) Audrea Loreen-Wulf (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

A gorgeous picture book that pays homage to aviator Freddie Carmichael -- the first Indigenous commercial pilot in the Arctic --with each month of the year highlighting moments from his life, the beauty of the North and the power of dreams.

When Freddie was young, he saw a plane up close for the first time when it dropped off supplies at his family's remote bush camp. He was instantly hooked. Freddie has flown for nearly seventy years, doing everything from supply runs to search and rescue to transporting dog teams to far-flung areas.

This book celebrates Freddie's early dreams of flying and his later achievements. Readers move with Freddie through the year, hearing about his journey as a pilot and leader, while learning the names of the months in Gwich'in and Inuvialuktun at the same time. Art from Inuvialuit painter Audrea Loreen-Wulf perfectly captures the incredible Western Arctic as well as Freddie's love for aviation.

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The story of an Indigenous boy who dreamed of taking to the sky unfolds across the year in this picture-book biography that draws on Gwich'in language, the power of an unshakable passion, and, as rendered in the gorgeous painted illustrations, the beauty of nature. 

School Library Journal

Gr 1-5--As a tribute to the first Indigenous commercial pilot in the Arctic, Carmichael's straightforward chronicle is divided into 12 parts, usually one short paragraph each, using the months of the year to relate brief informational essays on his own life. Each month is written in three languages: English, Gwich'in, and Inuvialuktun. Growing up Gwich'in in Canada's Northwest Territories, Carmichael dreamed of becoming a pilot one day. Dropping out of school at age 10, he helped his family and worked until he could afford to attend flying school as a young man. Short vignettes tell of hand-picked incidents during his career as a pilot and business owner. Loreen-Wulf's richly colored illustrations reveal the rugged landscape, different seasons, and various animals, including huskies, musk ox, caribou, even the tracks of a grizzly bear. Carmichael was able to do much good for his community and was honored by having the local airport named after him. At the book's conclusion, there is a concise biography of Carmichael along with a description of what the names of each month mean in the two languages. Unfortunately, this staid autobiography doesn't contain enough kid-friendly substance to hold the attention of children and may be of more interest to adults. VERDICT With few autobiographies for children about Indigenous "firsts," this fills a niche. It is otherwise mostly of local interest or for adults already familiar with Carmichael's story.--Maryann H. Owen

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

An empowering story, Carmichael's journey to becoming a pilot illustrates the importance of dreams. —The Miramichi Reader

Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail
FREDERICK "FREDDIE" CARMICHAEL split his childhood between the trapline and the town of Aklavik, Northwest Territories (NWT). He worked hard to become the first Indigenous commercial pilot in the Arctic, founded multiple aviation companies and has served the people of the Mackenzie Delta in the air and as a leader and Elder. Fred is a Member of the Order of Canada and Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame, and he holds an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Saskatchewan. Fred still flies his Cessna 170 from his home in Inuvik, NWT, where he lives with his wife, Miki, and their dog, Shadow. This is his first book.

DANIELLE METCALFE-CHENAIL is the author of several books about aviation and reconciliation, including the picture book Alis the Aviator: An ABC Aviation Adventure. She has cherished her visits to the Western Arctic and was Writer in Residence at Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon. Danielle lives by the sea in Nova Scotia/Mi'kma'ki with her young family.

Artist AUDREA LOREEN-WULF was born in the Tuktoyaktuk area and lived there as a young child. She now lives in Salmon Arm, BC. She expresses her deep love for the North through her paintings.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Tundra Books (NY)
Publication date
October 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV041010 - Juvenile Fiction | Transportation | Aviation
JUV030090 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | Canada - Native Canadian
JUV004040 - Juvenile Fiction | Biographical | Canada
Library of Congress categories

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