Monday, May 30, 2016

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen
written by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by Jeffery Boston Weatherford
2016 (Atheneum)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Contact -
Joy stick back -
Sailing through the blue -
Gallant sons of the 99th -
Brown men tried and true 

You Can Fly is a thunderous set of second person poems that celebrate the courage and contributions of a mighty military force. The Tuskegee Airmen had to fight battles on two fronts. Started in 1941, this squadron chased Axis flyers in Europe and made a significant contribution to the Allied effort. Here are some stats from the poem Your Record:

1500 combat missions
Knocked out one enemy destroyer, 262 German planes, and 950 vehicles.
Out of 205 missions, 200 were flown without losing a bomber
Lee Archer Jr. was an ace, having shot down four enemy planes
Over 900 medals won including Distinguished Crosses, Bronze Stars, and Purple Hearts

In addition to fighting in the air, on the ground these brave soldiers had to deal with a different enemy: racism. The poem Anxious details this by describing how ropes separated black and white soldiers traveling across the Atlantic on their way to battle. In The Other War, soldiers know not to stray far from base as they would encounter bigotry in many forms including lynching.

Through the use of poetry, Carole Boston Weatherford brings the fight of the airmen on both fronts right to the reader. Anger, heartbreak, and pride are some of the emotions that will come forth as you read about what these men and women went through to serve their country. Equally powerful are the scratchboard illustrations by Jeffery Boston Weatherford. On page 65 is a poster featuring a black and white worker together with the title United We Win. Many compelling conversations will arise after viewing this poster.

Upper elementary, middle, and high school teachers should use You Can Fly as a mentor text in their poetry and World War II units. Poetry is a powerful tool of expression and has great potential as a way to personalize history. You Can Fly allows an important piece of history to soar again.

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