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The Hallelujah Flight

by Phil Bildner


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

This high-spirited collaboration re-creates the historic flight of James Banning, the first African-American pilot to fly across the continental United States. Bildner (co-creator of the Sluggers series) chronicles this feat in the voice of Thomas Allen, Banning's mechanic and copilot on the 1932 flight from Los Angeles to New York City. Propelled by breezy dialogue, including repeated cries of "Hallelujah!", the story opens as Banning announces how they'll fund the trip: those who donate food, fuel, and supplies along the way can write their names on the wings of the open-cockpit plane ("They'll fly into the history books right along with us!"). Dubbed the Flying Hoboes by skeptical colleagues, the duo completes their mission despite such hurdles as a leaky engine pump, a fierce storm, and racial prejudice. Rendered in acrylic paint, Holyfield's (Bessie Smith and the Night Riders) stylized paintings help this saga get off the ground effortlessly (night scenes, often lit in blue, take on the feel of movie posters). Especially uplifting is the image of the copilots saluting the sunlit Statue of Liberty from their plane, its wings crowded with signatures. Ages 5-8. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In 1932, James Banning was the first African American to complete a transcontinental flight. Told from the viewpoint of his young copilot and mechanic, Thomas Allen, this dramatic picture book relates of their historic journey, in which they flew in a small plane from Los Angeles to New York in 21 days. Unframed, double-page paintings show the pair close-up in the cramped cockpit as they fly over the Grand Canyon and head into storms, the propeller whirring, while the ground passes not too far below. Some locals help, showing the kindness of family and friends, but the dramatic pictures also reveal the prejudice the pilots encountered when they are refused use of washrooms and restaurants. Finally, they reach New York and receive a hero's welcome in Harlem. Along with the drama of the pioneer flight, kids will also enjoy the irreverent fun of the Flying Hoboes in their flying jalopy. The story of the pilots' bonding is as memorable as the breakthrough flight. An introductory author's note offers cultural and historical context.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2010 Booklist

School Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

K-Gr 3-An engaging account based on true events. James Banning and his copilot, Thomas Allen, the "Flying Hoboes" as the story has it, became the first African-American men to fly across the country. Traveling 3300 miles in 21 days, they flew from Los Angeles to Long Island, NY, in their old, rickety OXX6 Eagle Rock plane on October 9, 1932. Landing, they were met with a hero's welcome. The story is filled with the difficulties faced by the two men throughout their journey. Two black men trying to accomplish what few other people could even hope to do during the Depression was daunting. And they faced incidents of racism along the way. But, by and large, they were met with more help and encouragement than disdain. The story is exciting and fast paced, and the writing is upbeat and inviting. Large, colorful illustrations were painted in acrylics on canvas and truly enhance the text. Unfortunately, there is very little factual information about Banning or Allen. Great as a read-alone as well as for telling aloud, this story serves to rescue two worthy men from historical obscurity. Students would benefit from knowing about them and their "Hallelujah Flight."-Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



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