Flying Free: How Bessie Coleman’s Dreams Took Flight

Little, Brown. Dec. 2020. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316457194.
PreS-Gr 3–This picture book biography provides a window into the life of aviator Bessie Coleman (1892–1926), who was the first African American pilot, and the first Native American woman pilot. The narrative begins with Coleman’s early love for learning. When she was a young girl, Coleman and her family worked the cotton fields and her education was put on hold during the harvest time. Readers follow Coleman’s journey of self-revelation. A teacher’s story of the pilot Harriet Quimby inspired Coleman to pursue aviation. Coleman knew she would have to leave her small southern town for a place “where her spirit could soar.” When her brother invited her to live with him in Chicago, she jumped at the opportunity. Coleman eventually chased her dream to France and became a pilot. Upon her return to the United States, the Chicago Defender reported Coleman as front-page news. There are a few biographies that highlight Coleman’s challenges and amazing achievements, but this title uses verse. The repeated stanza, almost a song chorus, is a powerful message to pursue one’s dreams. The text might feel more accessible to struggling readers because it is written in short, concise verse. A generous time line of women in flight and original photographs are an added bonus.
VERDICT A nice biography of a trailblazer who broke a glass ceiling in aviation for women, and for people of color.

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