On This Airplane

Tundra. Oct. 2022. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780735268609.
PreS-Gr 1–A biracial family of four sells their home in preparation for the move to a faraway city. Their means of transportation is an airplane, where their journey intersects with the paths of many other travelers, each with a unique identity and purpose. Heuer gives us glimpses of these characters with well-crafted descriptive phrases (“a bookworm reads a textbook,” “a sleepyhead awakens”) amid evocative sensory language (“ice crystals bloom,” “Drinks drip drop”). Palacios lovingly fills in the details of these thrown-together voyagers, the cool tones of the mixed-media illustrations summoning an unexpected depth of characterization from brief impressions throughout the flight. To be sure, the familiar irritants of air travel (noise, crowding, uncertainty) are all present. But a close observation of each passenger’s story arc reveals a temporary community shot through with optimism and good cheer. A young boy flies on his own with the kind supervision of a friendly flight attendant. A man who initially jostles a woman’s snacks by reclining his seat later offers her a stick of gum, and they leave the plane chatting happily together. A woman working busily on her laptop loses her sticky notes during turbulence, but a fellow passenger gathers them and hands them back in a neat pile. Certain abstract phrases (“someone in the service of work that is important,” “two travel as one,” “Someone lends an ear”) may require explanation from an adult, but they should serve as valuable opportunities for observation and discussion.
VERDICT This thoughtful, human portrait of air travel will make an unusual and resonant addition to all collections.

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