Joe-Joe's First Flight

by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, Illustrations by E.B. Lewis

Knopf, June, 2003.
Picture Book, 40 pages.
ISBN: 0375810536
Ages 5-8

Joe-Joe's First Flight by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley In the 1920s, aviation was just beginning to catch on, after Orville and Wilbur Wright's historic first flights. Joe's Joe's First Flight is a magical fantasy tale set in this time period that develops the theme of holding on to one's dreams to achieve greatness. Little Joe Joe's father is an African American who works at the airport in the small town of Blind Eye. His father has been promised that he will learn how to fly one day, "In due time." But that time never comes, and his father and the other men are becoming discouraged -- so discouraged that the heartache and lost hope have formed a cloud over the town so dense that even the moonlight can't shine through. Little Joe Joe goes to the airport and sets out on a fantasy plane ride to talk the moon into coming back to the town. He succeeds, to the joy of the rest of the town, who celebrate the triumph of his will to succeed.

E. B Lewis' watercolor paintings are truly remarkable: especially the two paintings of Joe Joe and his father. In one, his father holds Joe Joe up like he's an airplane; you can feel that Joe Joe is about to take off into the sky. In another, the bond between father and son is clear as the father points out the planes in the sky. In the Afterword, the author tells us of her own longings to fly and gives a fascinating history lesson about the African American aviators' contributions to the world of flying, including their participation in World War I (France had to train them because the United States would not) and in World War II, when the Tuskegee Airmen provided incentive for the American military to desegregate its armed forces. Written in a lyrical and vivid style, Joe-Joe's First Flight is a wonderful book for any child interested in flying, and for any child to learn the lesson of how to persevere in life to achieve one's dreams.

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This review was published in the June-July, 2003 of The Internet Writing Journal.

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