It’s Monday and here’s what I’m reading #IMWAYR:You Can Fly-The Tuskegee Airmen by Carole Boston Weatherford

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I am so proud to host author Carole Boston Weatherford here today. Carole’s books have long been treasured read alouds and share togethers in my classroom; she writes luminously and informatively about our nation’s history, and the remarkable people who have shaped that history by fighting for justice, freedom, and beauty.

A New York Times best-selling author & prize-winning poet, Carole’s work has won many accolades over the years.  To name just a few: Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom (2006), illustrated by Kadir Nelson, won a Caldecott Honor, the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration and an NAACP Image Award. Becoming Billie Holiday and Before John Was a Jazz Giant won Coretta Scott King Honors. Birmingham, 1963 won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Literature Honor and the Jefferson Cup from Virginia Library Association.

I love this particular interview in which Carole shares her history, and how that inspires her writing:

Carole’s latest book is You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmenfor which her son, Jeffery Boston Weatherford created the stunning scratchboard illustrations.  

Tuskegee Cover

Carole was kind enough to answer a few questions about You Can Fly:

Why did you want to write this book?

When I first learned of the Tuskegee Airmen, their story resonated with me. Decades later, I thought the history begged for a poetic treatment.

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Describe your research and writing process.

I used several reference books, viewed films and perused primary sources—military reports and photographs—online.

The manuscript began as picture book and grew into a poetry collection that went from third to first to second person.  I added an epilogue to show progress since the Jim Crow era. Then I added poems about Dorie Miller, Joe Louis and Lena Horne and one chronicling black troops’ march through history.

What did you learn that surprised you?

I was surprised that boxer Joe Louis and entertainer Lena Horne were so involved in the war effort. Joe Louis raised funds for the war effort and pushed the Army to admit Jackie Robinson and several other black soldiers into officer candidate school. And Lena Horne made numerous trips—at her own expense—to perform for troops at Tuskegee Army Air Field.

This book was a family affair. What was it like to collaborate with your son?

Working with Jeffery was a dream come true. I shared my picture research with him, but he also did his own. We put our heads together and decided on scratchboard as the medium. At first, Jeff showed me individual illustrations as he completed them. Then, he showed me batches of illustrations. By the end, however, he was bypassing me and sending illustrations directly to the publisher.

What do you want young readers to take away from the book?

I want the Airmen’s story to lift the ceiling off of young people’s dreams.

african-americans-wwii-054

You Can Fly will become an important addition to our classroom library, for it is a powerful story, poetically told.  It will inspire great discussions, and lead my students to want to know more about these brave pilots who fought a war on two fronts: the one abroad against the Nazis, and the one at home against racism.

WWII by the numbers:

In 1,500 combat missions, Tuskegee Airmen blasted 262 German planes, 950 vehicles and one enemy destroyer.

Of their 205 missions, the Tuskegee Airmen flew 200 without losing a bomber.

Of nearly 1,000 Tuskegee pilots, half went overseas and fewer than 10 were captured or killed.

Here is a wonderful book trailer to share with students:

And here are teacher resources gathered together by the author: https://cbweatherford.com/books/youcanfly/teacher-resources/

For a chance to win a copy of You Can Fly, please leave a comment about this post by Friday, May 20th.Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. 

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6 thoughts on “It’s Monday and here’s what I’m reading #IMWAYR:You Can Fly-The Tuskegee Airmen by Carole Boston Weatherford

  1. I really appreciated this post. First, I am not familiar with the Tuskegee Airmen and second I am not familiar with the works of Carole Boston Weatherford. I can’t wait to explore her books! As an added bonus, I love the artwork in the book you are highlighting. As always, thanks for sharing, Tara! ~Amy (amwarntz@gmail.com)

  2. I know about this book, and need to get it, Tara. My father was a pilot, then later my step-father, in the Army Corps of engineers, told of the hard times that African-American soldiers had because they were so isolated. It’s wonderful that a new book about the Tuskegee airmen has been created by Carole Boston Weatherford and her son, and it looks fabulous. Thanks for the great interview & the added sources.

  3. I can’t believe all the books Carole has written and I am just here and now learning of her work. I must add some of her books to my library. Thanks for this post and the interview.

  4. I shared “Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom” and “Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer” with my students. Her work is just awesome. I’m very excited to read the latest book and share it with students next year. Thanks for including the interview video in this post. It was a real treat!

  5. We have some of Carole Boston Weatherford but not this one. We do have Wind Flyers by Angela Johnson, another book about the Tuskegee Airmen. Have you seen it? Loren Long’s illustrations are fabulous!

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