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The People Could Fly: The Picture Book Library Binding – Nov 9 2004

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Product Details

  • Library Binding: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (Nov. 9 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375924051
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375924057
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 1 x 31.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
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Product Description

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 2-6–Some Africans flew on shiny black wings before their capture into slavery, and though they shed their plumes when forced to board the crowded slave ships, those people with the flying magic still had their special power. Hamilton's version of this old tale of longing and hope was the title story of her 1985 collection (Knopf); it has been read, anthologized, and told so often as to seem truly timeless. The Dillons add much to savor in this elegant picture-book rendering. A richly robed band of men, women, and children flying happily over an African landscape wraps around the book cover, rooting the story in early times. Black endpapers embossed with shiny feathers mark the loss of wings. Rich, deep-hued paintings decorate each spread, a smaller view on the left with a larger scene on the right. A simple framing scheme encases art and text in thick lines on three sides; the top remains open and draws the eye upward with the ascending figures. Early scenes of slave misery ground viewers with darkened tones. Sadly, not all of the people could fly. But those who couldn't continued to tell the marvelous tale, even in their eventual freedom. The book is a lovely tribute to Hamilton. Some of her original notes on the tale appear as preface and afterword.–Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 3-9. The stirring title story in the late Virginia Hamilton's 1985 collection of American black folktales is an unforgettable slave escape fantasy, retold here in terse, lyrical prose that stays true to the oral tradition Hamilton knew from her family and her scholarly research. Leo and Diane Dillons' illustrations for the collection were in black and white, but the art here is beautiful full color, in the style of the cover of the collection. The large paintings are magic realism at its finest, with clear portraits showing individuals and the enduring connections between them. The images depict mass cruelty close up, but the faces of the characters Hamilton names are always distinct, even in the packed hold of the slave ships, when those "who could fly" lost their wings. Laboring in the cotton field, Sarah and her baby are whipped by the overseer. When elderly Toby helps them escape, the rhythmic paintings dramatize people flying to freedom, joining hands together in the sky. Each one is an individual, exquisitely (and differently) dressed in traditional African garb, an inspiration to those left behind, who "had only their imaginations to set them free." A final portrait shows Hamilton in kente cloth smiling above a loving family at home. This special picture-book story will be told and retold everywhere. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 16 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Only their imaginations to set them free Jan. 29 2005
By E. R. Bird - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The death of author Virginia Hamilton in 2002 was a blow to the world of children's literature, no question. Hamilton was an extraordinary writer, creating complex fantastical books for children that seamlessly integrated contemporary interesting situations with aspects of African-American culture. Heck, one of the first ways I learned about the Underground Railroad was through her "House of Dies Drear". I hadn't read her collection of black folktales entitled "The People Could Fly" though I intended to. I was a little confused, therefore, when a brand spanking new "The People Could Fly" was published in 2004. I soon learned, though, that the book had taken one of the stories from the original collection, in a beautiful retelling of the amazing title story. This is a book that is beautiful to look at and a joy to read and reread.

For you see, they say the people could fly. Long ago in Africa there lived people who had beautiful bright black wings and who could soar in the sky. When they were captured by white slavers, the people shed their wings in the tight confines of the slave ships and forgot how to soar. They were sent to work in the field under the whips of the "masters" and overseers. One day, a woman and her babe were suffering too much to go on much longer. With the ancient words of the old man Toby, the woman and the babe remember how to fly and soared away from the farm. The story recounts how the people who knew how to fly learned to do so again with the help of old Toby and how the slaves who did not know how to fly watched them escape and retold the story to their children just as this book tells it to you.

It's a lovely story, all the lovelier due to the illustrations of Leo and Diane Dillon. The Dillons have illustrated the covers and books of Ms. Hamilton for years, so it is not surprising that they should do so again here. I've always been a huge fan of the Dillons, and this latest effort of theirs is as beautiful as anyone could hope. Even its endpapers are gorgeous, all matt black with shimmery feathers floating down the pages. What "The People Could Fly" does best is introduce children to the concept of slavery within the context of a folktale. Through this story kids understand the horrors of enslavement, rejoice in the escape of some, and understand that most slaves remained trapped and unable to fly. What really set this book apart for me, though, was the use of Editor and Author's Notes. Some great picture books (such as "Ellington Was Not a Street") are beautiful and interesting but never set their story within any context and leave you feeling very confused. "The People Could Fly", on the other hand, tells you everything you need to know about Hamilton, the origins of this tale, the various interpretations of flight (and how you can find a similar idea in Toni Morrison's excellent "Song of Solomon"), and the degradation of slavery.

All intelligent dialogue aside, this book is just a great read to kids. It'll capture their attention with the beautiful pictures, and the words will give them the additional thrill of wondering what it would be like to fly with wings. It's written with slightly older children in mind. Those kids who still like picture books but may want something a little more sophisticated than your average "Horton Hears a Who". With all the folktales out there, it's sometimes difficult to find African-American tales that aren't ALL based on Brer Rabbit. Fortunately, we now have this story to read to all the children we can find. This is a gorgeous addition to any collection and should be adored for as long as it exists.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Parents should pre-read May 19 2012
By M. Heiss - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This incredibly beautiful -- breathtakingly beautiful -- storybook features illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon, one of my favorite teams. Their art is palpable.

This book is an oral folktale of slaves reaching the end of their endurance and rising up, flying away. It is beautifully done.

There are whippings in this book, and parents know best what the right age is for their children to hear about a baby being whipped.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The People Could Fly Sept. 11 2007
By J. M. brown - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book about 20 years ago - It was a favorite of my then young children. TO this day, my daughter, son and I remember the great stories and pictures. They are now 24 and 26 years old. I have given this book for a gift as well. You can't beat this one!
Beautiful and essential for teachers of 4th and 5th graders Nov. 7 2014
By suzymac - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautiful and essential for teachers of 4th and 5th graders. I share this book with my students every year. We identify the literary devices and the students talk about the underground railroad which was really the explanation of the ability "to fly". Paintings are so awesome.
Beautiful Book Feb. 27 2015
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Beautifully illustrated version of a touching black folktale. I used it in my fifth grade classroom to teach about the way illustrations reflect an authors tone. My students got a lot out of it and enjoyed the book.