Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Fly High: The Story of Bessie Coleman

Fly High: The Story of Bessie Coleman

Louise Borden, Mary Kay Kroeger
Illustrator:  Teresa Flavin 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 8 to 12
Simon and Schuster, 2004   ISBN: 978-0689864629

Bessie’s mama wanted to give her children a better life and she did the best she could. She sent them to school whenever it was possible, when the cotton didn’t need to be picked for example. She also rented books for them and encouraged them to read. She was especially proud of Bessie who could read so well and who was so clever and quick with numbers. Surely, Mama thought, her girl would grow up someday to be "somebody."

Bessie was eager to be a "somebody" too but it was a struggle for a poor black girl from Texas to make something of her life in those days. Whenever she could she tried to get an education but it was not easy for she also had to make a living and to help support all her younger sisters.

When she was twenty-three Bessie moved to Chicago, hoping her brothers would be able to help her find a job and a better quality of life. She did manage to find work as a manicurist in a barber shop. It was in this shop that she first heard about the French lady aviators that her brothers saw when they were in France fighting in the war. In no time Bessie was determined that she too would become a woman aviator, no matter how hard it would be to achieve her goal

It would be very hard indeed, for Bessie had to earn the money to get to France, to pay for flying lessons, and she has to learn French as well. Being Bessie, she managed to do all of these things in just one year, leaving for France in 1920.

Bessie's story is beautifully told in this colourful and inspiring picture book. The authors give their readers lots of detailed and background information which helps us see what Bessie's life must have been like and how she came to become a true heroine of the skies.