Edited by Ellen Oh and inspired by the We Need Diverse Books campaign, Flying Lessons & Other Stories (published by Crown of Random House earlier this year) is a wonderful collection of well-written short stories that includes authors and characters from diverse backgrounds.
Well-known children’s, middle grades, and YA authors and some newcomers are featured in this collection. Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Tim Federle, Kelly J. Baptist, Tim Tingle, Jacqueline Woodson, Soman Chainani, Kwame Alexander, and Walter Dean Myers author a short story in the text. To be honest, Alexander’s piece is a story-in-verse.
I have a few favorites within the collection. Alexander’s “Seventy-Six Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents” is a piece about a young man’s ability to write a memoir about reading others’ minds. It’s also about writing and first loves. There’s such great voice in this piece! I also loved Myers’s “Sometimes a Dream Needs a Push,” a heartwarming piece about a former pro basketball player who feels guilty about injuring his son in a car wreck but then comes around when his son joins a wheelchair basketball league. There’s such emotional rawness to this piece. Kelly J. Baptist’s “The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn” is an emotional story about a young boy who helps his mother overcome her husband’s passing when he submits his dad’s short story to a local short story contest.
The collection contains stories that reveal characters who experience everything from a trip to Europe with one’s grandmother to listening to one’s uncle tell stories to the beauty of finding a deceased parent’s story. Each of these short stories stand alone as quality literature, and each has the ability to draw in the reader and to elicit a strong emotional response.
I was talking with my student teachers the other day about selecting diverse texts for their students. And one of the topic we discussed was how we need to always share quality literature with our students. One of my students shared that the texts we select serve as models to our students for what we think is good writing. Our students need literature that demonstrates a high level of narrative brilliance and reveals diverse characters’ experiences. Flying Lessons delivers on both accounts.
I definitely plan on incorporating this book into my courses in the fall. This book was recommended to me by a literacy colleague, and I definitely understand now why she thought so highly of this text. I can see this book in a literature methods class for future English teachers or in a course about the linguistic and cultural diversity of our schools. The range of diversity (e.g., racial, economic, disability, cultural) abounds in this collection.
I could also see these pieces serving as models for students’ short stories or stories-in-verse. It was fascinating to me how many of the pieces featured the topic and power of writing. There are so many writing minilessons that can come from this text’s pages.
I recommend K-16 teachers find a way to incorporate Flying Lessons into their curriculum!
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