Gift Guide

Fly High!: The Story of Bessie Coleman


When Bessie Coleman was a child, she wanted to be in school — not in the cotton fields of Texas, helping her family earn money. She wanted to be somebody significant in the world. So Bessie did everything she could to learn under the most challenging of circumstances. At the end of every day in the fields she checked the foreman's numbers — made sure his math was correct. And this was just the beginning of a life of hard work and dedication that really paid off: Bessie became the first African-American to earn a ...

See more details below
Paperback (First Aladdin Paperbacks Edition)
$7.99 price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (20) from $1.99   
  • New (10) from $4.09   
  • Used (10) from $1.99   
Note: Kids' Club Eligible. See More Details.
Sending request ...


When Bessie Coleman was a child, she wanted to be in school — not in the cotton fields of Texas, helping her family earn money. She wanted to be somebody significant in the world. So Bessie did everything she could to learn under the most challenging of circumstances. At the end of every day in the fields she checked the foreman's numbers — made sure his math was correct. And this was just the beginning of a life of hard work and dedication that really paid off: Bessie became the first African-American to earn a pilot's license. She was somebody.

Discusses the life of the determined African American woman who went all the way to France in order to earn her pilot's license in 1921.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Miami Herald Inspiring.

School Library Journal starred review A first-rate follow-up to Borden's Good-Bye, Charles Lindbergh.

Publishers Weekly starred review A flight well worth taking.

Publishers Weekly
PW called this picture-book biography of the African-American aviator "informative and insightful. A flight well worth taking." Ages 9-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Written for an older audience than aimed for in either Lynn Joseph's Fly, Bessie, Fly or Reeve Lindbergh's Nobody Owns the Sky!: The Story of `Brave Bessie' Coleman, this informative and insightful picture-book biography of the African-American aviator merits attention. Borden and Kroeger, co-authors of Paperboy, stress the adversities of Bessie Coleman's childhood in rural Texas at the turn of the 20th century and emphasize her extraordinary perseverance. As a girl, Bessie struggles to get an education, even when she must pick cotton instead of attending school; later, at 18, Bessie enrolls in "catch-up classes" and is placed in sixth grade at a private college, but her money runs out after only one term. Undefeated in her determination to become "somebody," Bessie eventually moves to Chicago in 1915 and, later, learns of French women who piloted planes during WWI. From that point on, Bessie resolves to fly; when no American pilots agree to teach her, she saves up money and enrolls at a school in France, becoming the first African-American to earn a pilot's license. At once breezy and grounded, the rhythmic text is arranged in short, verse-like lines, which should encourage reluctant readers to climb on board. Flavin's (Pushing Up the Sky) pebbly gouaches are atmospheric if a bit stiff, capitalizing on Borden and Kroeger's optimism. A flight well worth taking. Ages 9-12. (Jan.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Coleman's story should be an inspiration particularly to girls and African-Americans, for she overcame the prejudice against her on both counts to become a licensed stunt pilot in the 1920s. Her life, from picking cotton in rural Texas through her work in Chicago, her trip to France to learn to fly, and her performances in the air are all detailed in simply told chapters. Flavin's full page colored drawings are replete with the details of Coleman's life, helping to personalized this biographical sketch. The problems of her being black are illustrated subtly in scenes showing her carrying a sack on one side of the street while on the other side a pair of white women stroll by; or in the segregated barbershop and newspaper office. The later scenes of flying triumph clearly show her elation in having achieved her dream against all odds. An author's note adds information to this useful piece of history. 2001, Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $16.00. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-The authors' flair for imparting history soars in this biography of the first African American to earn a pilot's license. From her difficult childhood spent picking cotton in Texas to her grand achievements in aviation, Coleman's personality shines through. The warm illustrations done in gouache on colored paper mix exciting images of the aviator flying her plane with quieter glimpses of her interacting with friends and family members. The straightforward sentence structure keeps the action moving and will capture reluctant readers. Coleman's affinity for children will captivate youngsters, who will freely mourn the early demise of the "tr s chic! aviatrix" who often told others, "You can be somebody, too." A first-rate follow-up to Borden's Good-Bye, Charles Lindbergh (McElderry, 1998).-Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Borden (Good Luck, Mrs. K!, 1999, etc.) and Kroeger collaborate for the second time (Paperboy, 1996) in this easy biography of the first African-American to earn a pilot's license. Bessie Coleman was born in 1892, and despite an impoverished childhood and limited education, she became determined to make her mark on the world by learning to fly. Remarkably, she saved enough money to travel to France, the only place where an African-American woman could study aviation, and she earned an international pilot's license in 1921. She performed at air shows throughout the US, always urging young African-Americans to"fly high" and"be somebody." Coleman was planning to open her own flight school when she died in a plane crash at the age of 34. Her story is told in a positive, forthright style that reflects Coleman's lifelong self-education through reading and additional adult-education classes and her strong will to succeed, with an obvious but not preachy message that attitude plus aptitude equals altitude. Flavin's bright gouache paintings help bring Bessie and her era to life, with carefully researched costumes, airplanes, and backgrounds adding to the authenticity of the story. Readers who can't handle longer chapter-format biographies will fly right through this thoughtfully designed book, aided by lots of illustrations, short line length, and plentiful white space surrounding the interesting text. Most libraries will want to make room on the biography shelves for this one, which will be useful during Black History Month and for those inevitable biography book-reports. (author's note) (Biography. 8-11)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689864629
  • Publisher: Aladdin
  • Publication date: 12/2/2003
  • Edition description: First Aladdin Paperbacks Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 352,895
  • Age range: 9 years
  • Product dimensions: 6.76 (w) x 8.76 (h) x 0.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Louise Borden graduated from Denison University with a degree in history. She taught first graders and preschoolers and later was a part-owner of a bookstore in Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition to writing children’s books, she also speaks regularly to young students about the writing process. Her books include Good Luck, Mrs. K!, which won the Christopher Medal, and The A+ Custodian. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and you can visit her at

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    American Aviatrix in France

    Favorable: Uplifting, Informative, and very educational.
    "Beautiful illustrations with lovely coloring, and very vibrant with plenty of detail. Great for young readers/ learners. Wonderful history lesson in an easy-to-read format. Encourages following your dream. Inspires beating the odds."

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)