Joe-Joe's First Flight

Overview

Joe-Joe’s father works at the local airport, one of the first in the area, at a time when segregation rules. Even though the men who work at the airport, including Joe-Joe’s dad, were promised flying jobs, the owner refuses to let them fly. The town of Blind Eye has lost hope over the men’s heartbreak and the injustice being done to them, so much so that the moon won’t shine down on it any longer. More than anything, Joe-Joe wants to bring the moon back to Blind Eye so he can return hope to the townspeople. This ...
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Overview

Joe-Joe’s father works at the local airport, one of the first in the area, at a time when segregation rules. Even though the men who work at the airport, including Joe-Joe’s dad, were promised flying jobs, the owner refuses to let them fly. The town of Blind Eye has lost hope over the men’s heartbreak and the injustice being done to them, so much so that the moon won’t shine down on it any longer. More than anything, Joe-Joe wants to bring the moon back to Blind Eye so he can return hope to the townspeople. This is an extraordinary storybook about lost hope and what can happen when dreams are allowed to flourish.

Forbidden to fly because of their color, Joe-Joe and the men who clean and repair airplanes in the 1920s are so discouraged that the moon cannot even shine, until Joe-Joe's determination lures the moon back. Includes a history of African American pilots.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Despite its lyrical text and accomplished paintings, this story about a child's dream of flying never quite takes off, partly because it carries too much historical and metaphorical freight and partly because the line between the real world in which the protagonist lives and the protagonist's dream tends to blur. Tarpley (previously paired with Lewis for I Love My Hair!) sets the tale in the early days of aviation, in the mythical town of Blind Eye, where black people are not allowed to fly: "[Their] lost hope formed a cloud over the town, and now even the moonlight and the stars can't break through." The story of injustice moves confusingly back and forth in time and verb tense, until the narrator, the child Joe-Joe, falls asleep in a plane's cockpit and dreams that he lures the moon back to the town. Tarpley gives Joe-Joe a historical perspective and a vocabulary more adult than childlike. When he sings his dream song to the moon, for example, he sings of "a promise made and broken, [and] now the people's heads hang low." Lewis's magnificent paintings evoke the era with precision and emotion, his skill evident in both landscapes and portraits. Although Lewis's palette gradually changes to a night sky blue during Joe-Joe's dream, the fantasy never clearly returns to reality, thus blunting the message of hope. An endnote describes the author's own dreams of flight and the problems faced by early black aviators. Ages 5-8. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
In the 1920s, our young black narrator's father works at the local airport. But Joe-Joe's father isn't allowed to fly, much as he would like to, because he is black. Fascinated by the idea of flying, Joe-Joe feels the cloud of prejudice over the town. He feels that he might call the moon back if he only knew how. One night, dreaming in the cockpit of a plane, Joe-Joe takes off into the sky and asks the moon to shine again. Exhilarated by his dreamy adventure and by the cheers that greet his return to earth, he feels that there is hope for better times. Lewis floods the long double-page scenes with sensitive naturalistic watercolors: portraits of father and son, atmospheric depictions of the night flight and the power of the full moon. Our spirits take off with Joe-Joe into the promise of a brighter future. An author's note fills in the background of her own feelings about flight along with the history of African Americans who wanted to fly. 2003, A Borzoi Book/Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children's Books,
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Ever since planes began to take off from the little airport in the town of Blind Eye in 1922, Joe-Joe's father has yearned to fly and he inflames his son with that same longing. But despite promises from his boss at the airport, it's obvious that African Americans will not be allowed to take to the air any time soon. Such a pall covers the town because of this injustice that even the Moon remains hidden: "All that lost hope formed a cloud over the town, and now even the moonlight and the stars can't break through." In his imagination, Joe-Joe climbs aboard a plane, flies to the Moon, and brings it home to the cheers of the townsfolk below. Lewis's large watercolor paintings capture the flavor of this period-caps, knickers, cars, flying helmet, and goggles-and the early planes. From a beginning quote by Virginia Hamilton, "They say the people could fly-" to the endnote in which Tarpley elaborates on African Americans' struggle for the right to fly, this is a celebration of the human spirit and the courage and determination of a people to soar. Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger's Fly High: The Story of Bessie Coleman (McElderry, 2001) would extend this story.-Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community College, CT Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Beautiful watercolor illustrations highlight a touching account of African-American airport workers' aspirations. The chatty first-person narrative is from Joe-Joe's point of view-his father works at the airport. Joe-Joe, his father, and the other men hope for a chance to fly, but "the man" says, "In due time," and that time never seems to come. The story takes off when Joe-Joe falls asleep in a cockpit and dreams that he flies up to capture the moon and bring back hope to Blind Eye. His joyful expression as he approaches an enormous, bright moon provides a striking contrast to the resigned, dusty look of the scenes on the ground. Realistically, Joe-Joe can't do anything to further the men's ambitions, but current readers with the perspective of history will know that Joe-Joe himself may be able to fly by the time he grows up. An author's note discusses African-Americans in aviation. (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375910531
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 6/10/2003
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Natasha Anastasia Tarpley is the author of several books for adults and young readers.

E. B. Lewis has illustrated more than 25 books for children.

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