From the Publisher
*Myers, Christopher. Wings. Oct. 2000. 40p. illus. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-590-03377-8).
Ages 4-9. Myers retells the myth of Icarus through the story of Ikarus Jackson, the new boy on the block, who can fly above the rooftops and over the crowd. In this con- temporary version, the winged kid nearly falls from the sky, not because he flies too high and dares to go too near the sun, but because jeering kids in the schoolyard and repressive adults don't like his being different and try to break his soaring spirit. Even more than in Black Cat (1999), Myers' beautiful cut-paper collages are eloquent and open. Some urban scenes are like the elemental sil- houettes in cave paintings. Some are rich and elaborate, with fluid aerial perspectives that change the way we see streets and people. Then there are the images of con- straint and attack: the bullies is like a monstrous Hydra with many heads; the schoolyard like a fiery sun; Ikarus' wings caught in jagged barbed wire near the classroom blackboard. In one view, he is struggling to stay in the air above oceans and continents, and in the corner of the page is a photo of derelict rowboats. The narrator of the spare text is a lonely girl, a golden figure in most of the pic- tures, who is reaching for the boy in flight. When she finally finds the courage to stand up to the bullies, she tells Ikarus he's beautiful and gives him the strength to fly free. The resolution is a little neat, but there's so much to talk about here-the multiple meaning of the pictures, the transformation of the myth, the hero outsider. -Hazel Rochman
Ikarus Jackson can fly. He swoops above the rooftops and buzzes the gawking passersby, who label him "strange." The narrator of this allegory about being your true self doesn't think he's strange; she thinks he's wonderful ("lkarus Jackson, the fly boy, came to my school last Thursday. His long, strong, proud wings followed wherever he went'). To say Ikarus attracts attention is putting it mildly. Students laugh at Ikarus "useless" wings, even when they see him fly ("nobody likes a show-off"). The narrator, however, is familiar with the judgmental stares of her classmates, and she sympathizes with Ikarus' loneliness. She tells him "what someone should have long ago: 'Your flying is beautiful." Myers' ingenuous story may be a bit purposive, but his collage illustrations are powerful and affecting. Ikarus, a lanky black silhouette with white wings that spread like growing things, captures the eye in every spread; photographic images are taken out of their original context and functionally reimagined in Myers' intriguing compositions. The palette is intense whether hot or cold, and the characters themselves are an eerie amalgam of photographic and textural images. Predictability aside, this is a message worth repcating, and Myers' artistic presentation makes this a book worth having. J MD
---Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December 2000
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Once again demonstrating a masterful use of collage, Myers (Black Cat) imaginatively refutes the myth of Icarus and champions the nature of the artist. A watchful girl, ostracized by her peers for her quiet nature, narrates the story of her blossoming friendship with a new neighbor, Ikarus Jackson, whose "long, strong, proud wings followed wherever he went." Ikarus initially walks (and flies) with confidence in his red T-shirt and blue shorts, but slowly loses steam as first the students, then his teacher, and finally a policeman all criticize his unique appearance. Always depicted as a yellow silhouetted figure gracefully cut from a single piece of paper, the girl sympathizes with the hero and completes Ikarus's medley of red and blue. In this way, Myers ingeniously allows readers to identify with the narrator, admiring Ikarus's beauty of flight and individual expression. The artwork isolates and reworks elements of the myth: In the valley of Ikarus's dejection ("He struggled to stay in the air. His wings dropped and his head hung low"), the boy seems to be plummeting toward an expanse of water. In the climax, as the policeman yells at Ikarus and the neighbors "explode with laughter," Myers superimposes the boy's figure over a scene of a forest fire, and the narrator reaches out to Ikarus from across the gutter. She, too, seems to be aflame against a backdrop of swirling waterDand breaks her silence for the first time, " `Stop!' I cried. `Leave him alone.' " Myers indicates that one person appreciating another's true qualities makes life complete: the two friends seem to danceDhe in the air, she on the ground as their unique colors and shapes create a unified whole. Ages 7-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Based on the popular myth of Icarus, this story introduces readers to Ikarus Jackson, a new boy in town, who has wings and flies above the rooftops in swooping and diving motions. When he goes to school, he is asked by his teacher to leave the classroom until he can find something to do with his distracting wings, and soon after, he is ridiculed by his classmates at recess. The narrator of the story, a shy girl who is also taunted by the kids at school, feels sorry for Ikarus and decides to follow him. During his homebound flight, Ikarus decides to sit on a building with some pigeons for a while, but his brief repose is interrupted by a police officer who instructs him to come down at once. As the officer yells at him, the neighborhood kids look on and start laughing again. Angered by the situation, the timid girl builds up enough courage and screams at the bullies to leave him alone, and surprisingly, they listen. When the situation settles down, the girl tells Ikarus that she thinks his flying is beautiful, and upon hearing these words, he smiles and soars through the sky. This powerful picture book focuses on the importance of celebrating a person's individuality and accepting his or her unique qualities, even if those characteristics are different from the crowd. The cut-paper collages are exquisite and perfectly capture the wide range of emotions covered in this wonderful story. This is a notable work from the illustrator of Black Cat and Harlem. 2000, Scholastic Press,
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-A new boy has arrived in the neighborhood, and his name is Ikarus Jackson. Like his mythological Greek counterpart, he sports a pair of wings, only his are permanent. Taunted by schoolmates and embarrassed by his teacher, Ikarus "struggled to stay in the air. His wings drooped and his head hung low." The narrator is a shy girl whose sensitive nature has generated more than her fair share of teasing. Knowing how Ikarus feels, she quietly empathizes with his dilemma. Finally, she cannot remain a silent witness to his pain, and frees him with heartfelt words of encouragement. "I told him what someone should have long ago: `Your flying is beautiful.'" Yes, the main characters' issues are resolved too neatly and everyone lives happily ever after too easily, but Myers's artistic talent adds substance. As in Black Cat (Scholastic, 1999), his compelling illustrations evoke an urban environment in unexpected, almost magical ways. Here he uses cut-paper collage silhouettes, creating graceful representations of people. Ikarus's wings never appear forced or artificial, and the artist portrays emotion with the subtlety of a bowed head or a rigidly pointing finger. The book jacket quotes the author: "Every child has his own beauty, her own talents. Ikarus Jackson can fly through the air; I want kids to find their own set of wings and soar with him." This is a message worth sharing.-Alicia Eames, New York City Public Schools Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Here's a book that tries to be uplifting and actually achieves liftoff. Christopher Myers's Wings, which is full of Ramare Bearden-ish collages, concern new kid in town Ikarus Jackson. Ikarus has wings, and everybody's treating him like a freak show...Ikarus, however, has a secret admirer. She's shy, but she just loves to watch him fly. You will, too.
Myers (Black Cat, 1999, etc.) comes into his own as a children's-book writer, as well as illustrator, with his second solo picture book. A girl narrates as a new kid arrives in the neighborhood. Ikarus Jackson is different; he has wings. "The whole school / was staring eyes and wagging tongues. / They whispered about his wings / and his hair and his shoes. / Like they whisper about how quiet I am." As the derision of his classmates and neighbors drag him down, she tells him "what someone should have long ago: / �Your flying is beautiful.' " Myers's language is natural and specific, with precise line breaks. His single-page, white-framed, cut-paper collage illustrations are full of texture that is set off by solid-color silhouettes. The few short lines of text per page are set low, and occasional small, square-framed illustrations of the narrator are set in corners, giving a sense of distance, isolation, and of looking to the sky. The overall block-like design mirrors the blocks of cut-paper Myers builds his backgrounds and buildings with, and his sharp edges and contrasts depict a crowded city neighborhood full of heat and life. Carefully designed from front to end in word and picture, immediate and everyday but unusual and unique in tone, this book, with its simple story of the problems (and pleasures!) of being different, stands out in its field as splendidly as Ikarus himself. (Picture book. 5-9)