Potok has undisputed skills as a novelist and Auth has won a Pulitzer Prize for his political cartoons but, here as in their Tree of Here, neither man's talents translate clearly to children's books. Brian wants to be a pilot like his Uncle Conor but he's scared of heights. On his 10th birthday, Uncle Conor surprises him with a ride in a glider. To help himself through his premier flight, Brian imagines that his two favorite toys-a cautious, tightrope-balancing clown and a brave WWII flyer, both of them able to talk to Brian-share the cockpit with him. He finally relaxes when he spots an eagle flying alongside the craft: ``He felt the sky opening itself to him, felt himself inside the blueness all around him. He thought only of the sky and of the eagle, of this moment, this very special moment of flying. He thought only of now....'' The overwrought prose and the awkwardness of the talking toys as plot devices are symptomatic of the story's lifelessness. Auth tries to inject some humor; his cartoon Statue of Liberty, for instance, lays her torch across her folded arm and waves as the glider slides past. For the most part, however, the pictures are bland, unable to transcend the ponderously solemn text. Ages 5-9. (Dec.)
K-Gr 3-Shortly before Brian's 10th birthday, his favorite uncle, a jet pilot, sends him a two-foot tall ceramic figure of a pilot, with the promise of more to come. The surprise turns out to be a plane ride over New York City in a glider. Brian deals with his fear of heights by imagining a conversation with his new pilot figure, Zoomer, and Boomer, the balancing toy clown that was last year's gift from his uncle. Zoomer reassures the boy that his nervousness is normal, enabling him to enjoy the thrill of soaring next to a real eagle. Soft watercolor illustrations feature line-drawn cartoons that accurately depict the story. Endpapers show the wispy-clouded day sky (in front) and a star-studded night sky (the end). Potok's matter-of-fact narrative style and the seemingly artificial insertion into the story of family trips to the Statue of Liberty and Dad's office in the Empire State Building, both of which leave the boy wary of heights, do little to make this story memorable. A disappointing, didactic story from the award-winning adult novelist.-Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
Potok, author of the well-known adult novel "The Chosen", offers a well-crafted picture book that deals not only with a young child's fear of heights, but also with overcoming fears in general. When Brian goes to the top of the Statue of Liberty, he has the sensation of falling to the ground. Back at home, he talks about his fears with two large ceramic figures, a clown named Broomer and a pilot named Zoomer. When Uncle Conor, a real pilot, takes Brian for a birthday ride in a glider, the child's uneasiness is eventually replaced by elation. First, he imagines his talking toys are by his side, then an eagle soars by the plane. While it might not have worked in lesser hands, Potok is able to integrate the fantasy element into the eloquently expressed storyline. Kids will respond to the details about flying at the same time they are relating to Brian's feelings. The pastel-colored wash-and-line drawings by Pulitzer-Prizewinning cartoonist Auth are spare yet evocative.