Review of Flying Lessons & Other Stories

oh_flying-lessons-and-other-storiesFlying Lessons & Other Stories
edited by Ellen Oh
Intermediate, Middle School    Crown    225 pp.
1/17    978-1-101-93459-3    $16.99
Library ed.  978-1-101-93460-9    $19.99    g
e-book ed.  978-1-101-93461-6    $10.99

Edited by Oh, cofounder of We Need Diverse Books, ten stories by (mostly) well-known authors of diverse backgrounds present young protagonists dealing with common themes of growing up — love, family, friendship, dreams, fitting in, being excluded, and learning life lessons along the way. A line in Soman Chainani’s title story suggests a unifying concept for the volume: “We’re the same, Nani and I. Two caged birds, searching for a way out.” In one way or another, most of the characters here are caged, trapped by circumstances and seeking an escape. “For people like you, ball is more than just ball. It’s a way out,” says Matt de la Peña’s protagonist in “How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium,” a beautifully subtle basketball story. In Kwame Alexander’s story in verse “Seventy-Six Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents,” narrator Monk Oliver discovers he can read minds — including the mind of his crush Angel Torres. Jacqueline Woodson offers a tale on the difficulties of friendship in a New England Our Town of a community where the fall leaves are “the ONLY color in this town.” Stories by Meg Medina, Grace Lin, Tim Federle, Kelly J. Baptist, Tim Tingle, and Walter Dean Myers round out an unusually strong collection. The volume concludes with brief biographical sketches of the authors.

From the January/February 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches eighth grade English at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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