Review of We Could Fly

We Could Fly We Could Fly
by Rhiannon Giddens; illus. by Briana Mukodiri Uchendu
Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.
11/23    9781536222548    $18.99
e-book ed. 9781536234619    $18.99

A young Black girl notices a sparrow looking at her while she is enjoying time in the park with her mother. The mother tells her daughter, “I see that little birdie there / She knows the time has come / there’s something in the air.” She reveals that the girl’s grandmother could fly, and that she “saw the old-time ways” in the little girl. Thinking of her grandmother’s wondrous ability, the girl takes her mother’s hand: “they could fly / they could fly / They could slip the bonds / of earth and fly so high.” Giddens’s lyrical text is based on her song of the same name; in her author’s note, she says the song itself was inspired by Virginia Hamilton and the Dillons’ The People Could Fly. The story reminds children of their connection to the past and their ability to transcend their present, and Uchendu’s digital illustrations add to the hopeful and loving feel of the text. The cover shows the mother gazing adoringly at her daughter, who is looking at the sky. Pink and yellow silhouettes of their ancestors surround the pair. The interior illustrations are joyous and luminous in places. When the mother and daughter take flight, white swirls that look like wings protect them. Pair with Woodson’s The Year We Learned to Fly (rev. 1/22); this is an evocative interpretation of a popular African American folktale.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Nicholl Denice Montgomery

Nicholl Denice Montgomery is currently working on a PhD at Boston College in the curriculum and instruction department. Previously, she worked as an English teacher with Boston Public Schools.

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