YEAR WE LEARNED TO FLY
By Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by Rafael López
LOUJAIN DREAM OF THE SUN
Story inspired by Loujain al-Hathloul
By Lina al-Hathloul and Uma Mishra-Newbery
Illustrated by Rebecca Green
When I was about 5 years old, I was lying in bed and I remembered something unbelievable: I used to fly! I could see myself very clearly, taking off into the air, like one of the Darling kids in “Peter Pan.” I remember I used to fly, and I wondered why I didn’t know what to do anymore.
In Jacqueline Woodson’s “The Year We Learned To Fly,” with illustrations by Rafael López (who also collaborated with Woodson on “The Day You Started”), we meet a sister and brother trapped in the air. cocoon of their city apartment: “It was spring when the rain seemed to never stop and the thunder raged so fiercely that we were not allowed to go out.” Although there are some situations where children experience more emotional stress than this, the author decided to present first the most difficult and easiest feelings any child has to overcome. : boring. Their grandmother told them to use their “beautiful and intelligent mind” to fly away from it.
“Raise your arms, close your eyes, breathe deeply,” she instructs them over and over again throughout the book. It’s a way to face and conquer any challenge life presents, from getting angry at your sibling to moving to a different neighborhood.
And how she learn to fly? “From those who came first,” those who were shackled. The children’s ancestors, for whom flying really seemed impossible, were able to learn because “no one can strangle your beautiful and brilliant mind”. (Woodson, winner of the National Book Award for “Brown Girl Dreaming,” takes his hat off to the author notes for “The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales” by Virginia Hamilton.)
López, a two-time Pura Belpré medalist, infuses Woodson’s story with an atmosphere as poetic and colorful as the butterflies that siblings, and later, children dread a new family. on their streets, eventually metamorphosing.
In “Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers,” by Lina al-Hathloul and Uma Mishra-Newbery, with illustrations by Rebecca Green, we meet a little girl who know she will fly: “not immediately, but for sure.” Currently, only boys are entitled to this privilege. Women’s equality is an illusion in so many parts of the world, and this clever story brings the ongoing struggle to achieve it light and poignant. Loujain since she was a child, she has not yet been exposed to the constraints of society. So she believes things can change, simply because she imagines they can. Her dream of flying over a field of brilliant sunflowers is extinguished every morning as she watches her father take on his wings and leave her behind. What gives the story extraordinary spirit is the fact that she is angry about injustice and fearless when it comes to fighting it. Nor does she feel embarrassed when her classmates mock her for daring to think she can do anything a boy can do.
Family played an important role in Loujain realizing his dream. Her mother convinces her father that change will not come unless he supports her. With his help, she finally flies with him one morning.
This is where the illustrations explode, conveying the story with a magical quality. The gorgeous colors seem to lift Loujain and her father into another world. The glittering sunflowers and the joy of her accomplishment are palpable.
But victory has a bitter side. Society is not ready to let the girl fly, and she is judged for defying the law. Her rebellion makes the front page of the newspaper. She can feel people looking at her as she walks down the street. However, the ending of the book is very powerful. Loujain noticed a young girl tugging at her father’s shirt and pointing at the wing shop: “Baba, Baba, teach me how to fly,” she begged. “I want to see sunflowers too!” As we learn in the afterword that the real Loujain al-Hathloul (Lina’s older sister) was a women’s rights activist who led efforts to change Saudi Arabia’s law banning women from driving cars. (law she was jailed for breaking), we can imagine the avalanche of these requirements.
The two books ask similar questions: How do we learn to fly? Who can help us? Once we fly, what happens next? And both teach us that everyone has the capacity to overcome adversity. Flying is the metaphor that turns this good advice into flying stories.
By the way, the mystery of my flying memory was solved decades later. I am the happy father of a toddler learning to walk. As she staggered down the hallway, I suddenly caught her from behind, lifting her high above my head in the air. I put her down in the crib and went back to my study. Then it hit me: She was still learning to walk. She may think she just flew, like butterflies in her room. Maybe one day she too will remember that she used to fly.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/books/review/jacqueline-woodson-rafael-lopez-the-year-we-learned-to-fly.html Winged Victories: 2 Take Flight picture books