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The people could fly : the picture book /

In this retelling of a folktale, a group of slaves, unable to bear their sadness and starvation any longer, calls upon the African magic that allows them to fly away. Full description

Main Author:
Other Authors: Dillon, Leo,, Dillon, Diane,
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Knopf : 2004
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SUMMARY

"THE PEOPLE COULD FLY," the title story in Virginia Hamilton's prize-winning American Black folktale collection, is a fantasy tale of the slaves who possessed the ancient magic words that enabled them to literally fly away to freedom. And it is a moving tale of those who did not have the opportunity to "fly" away, who remained slaves with only their imaginations to set them free as they told and retold this tale.

Leo and Diane Dillon have created powerful new illustrations in full color for every page of this picture book presentation of Virginia Hamilton's most beloved tale. The author's original historical note as well as her previously unpublished notes are included.

Awards for The People Could Fly collection:

A Coretta Scott King Award

A Booklist Children's Editors' Choice

A School Library Journal Best Books of the Year

A Horn Book Fanfare

An ALA Notable Book

An NCTE Teachers' Choice

A New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of the Year


Review by Booklist Review

Gr. 3-9. The stirring title story in the late Virginia Hamilton's 1985 collection of American black folktales is an unforgettable slave escape fantasy, retold here in terse, lyrical prose that stays true to the oral tradition Hamilton knew from her family and her scholarly research. Leo and Diane Dillons' illustrations for the collection were in black and white, but the art here is beautiful full color, in the style of the cover of the collection. The large paintings are magic realism at its finest, with clear portraits showing individuals and the enduring connections between them. The images depict mass cruelty close up, but the faces of the characters Hamilton names are always distinct, even in the packed hold of the slave ships, when those who could fly lost their wings. Laboring in the cotton field, Sarah and her baby are whipped by the overseer. When elderly Toby helps them escape, the rhythmic paintings dramatize people flying to freedom, joining hands together in the sky. Each one is an individual, exquisitely (and differently) dressed in traditional African garb, an inspiration to those left behind, who had only their imaginations to set them free. A final portrait shows Hamilton in kente cloth smiling above a loving family at home. This special picture-book story will be told and retold everywhere. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2004 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Resplendent, powerful paintings by these two-time Caldecott-winning artists bring new life to the title story from the late Hamilton's 1985 collection, The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales. Making dramatic use of shadow and light, Leo and Diane Dillon (whose half-tone illustrations also graced the original volume) ably convey the tale's simultaneous messages of oppression and freedom, of sadness and hope. "They say the people could fly. Say that long ago in Africa, some of the people knew magic," opens the narrative, as the full-color artwork reveals elegant, beautifully clothed individuals with feathered wings serenely ascending into the sky. On the following spread, images of the Middle Passage set a fittingly somber tone, depicting Africans who "were captured for Slavery. The ones that could fly shed their wings. They couldn't take their wings across the water on the slave ships. Too crowded, don't you know." The picture-book format allows room for the relationship to develop between Sarah, who labors in the cotton fields with an infant strapped to her back, and Toby, the "old man," who utters the magic African words that give her flight. Toby helps others take flight as well (a stunning image shows seemingly hundreds linking hands and taking to the skies)-and eventually does so himself, sadly leaving some of the captives "who could not fly" behind to "wait for a chance to run." Art and language that are each, in turn, lyrical and hard-hitting make an ideal pairing in this elegant volume that gracefully showcases the talent of its creators. All ages. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

Starred Review. Gr 2-6-Some Africans flew on shiny black wings before their capture into slavery, and though they shed their plumes when forced to board the crowded slave ships, those people with the flying magic still had their special power. Hamilton's version of this old tale of longing and hope was the title story of her 1985 collection (Knopf); it has been read, anthologized, and told so often as to seem truly timeless. The Dillons add much to savor in this elegant picture-book rendering. A richly robed band of men, women, and children flying happily over an African landscape wraps around the book cover, rooting the story in early times. Black endpapers embossed with shiny feathers mark the loss of wings. Rich, deep-hued paintings decorate each spread, a smaller view on the left with a larger scene on the right. A simple framing scheme encases art and text in thick lines on three sides; the top remains open and draws the eye upward with the ascending figures. Early scenes of slave misery ground viewers with darkened tones. Sadly, not all of the people could fly. But those who couldn't continued to tell the marvelous tale, even in their eventual freedom. The book is a lovely tribute to Hamilton. Some of her original notes on the tale appear as preface and afterword.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
AUTHOR NOTES

Virginia Hamilton was born March 12, 1934. She received a scholarship to Antioch College, and then transferred to the Ohio State University in Columbus, where she majored in literature and creative writing. She also studied fiction writing at the New School for Social Research in New York.

Her first children's book, Zeely, was published in 1967 and won the Nancy Bloch Award. During her lifetime, she wrote over 40 books including The People Could Fly, The Planet of Junior Brown, Bluish, Cousins, the Dies Drear Chronicles, Time Pieces, Bruh Rabbit and the Tar Baby Girl, and Wee Winnie Witch's Skinny. She was the first African American woman to win the Newbery Award, for M. C. Higgins, the Great. She has won numerous awards including three Newbery Honors, three Coretta Scott King Awards, an Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award. She was also the first children's author to receive a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant in 1995.

She died from breast cancer on February 19, 2002 at the age of 67.

(Bowker Author Biography)


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