Flying Lessons & Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh, is a delightful and engaging collection of short stories from such luminaries as Grace Lin, Kwame Alexander, and Walter Dean Myers. The book emerged out of the ever-important We Need Diverse Books campaign, a pretty straight forward plea. Their mission? “Putting more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children.” Their vision? “A world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book.” It will come as no surprise that I’m a big fan of this campaign.
Flying Lessons does just what it’s supposed to and in a very open and enriching way. This is not one story for black kids and one story for Asian kids and one story for Native kids. Instead, each of these stories offers a gateway into another world. Yes, that world is defined by the diverse circumstances of their upbringings (be it Chinese pirate ship or community gym b-ball court), but what unifies them is simply a belief in possibilities. While each story is complete, what I love about them is their sense of openness. At the end, we’ve crossed this obstacle, or accomplished this thing, but there’s so much more that could come next–an invitation to a young readers’ (or an older readers’) imagination. Many are also written in the voice of the main character, no authorial overlord, just a kid and his thoughts playing out across pages.
I could keep gushing, but I don’t want to give anything away, so just trust me and go read it. We need diverse books now more than ever.