Last week I wrote about our love of reading, and how much I enjoy finding multicultural books. Since we are reading these books anyway, I have decided to post reviews of them. If you have titles to share, please do so in the comments.
Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman by Nikki Grimes Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Talkin’ About Bessie is a real gem of a book. The illustrations are beautiful, and the narrative of Bessie’s life is definitely interesting. Until picking up this book I was unfamiliar with Elizabeth Coleman (which always makes me wonder who else don’t I know about), and after reading it I wondered how that could be so. If her name is also unknown to you, she was the first African American woman in the world to become a pilot.
This story is based on actual events and people, but Grimes does weave in some fictional details in order to give a more complete story. It begins with Bessie’s loved ones mourning her death, and the story unfolds with each person recounting a tale of the Bessie they knew. We hear from her family members, her school teacher, and those who knew her as she was pursuing her goal of becoming an aviator, each contributing another piece of information about her. The effect is that we are given a broad and informative portrayal of Bessie’s life. More impressive, though, is that the author is able to give each person, each storyteller, if you will, real depth of character in so few words.
This is somewhat lengthy for a picture book and is definitely intended for older children. Simi found some of the passages a little slow, as she was most interested in her life as a pilot, not the events leading up to that. (Although, there were a few tales from Bessie’s childhood that gave Simi a chuckle.) On the whole, Elizabeth Coleman’s life was amazing and inspirational, and I definitely recommend this book.