Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman

by Nikki Grimes and E.B. Lewis

Twenty single-page monologues, told in the imagined voices of her real family, friends... read more

Twenty single-page monologues, told in the imagined voices of her real family, friends and acquaintances, as well as a few composite characters, create a multidimensional portrait of aviator Elizabeth Coleman. Born in 1892, Bessie Coleman grew up in Texas, working in the cotton fields and caring for her younger siblings, while tenaciously pursuing the education available to her. As a young woman she moved to Chicago, and, after working for several years, launched herself on the path to becoming an aviator. American flight schools wouldn’t accept people of color, or women, so after studying French for a year Bessie attended aviation school in France. Achieving her goal of becoming the first colored woman in the world to fly, Bessie went on to gain fame for her skilled stunt piloting, until her death at age 34, when she was thrown from a plane under the control of her copilot. Lewis’s handsome, full-page watercolor illustrations are ideal foils to the narration, which closes with words Bessie might have said: “In the end, I count myself twice blessed: / first to have experienced the joy of flight; / and, second, to have shared it with others of my race. / I’ll say this and no more: / You have never lived / until you have flown!” (Ages 8-12)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2003

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