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You Can Fly

The Tuskegee Airmen



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About The Book

In this “masterful, inspiring evocation of an era” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford “wields the power of poetry to tell [the] gripping historical story” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) of the Tuskegee Airmen.

I WANT YOU! says the poster of Uncle Sam. But if you’re a young black man in 1940, he doesn’t want you in the cockpit of a war plane. Yet you are determined not to let that stop your dream of flying.

So when you hear of a civilian pilot training program at Tuskegee Institute, you leap at the chance. Soon you are learning engineering and mechanics, how to communicate in code, how to read a map. At last the day you’ve longed for is here: you are flying!

From training days in Alabama to combat on the front lines in Europe, this is the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the groundbreaking African-American pilots of World War II. In vibrant second-person poems, Carole Boston Weatherford teams up for the first time with her son, artist Jeffery Weatherford, in a powerful and inspiring book that allows readers to fly, too.


You Can Fly Head to the Sky
No matter that there are only 130

licensed black pilots in the whole nation.

Your goal of being a pilot cannot be grounded

by top brass claiming blacks are not fit to fly.

Your vision of planes cannot be

blocked by clouds of doubt.

The engine of your ambition will not brake

for walls of injustice—no matter how high.

The sky’s no limit if you’ve flown

on your own power in countless dreams;

not if you’ve raised homing pigeons

on Harlem rooftops;

or watched crop dusters

buzzing over rows of cotton;

not if you’ve gazed at stars

and known God meant for you to soar.

About The Author

Photograph © Carole Boston Weatherford

Carole Boston Weatherford has written many award-winning books for children, including Kin, illustrated by her son Jeffery and a Coretta Scott King Author Honor recipient; Box, which won a Newbery Honor; Unspeakable, which won the Coretta Scott King Award, a Caldecott Honor, and was a finalist for the National Book Award; Respect: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award; ALA Notable Children’s Book You Can Fly; and Caldecott Honor winners Freedom in Congo SquareVoice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement; and Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom. Carole lives in North Carolina. Visit her at 

About The Illustrator

Jeffery Boston Weatherford is an award-winning children’s book illustrator and a performance poet. He has lectured, performed, and led art and writing workshops in the US, the Middle East, and West Africa. Jeffery was a Romare Bearden Scholar at Howard University, where he earned an MFA in painting and studied under members of the Black Arts Movement collective AfriCobra. A North Carolina native and resident, Jeffery has exhibited his art in North Carolina, Georgia, Maryland, and Washington, DC. Visit him at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (July 4, 2017)
  • Length: 96 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781481449397
  • Grades: 4 - 7
  • Ages: 9 - 12
  • Lexile ® 910L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

*“Weatherford again wields the power of poetry to tell a gripping historical story, reinforced by dramatically shaded scratchboard illustrations by her son, making a notable debut.”

– Publishers Weekly, starred review

* “Weatherford’s skill with language provides clear voices for the trainees, and cultural specifics provide additional texture and deepen understanding of the young men. A masterful, inspiring evocation of an era.”

– Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“The narrative voice draws readers into the action, addressing them directly and inviting them to imagine themselves into this ground-breaking role . . . this title is particularly well adapted to classroom use, where language arts and history students can share common air space.”


"This book sheds light on the Tuskegee Airmen through stories filled with authentic voices and hard truths. For those who already know of the Airmen’s accomplishments, the book offers a more personal connection to the men and their ideas and feelings through poems . . . which demonstrate that despite their proven skill and heroism, the aviators were still denied acceptance and respect."

– School Library Journal

“Weatherford’s informative, evocative poems follow the Airmen from the early vision . . . to the flyers’ experiences at home and abroad, with poems about Joe Louis and Lena Horne reminding us that the Airmen were also fighting another war in this country—against prejudice.”

– Horn Book - July/August 2016

"This volume offers a vivid, personal point of view. A welcome addition to traditional books on the Tuskegee Airmen."

– Booklist - April 1, 2015

Awards and Honors

  • ALA Notable Children's Books
  • CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book
  • Great Lakes Great Books Master List (MI)
  • Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year Selection Title
  • NCTE Notable Poetry List
  • New York Public Library Best Books for Kids
  • NCTE Notable Verse Novel List

Resources and Downloads

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More books from this author: Carole Boston Weatherford

More books from this illustrator: Jeffery Boston Weatherford