Academic journal article Language Arts

The People Could Fly: The Picture Book

Academic journal article Language Arts

The People Could Fly: The Picture Book

Article excerpt

The People Could Fly: The Picture Book Written by Virginia Hamilton Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon Alfred A. Knopf, 2004, unpaged, ISBN 978-0- 3758- 4553- 6

2005 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor

The People Could Fly is a profound masterpiece. It is a multifaceted tale of brutality and anguish, compassion and liberation, longing, faith, and hope that is, as Hamilton wrote, "both somber and uplifting." The title story in Hamilton's 1985 folklore collection, it was published as a picturebook in her honor after her death. (Sadly, Leo Dillon's 2012 death means this review is in tribute also to him.) Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon, as was the original black-and- white collection, the picturebook is a perfect union of Hamilton's engaging storytelling style and the elegance and intensity of the Dillons' 30 full-color paintings. The original collection's cover depicted the end of the tale, as magical Africans, dressed in tatters, escaped chattel slavery through flight. The picturebook cover illustrates the beginning, showing richly garbed, serene Africans with gorgeous blue-black wings living freely before experiencing capture, the horrors of the Middle Passage, and enslavement. Black endpapers embossed with shiny feathers embody the delight of magical flight and the sorrow of feathers shed in brutal captivity.

Leaving Hamilton's text unchanged, the picturebook offers stunning verbal and visual images that work together just as words and vocalization unite in oral storytelling. …

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