Thursday, February 11, 2010

Black History Month: Celebrate with a great children's book

My Review: 5 of 5 Stars

I'll Fly My Own Plane

by Jean Alicia Elster

Beautifully illustrated and  wonderfully narrated, I'll Fly My Own Plane is a timely addition to the literature available for urban youth. The last of a three books in the Joe Joe in the City series, I'll Fly My Own Plane is the story where young Joe Joe values are tested. He's offered a dishonest opportunity to earn money to buy a fancy model plane. In the end Joe Joe decides it's better to fly the less expensive plane his father gave to him. 

Elster is to be commended for addressing tough issues youth face in low income, urban areas. The story had well drawn characters and the growth of young Joe Joe grew organically out of the plot in a way that was subtle for the reader.  I look forward to sharing this series with my own four year old.

An Interview With The Author

Please tell us about yourself. Formerly an attorney, I am a professional writer with a focus on writing for children, middle graders, and young adults. I am also an editor, essayist, writing instructor, and grant writer. While wearing each of these hats is fulfilling in its own way, I find my greatest joy in writing for youth and young adults.

Tell us something about your books. My most recent book—Who’s Jim Hines?—is based upon real events in my family’s history. It is a coming of age story where twelve-year-old Douglas Ford, Jr. comes to terms with the racial realities of Depression-era Detroit. However, my current books also include the Joe Joe in the City series. In each volume of this series, ten-year-old Joe Joe Rawlings learns life lessons when he reads about heroes from African American history. In Just Call Me Joe Joe, he reads the history of the Negro Baseball Leagues; in I Have a Dream, Too! Joe Joe reads about Mary McLeod Bethune; in I’ll Fly My Own Plane he learns about the Tuskegee Airmen; and in I’ll Do the Right Thing, he discovers the legacy of  Ralph Bunche.                                                                                             

What influenced you to write the Joe Joe in the City series? My husband and I faced real concerns as Christian parents raising two children in an urban environment. It was incumbent upon us to prepare our children to respond appropriately to negative peer pressure, racial stereotypes, and the pervasive drug and gang cultures. I wanted to address those concerns in a set of books for young readers that would be entertaining and edifying for the youngsters and a source of support and reinforcement for parents and other caregivers.

What lessons, in particular, do you want readers to learn from the Joe Joe in the City series? Each volume in the Joe Joe in the City series offers a crucial lesson for youth, particularly urban youth. Joe Joe summons up the courage to return and face a local shopkeeper who accuses him of being a part of a gang that has just trashed his store in Just Call Me Joe Joe. In I Have a Dream, Too!, Joe Joe realizes that with hard work, dreams can come true. I’ll Fly My Own Plane finds Joe Joe turning away from an opportunity to make “quick, easy money.” And, Joe Joe learns the value of being a peacemaker in I’ll Do the Right Thing.

Where can readers find out about your pubic appearances? I have a full schedule of appearances planned at libraries, schools, conferences, and museums continuing throughout the spring and into the summer months. At these events, I look forward to connecting with readers of my books and the public at large.  Readers can contact me and see updates about my books and appearances via my website They can also find information at my publishers’ websites and

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