Sprouting Wings: The True Story of James Herman Banning, the First African American Pilot To Fly Across the United States

Crown. Jan. 2021. 48p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781984847621.
K-Gr 2–This picture book biography recounts the story of James Herman Banning, from his first encounter with a real “birdman” in Thomas, OK, in 1911 to a lifelong love of flying. Despite his passion and hard work, Banning struggled to find someone willing to teach him to fly because he was a Black man. Ultimately, a white lieutenant named Raymond Fisher became his teacher and friend. After Fisher was killed in a plane crash in 1926, Banning had to build his own plane from scrap and spare parts to continue his career in aviation. In 1929 Banning took a position at William Powell’s all-Black flight school, the Bessie Coleman Aero Club, in Los Angeles. Then in 1932 with airplane mechanic Thomas Cox Allen—the Flying Hobos, so named because of the help they received from the communities where they landed—he undertook a 21-day journey from Los Angeles to New York City in an Eaglerock plane. Back matter explains that Jaggar and researcher Pat Smith pieced together this account of the Flying Hobos based on articles from historical Black newspapers, interviews with Banning’s descendants, and an unpublished manuscript written by Thomas Cox Allen that detailed their flight across the country. Cooper’s expansive illustrations are rendered in muted earth tones, with an impressionistic, dreamlike quality.
VERDICT A pathos-filled picture book that celebrates the life of a figure in American history who hasn’t been featured often in children’s books. Recommended for all nonfiction collections.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing