The Year We Learned to Fly (Hardcover)

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The Year We Learned to Fly By Jacqueline Woodson, Rafael López (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Jacqueline Woodson, Rafael López (Illustrator)
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Staff Reviews

This is the story of four seasons in the life of a young girl and her brother, encouraged by a loving grandmother to lift their arms and fly above the obstacles of life. Springtime storms may trap them indoors. Summer conflicts can hold them in silence. Dark autumn skies make their room much too quiet. Winter brings a move away from neighbors and friends. Lift your arms, close your eyes. Fly, and imagine what can be! It's the second lyrical, sweet picture book from Woodson and illustrator Rafael Lopez, and it's inspired by a monumental book about enslaved people "lifting up and flying away home: The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales, written by Virginia Hamilton and illustrated by Leo and Dianne Dillon, which is among the greatest of children's books. Here, Woodson and Lopez have beautifully honored and extended their work!

— Tim McCarthy


Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López's highly anticipated companion to their #1 New York Times bestseller The Day You Begin illuminates the power in each of us to face challenges with confidence.

On a dreary, stuck-inside kind of day, a brother and sister heed their grandmother’s advice: “Use those beautiful and brilliant minds of yours. Lift your arms, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and believe in a thing. Somebody somewhere at some point was just as bored you are now.” And before they know it, their imaginations lift them up and out of their boredom. Then, on a day full of quarrels, it’s time for a trip outside their minds again, and they are able to leave their anger behind. This precious skill, their grandmother tells them, harkens back to the days long before they were born, when their ancestors showed the world the strength and resilience of their beautiful and brilliant minds. Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael Lopez’s dazzling art celebrate the extraordinary ability to lift ourselves up and imagine a better world.

About the Author

Jacqueline Woodson ( received a 2023 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship, the 2020 Hans Christian Andersen Award, the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and the 2018 Children's Literature Legacy Award, and was the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Her New York Times bestselling memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, won the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, and the NAACP Image Award. Her books for young readers include Coretta Scott King Award and NAACP Image Award winner Before the Ever After, New York Times bestsellers The Day You Begin and Harbor Me, Newbery Honor winners Feathers, Show Way, and After Tupac and D Foster, and Each Kindness, which won the Jane Addams Children's Book Award.

Rafael López ( illustrated New York Times bestseller Just Ask! (by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor). He won Pura Belpré medals for Drum Dream Girl and Book Fiesta, and has also received three Pura Belpré honors, two Américas Book Awards, and the 2017 Tomás Rivera Children's Book Award and Society of Illustrators Original Art Silver Medal. His work has been featured in Communication Arts, American Illustration Annual, Graphic Design USA and Huffington Post. He's a founder of San Diego's Urban Art Trail movement, created seven US Postal Stamps, and created official posters for the '08 and '12 Obama-Biden campaigns.

Praise For…

Praise for The Year We Learned to Fly:

★ “Two Black siblings use their imaginations to escape their immediate surroundings throughout the seasons in this picture book by previous collaborators Woodson and López (The Day You Begin). . . . Learning to soar 'from the people who came before,' the children are told both that their feelings have been experienced by others, and that “nobody can ever cuff/ your brilliant and beautiful mind,” a lesson they pass on in turn. Energetic layered multimedia illustrations accompany the poetically repeating lines, vividly depicting winged escapes over images of a slave ship and contemporary real-world high-rises.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ ”A narrative rich with literary and visual symbolism, simultaneously simple and profound…With this book, Woodson and Lopez create a path that children may follow as they gain confidence and imagine a way forward no matter what challenges arise." —Booklist, starred review

★ "An intergenerational family story of freedom. . . . López illustrates the inside of the family’s apartment with drab, muted colors that emphasize the children’s confinement. In contrast, the outdoor scenes, illustrated primarily in pastels, exude luminosity and convey the youngsters’ exuberance. . . . The ebullient mixed-media artwork explodes with color and extends the richness of the text. An uplifting story that will inspire kids, especially brown girls and boys, to dream." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

★ "Woodson and López are thankfully, and marvelously, back together. . . . Honoring echoes of the past (masterfully captured in both text and art) with an eye set on the possibilities of the future, this uplifting and honest reflection of the experiences of many children is a perfect example of the power of the picture book. It helps children, through words and art, to be seen and also challenges them to embrace their own power and agency. The many layers of both art and language will provide fodder for rich classroom discussions. . . . A must for any collection, and an outstanding example of the picture book as an artistic and literary form." —School Library Journal, starred review

"Poetic text. . . . The book reminds children that imagination is a powerful tool in any situation, and López’s colorful, eye-pleasing art enhances this message. Readers also are reminded that they have support from the past." —Horn Book

"Like its companion The Day You Begin, this reassuring picture book takes a gentle approach, but the layered storytelling leaves much to explore. While the pandemic is never mentioned, plenty of kids will relate to days on end stuck inside, with hot tempers and short fuses, an experience our young narrator notes with wry humor: 'We fought and frowned and made silent promises to never speak to each other ever again.' The grandmother’s advice moves beyond a general directive to a more specific reference of the siblings’ family ancestry in a scene that showcases López’s luminous art. The grandmother lifts the little girl up into a sky resplendent with yellows and golds foregrounded by a garden of verdant greens with silhouettes of relatives past looking upon them." —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Dynamically illustrated and poetically written. . . . Woodson's expressive text makes each ordeal realistic and accessible, even as the stakes get higher. López's mixed-media art matches Woodson's tone, his figures realistic even as the landscapes become dreamy and fantastical. As with The Day You Begin, this picture book manages to entertain, educate and inspire with the lightest of touches." —Shelf Awareness

Product Details
ISBN: 9780399545535
ISBN-10: 0399545530
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication Date: January 4th, 2022
Pages: 32
Language: English