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The People Could Fly: The Picture Book
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The People Could Fly: The Picture Book

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  206 ratings  ·  44 reviews
"The well-known author retells 24 black American folktales in sure storytelling voice: animal tales, supernatural tales, fanciful and cautionary tales, and slave tales of freedom."--School Library Journal, starred review. Full color.
Library Binding, 32 pages
Published November 9th 2004 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
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Wow. Inspiring, heartbreaking, poetic, and intense. This is an amazing tale that by some act of neglect I had never heard before. It is beautifully told and illustrated in this edition. The references to eye-witnesses and how the story may or may not be true made it quite magical as a story/mythos.

The beauty of this story is that flying is being used as an analogy for many things: of escape from slavery, of hope, of the lost African traditions and culture, of second chances. The story manages to
My spine tingles every time I read the title. Tales of humans who can fly appear in many cultures and has an instant effect on the human psyche. In Virginia Hamilton’s most anthologized folktale based on a black lore motif, she tells of Africans who knew magic – who could fly. But they were enslaved and forgot their magic when they were brought to America. When the slaves begin to fall under their oppressors, old Toby whispers the magic words and they soar away. With a power, musical voice Hamil ...more
This is a picture book edition of a single story from Virginia Hamilton’s collection The People Could Fly: American Black Folk Tales. The narrative of this folktale is in the tradition of oral storytelling, lyrical and moving. Prior to capture into slavery, some Africans had the magical power of flight. During the grim trip to America, and under the harsh conditions of slavery, many Africans had forgotten the magic. Toby and Sarah still knew the magic, and as their treatment worsens, they attemp ...more
Jan 29, 2014 Dolly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a touching folktale about slaves brought over to America. The narrative is heartwrenching and our girls could not believe that people could be so cruel. But the message is uplifting and shows the power of the human spirit. The illustrations are terrific and so expressive. We really enjoyed reading this book together and I loved that this book was made in honor of Virginia Hamilton.
When we hear stories of slavery, it is often difficult to fully conceptualize such brutal oppression of another human in a world where slavery is not common place. Most of us will never feel chains shackle our wrists or be bound to a master, nor will we likely physically see this happen to another person in our life. So the question when it comes to slavery, how do we present such misery to children? And more importantly how do we paint these “slaves” as people with real thoughts and feelings? ...more
Charlene McCormack
Really interesting book. The forward said in the original stories the people within were not given names so the author gave them names. In Of Mice and Men Curley’s wife was also without a name and if I remember correctly it was so she could be any person and not having a name also demeaned her because she was not worthy of having a even name.

I think this story was supposed to be uplifting but it made me sad.

(In Saudi Arabia there are also stories of people that can fly.)

Alexandra Escamilla
“THE PEOPLE COULD FLY,” the title story in Virginia Hamilton’s prize-winning American Black folktale collection, is a fantasy tale of the slaves who possessed the ancient magic words that enabled them to literally fly away to freedom. And it is a moving tale of those who did not have the opportunity to “fly” away, who remained slaves with only their imaginations to set them free as they told and retold this tale. Leo and Diane Dillon have created powerful new illustrations in full color for ever ...more
Tales of humans who can fly appear in many cultures and has an instant effect on the human psyche. In Virginia Hamilton’s most anthologized folktale based on a black lore motif, she tells of Africans who knew magic – who could fly. But they were enslaved and forgot their magic when they were brought to America. When the slaves begin to fall under their oppressors, old Toby whispers the magic words and they soar away. With a power, musical voice Hamilton tells the story as a “perhaps” with the re ...more
Jerri Miller
1. Genre: Picture book- Traditional Literature

2. Summary: "The People Could Fly" is a tale about slavery. This story tells about the hardships of slave and how they wanted to escape to freedom.

3. a. Symbolism

b. Symbolism is very strong throughout this story. When it refers to slaves "flying away" to escape and to find freedom the symbolism is evident. Many slaves died due to poor treatment or ran away to find freedom away from their masters. This concept is where the symbolism is evident throug
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Review: School Library Journal. Dec. 2004, Vol. 50, Issue 12, p. 130-131.

Virginia Hamilton first documented this American Black Folktale in 1985. After her death in 2002, illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon wanted to commemorate Hamilton’s work by republishing the story with new illustrations. The effect is heartwarming and uplifting as it reveals newly enslaved Africans working on a cotton plantation. During a brutal beating, a woman and her baby must escape. With the help of the old man and his
Briana Nelson
This African American folktale tells the story about slaves who had magic powers that enabled them to fly. An old man who worked in the fields named Toby would release slaves by reciting an African chant which would allow them to fly away. The graphic images in this story took up the entire page, and sometimes left me feeling sad because of slavery. Various shades of brown, along with natural colors such as dark reds, yellows, tans and blues gave this story a deep and powerful meaning.
After reading The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd, I decided to follow the author's suggestion and re-read this African tale. Being able to fly away from their misery is an uplifting thought and this is likely what led slaves in this country to continue to pass on this fable from their homelands.
I read this book when I was in college, for a Children's Lit class. My reading of _The Invention of Wings_ by Sue Monk Kidd, with its references to people in flight and the memory quilt, reminded me of this great experience. The pictures in this book are absolutely beautiful.
Retelling of a black folk tale in which, long ago, black Africans had wings--and how some of their descendants discover that lost magic to escape the chains of slavery. Beautiful illustrations. It's such a basic story, but it sparks one's imagination.
Theresa Reifon
Format/Length: Picture book; 32 pages

Award(s)/Distinction(s): 2005 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book

Theme(s): Freedom, Liberation, Slavery, Racism

Read Aloud: the whole book


This was the first time I read this story. Before reading this book, I read the inside of the book jacket and Author's Note. I found these sections beneficial to my understanding of this American black folktale and the notion of flying within it. The illustrations are beautifully detailed and full of emotions.
This story rubbed me entirely the wrong way. I can intellectualize the reason that it may be important to its target audience, but if you take away the cultural aspects, you are left with a story about how some oppressed people with powers flew away and escaped while leaving the rest behind. I fail to see how that kind of story, on its most basic level, can be uplifting to anyone. As a child, I think I would have been beside myself for those who were left. I am sure that there are readers that w ...more
Big Disappointment. Hamilton's storytelling always delivered until now.
Lyndsey Hurm
This book is about fantasy tales of black American slaves and some of them could use the magic word to fly away to freedom while the others could only mentally escape by using their imagination. I would use this book to introduce slavery. This would also be a great book for children to make predictions throughout. I would also probably talk about how these people had to use their imagination and talk to students about the importance and great value that can come from using their imaginations.
I think this is one of the Dillons' best works. The way they've illustrated this tale is amazing. They use three-sided frames to draw the eye upward although there is white space at the top of the images (the sides of the frames extend to the top of the page). When all the people start flying near the end, then the illustration goes to the top of the page. Cotton looks like clouds, clouds look like wings, Hamilton is pictured at the end... colors, composition--it's all here.
Sharonta Johnson
The people could fly is a folktale that was told by African slaves about how they could fly before the oppression of slavery made them shed their wings and forget the magic they once had. In the story, the ones who fly had escape from slavery when an old man whispered magic words in their ears. This book can be use during an american history lesson in the classroom to discuss slavery and problems during that time period.
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
Years ago I read Virginia Hamilton's The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales I didn't realize that a picture book had been created for the tale that the original book was named for. Beautifully illustrated. Worth having a copy of.
This is an excellent foundation for children in order to appreciate other later works by African American authors such as Toni Morrison and Paule Marshall. The myth of black people flying is persuasive in African American text. Also this book presents the horrors of slavery to children within a folktale.
Holly Brown
This book is about people being able to fly until they became slaves. The book shows the evils of slavery and what happened to the people that could fly before they became slaves.

This book is great in showing this African folk tale. However, the images may be disturbing for younger children.

This would be a great book to teach older children about slavery and African culture.
Traditional African folklore speaks of people who had the magical ability to fly. Hamilton's story is about slaves on a plantation who forgot the magic until an old slave man reminds them, saving them from the cruelty of the overseer. A hopeful tale that doesn't simplify the brutal life of slaves. Expect your heart to hurt.

3rd grade - JHS.
I was familiar with this story, but this book just about did me in (as my wife might say). Beautiful artwork and Virginia Hamilton is as good as they come. Note: Some of the other reviews for this book discuss the collected folktales edition, but my daughter and I have only read this single story book, so far.
I liked the illustrations. The message in the book was good, too.

Children's Lit review: Good, traditional text. Pictures show pain, but also the peace that some got and the freedom they felt. Good, gently way to teach a part of history. Coretta Scott King Illustrator honor book.
Barbara Lovejoy
This is a WONDERFUL picture book. The illustrations and the story itself are BEAUTIFUL. This was the first time I had heard this story. I know that I have read books by Virginia Hamilton in the past. Reading this book makes me want to read her books again.
A gorgeously illustrated version of the traditional African folktale. I use this in class with sophomores when I teach Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, but it's a great read for kids to teach them about some of the more difficult history of this country.

It is very good book to read aloud for grade fifth students.I love the illustrations of the book about black people. Teacher can use this book to teach historical events about the slaverly and tehy can teach children the equaility concept.

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