Sarah's Reviews > Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman

Talkin' About Bessie by Nikki Grimes
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Jan 24, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: african-american-rll-528, picture-books

Previous to reading this book, I had not even known of Bessie Coleman’s existence. It is a shame that I had never learned about this amazing and important woman. I am so glad that Nikki Grimes and E. B. Lewis came together to produce this enlightening and engaging picture book. This book pays tribute to the vivacious and determined spirit of the first black, female licensed pilot. Through soft, muted, (presumably) watercolor illustrations, E. B. Lewis gives us a glimpse of the world during the early decades of 20th century. In sepia tones the illustrator also provides an image of each character who gives an account of the famous pilot. These small pictures look remarkably like real photographs. The full-page paintings found opposite each account compliment Nikki Grimes’s poetic words, assisting with the telling of the story. It is evident to me why this man has been awarded numerous awards and honors for his illustrations over the years, including the Corretta Scott King Award for this book.

Of course the book would be nothing without Nikki Grimes’s engaging, poetic words, for which she won a Coretta Scott King Award Honor. Her decision to tell of Bessie Coleman’s life through the accounts of various people who encountered the young woman is effective. Although the actual accounts are fictional, many of the speakers are based on some of the real people who knew her. Other characters are made-up and simply represent people who could have had experiences with her. This style of writing allows the reader to access the information by becoming part of this Bessie Coleman experience. Far from the dry, detached third-person style of a typical textbook or some biographies, Ms.Grimes’s poetry lives and breathes. People, not an omniscient narrator, let us experience the effects of this vivacious, fearless spirit on the world around her. Although students will never be able to meet this ground-breaking young African-American woman who lived almost a century before them, they will know who she was and her important contributions to the history of African-Americans, women, aviation, and the world.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Nancy I enjoyed your review. I didn’t know about Bessie Coleman either. I liked the fact that she even though she showed determination in the face of so many obstacles, she was not portrayed as perfect. She would be a great person to research when studying notable women or African Americans. This was a unique way of writing her biography instead of just stating facts. This style of writing could be a different way for students to practice writing stories or biographies of other people. It would also be a great book to read as reader’s theatre.


Sarah Oh, yes! I hadn't thought of using it as reader's theatre. What a great idea!


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