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Moving Forward: From Space-Age Rides to Civil Rights Sit-Ins with Airman Alton Yates

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Meet activist Alton Yates, an Air Force veteran who dedicated his life to propelling America forward—from space travel to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond—in this inspiring nonfiction picture book.

As a child growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, Alton Yates watched Black veterans return home from fighting for their country, only to have that country turn its back on them. After Alton joined the Air Force and risked his life to make spacecraft and airplane flight safer, he returned home to the same Jim Crow laws.

Alton now had a new To make a stand against Jim Crow.

Based on author Chris Barton’s extensive interviews, witness Alton Yates’s lifelong commitment to his country, as he put his life on the line time and again for science, for civil rights, and for America’s progress.

48 pages, Hardcover

Published January 11, 2022

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About the author

Chris Barton

27 books78 followers
I'm the author of picture books including bestseller SHARK VS. TRAIN, Sibert Honor-winning THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS, and WHOOSH! LONNIE JOHNSON'S SUPER-SOAKING STREAM OF INVENTIONS, which has been included on 21 state reading lists.


My newest books include GLITTER EVERYWHERE! WHERE IT CAME FROM, WHERE IT'S FOUND & WHERE IT'S GOING (illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat; 2023) and MOVING FORWARD: FROM SPACE-AGE RIDES TO CIVIL RIGHTS SIT-INS WITH AIRMAN ALTON YATES (illustrated by Steffi Walthall; a School Library Journal Best Book of 2022).

I visit schools by the score and also love speaking to professional gatherings of librarians, educators, and fellow writers.

I'm married to middle-grade/YA novelist Jennifer Ziegler (WORSER, HOW NOT TO BE POPULAR). Jennifer and I have four adult children and one dog, and we co-host the children’s literature video series “This One’s Dedicated to…” in which we talk with other authors and illustrators about the dedications they’ve written for their books.

Jennifer and I live in Austin, where I serve as a council member of the Texas Institute of Letters, a 501(c)(3) non-profit honor society founded in 1936 to celebrate Texas literature and to recognize distinctive literary achievement.

For more information about me, please visit www.chrisbarton.info or linktr.ee/bartography.

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Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews
Profile Image for Nicole M. M..
Author 1 book290 followers
February 14, 2022
This review and many more can be found on my blog: Feed Your Fiction Addiction

You’ve got to love a picture book biography with a unique perspective, and that’s exactly what you get here. Moving Forward tells the story of Alton Yates, an Air Force veteran who volunteered to help with experimental aircraft safety testing. While he was in this program, he consistently put himself into harm’s way for the good of science and humanity, only to return home to find that Jim Crow laws made it very clear he was not welcome in society, despite his sacrifices. Never one to sit still when there was work to be done, Alton soon became a force for social justice. The book tells of his personal journey and details both his experiences in the Air Force and his activism, right up to the day his peaceful act of protest was met with violence. The book’s hopeful message shows kids that one individual can make a difference and highlights the history of an incredible man who should not be forgotten.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Profile Image for Baby Bookworm.
1,642 reviews93 followers
January 14, 2022

This review was originally written for The Baby Bookworm. Visit us for new picture books reviews daily!

Hello, friends! Our book today is Moving Forward: From Space-Age Rides to Civil Rights Sit-Ins with Airman Alton Yates, written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Steffi Walthall, a fascinating look at a lesser-known hero of the Civil Rights Movement.

Growing up in Jim Crow Florida, Alton Yates saw, time and time again, how black veterans were mistreated and discriminated against, despite putting their lives on the line for their country. After Alton’s mother passed, he decided to enlist in the Air Force – which had been recently integrated – to help support his family. At Holloman Air Force Base, Alton put his own body on the line in experiments on human endurance, contributing to scientific advances and forming a bond of respect and friendship with fellow airmen of all races. Yet when he returned to the South, he was struck once more by the indignities and disenfranchisement suffered by the black communities there. Determined to make change, Alton decided to put himself on the line once again – this time, for equality and justice.

A poignant and enlightening tale. Yate’s life experiences – including the often-overlooked Ax Handle Sunday riot, which left Yates with a prominent scar after he was brutally attacked – are a covered in a way that examines the multiple influences that spurred his choices, while also building to a climax that examines the difference between being a “warrior” and committing acts of violence. While the abrupt tonal shift from storytelling to moralizing can be jarring, the message is incredibly solid, especially after a harrowing account of Ax Handle Sunday over eight pages: violence does not make a warrior, nor does it make their cause noble. Barton’s text can be a little intricate at times, which can make reading aloud difficult, but he tells Yates’s story compellingly and with obvious respect. And while some of Walthall’s spreads underwhelm, others are gripping, stirring works of art. The length and tone are best for older elementary readers, but JJ and I enjoyed it overall; it’s a lesser-known story with a lot of impact and a fantastic moral. This is absolutely worth a look, and we recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Be sure to check out The Baby Bookworm for more reviews!
5,212 reviews73 followers
April 29, 2022
Rounded up because I had never heard of Ax Handle Saturday.

A biography of an African American that joined the air force and was a participant in the research for flight safety in the 1950s and after an honorable discharge to help when his father got sick joined the NAACP

The ending seemed a bit abrupt to me, but the timeline at the end is a bit more hopeful with the Confederate Statue being taken down and the park being renamed after James Weldon Johnson and the paper making an apology in 2020.
Profile Image for Heidi.
2,681 reviews53 followers
January 13, 2022
Picture book biographies that introduce young readers to people from the past can open doors to understanding events from the past. Chris Barton does a remarkable job introducing young readers to a civil rights activist with a rather unusual history who like so many such activists paid a heavy price for his courage. Before becoming an activist though, Alton Yates served in the Air Force where he volunteered himself for experiments regarding human safety in airplanes, spacecraft, and automobiles. He was subjected to incredible pressures on the ground, in the air, and under water. Alton returned home after four years to help care for his younger siblings when his father got sick. The prejudice and poor treatment he faced on the way home inspired him to get involved in trying to change things in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. After joining the NAACP Youth Council, he began participating in protests regarding segregated lunch counters in department stores and elsewhere. He was on the front lines during what came to be known as Ax Handle Saturday where protesters were attacked by white men carrying wooden ax handles. Alton like others that day was injured. But he didn't quit and even now supports the fight for "what's just and what's fair". This inspiring story of courage and self-sacrifice is thoroughly documented in the backmatter that includes a time line, author and illustrator notes as well as a selected sources section. Walthall's lovely illustrations help drive home this powerful story. A wonderfully well-done book all around, I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Beverly.
3,302 reviews19 followers
June 27, 2022
Possible contender for the Mock Caldecott Awards in January 2023. The story of Alton Yates who always wanted to be an airman. Although he began his training and was there for 4 years, when his father became very ill and his younger siblings needed him he had to leave the Air Force and he was granted an honorable discharge. Upon returning home he not only stepped in to help his family but also became an active member of the NAACP and was eventually involved in Ax Handle Saturday...an event that I'm embarrassed to say I knew nothing about. Very interesting for children on the older end of the age spectrum.
Profile Image for Panda Incognito.
3,553 reviews61 followers
February 7, 2023
This well-illustrated picture book biography shares the little-known story of Alton Yates's military career experience, which included testing new military technology, and his advocacy for equal rights. The book includes enough tech language and depictions of racial violence that this will be best understood and processed by school-age kids, rather than typical picture book audiences.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
709 reviews6 followers
March 23, 2022
Beautifully illustrated picture book about the fascinating life of Alton Yates, a Black Air Force soldier who fights Jim Crow laws in the South. Specifically highlights Ax Handle Saturday and NAACP Youth Council.
Profile Image for Edward Sullivan.
Author 5 books203 followers
July 17, 2022
An inspiring picture book biography of Alton Yates who, while serving in the Air Force, volunteered to undertake dangerous experiments to make spaceflight safer, and then returned home to Jacksonville, Florida where he devoted himself to fighting against Jim Crow.
Profile Image for Dina.
540 reviews
December 7, 2022
I loved this story and its use of a little known person and historical events! It is a moving tale of perseverance and making a difference! Another winning book by Chris Barton.
1,280 reviews
June 9, 2023
Fascinating man and history, but the text didn't come together in a compelling way.
Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews

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