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Wings

by Christopher Myers, Illustrated By Christopher Myers


Scholastic Press
October 2000


Fiction
Ages 8 – 9 . Grades 3 – 4

Library of Congress: 99087389


Lexile measure: AD400L

DRA: 24

Guided Reading: M

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Are you brave enough to be your true self? Ikarus Jackson is, but it isn't always easy. The people in his neigborhood point at his wings. The kids at school laugh. The teachers call him a distraction.
One girl identifies with Ikarus, but she is too shy to speak up for herself, let alone for him. Maybe I should have said something to those mean kids, she thinks, when their taunts send him drifting into the sky. Inspired by Ikarus's own courage, she sets out in search of him and so begins her own journey of self discovery -- leaving both of them transformed.
"I wanted to create a book that tells kids never to abandon the things that make them different, to be proud of what makes them unique. Every child has his own beauty, her own talents. Ikarus Jackson can fly through the air; I want kids to find their own set of wings and soar with him." -- Christopher Myers
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Christopher Myers

The son of acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers, award-winning illustrator Christopher Myers credits his appreciation of the importance of images to observing the objects and photographs his parents would bring home from auctions and flea markets: “little histories;” “other people's memories that get left behind.” His own family images have had quite an impact, as well - as in a black-and-white photograph of his grandfather with a telling smile on his face. “He was a storyteller. His thick, dark, calloused hands told stories. My father tells stories. I tell stories. I'm fascinated with work, what work is, who does work, how much our identities are wrapped up in what we do with our hands. Shoeshine boy, ditchdigger, painter. My grandfather laughed at my father's hands because they were too soft. Still I think he was proud of the fact that my father didn't have to work with his back. This is progress.”

Myers has made his career working with his hands in yet another way, creating his own images in collage, photos, woodcuts, and other artistic media. A graduate of Brown University, he has participated in the exclusive Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Studio Program. Myers began his children's book career doing research to help his father, and went on to illustrate the elder Myers' Shadow of the Red Moon. In 1998, the two collaborated on Harlem, which was named a Caldecott Honor Book as well as a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Myers' solo effort, Black Cat, was also a Coretta Scott King Honor Book.

In addition to his fine art and illustrative work, Christopher Myers is a clothing designer. He makes his home in Brooklyn, New York.

SELECT REVIEWS:

  • Booklist--May, 2000
    *Myers, Christopher. Wings. Oct. 2000. 40p. illus. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-590-03377-8).
    Ages 4-9. Myers retells the myth of Icarus through the
    story of Ikarus Jackson, the new boy on the block, who can fly above the rooftops and over the crowd. In this con- temporary version, the winged kid nearly falls from the sky, not because he flies too high and dares to go too near the sun, but because jeering kids in the schoolyard and repressive adults don't like his being different and try to break his soaring spirit. Even more than in Black Cat (1999), Myers' beautiful cut-paper collages are eloquent and open. Some urban scenes are like the elemental sil- houettes in cave paintings. Some are rich and elaborate, with fluid aerial perspectives that change the way we see streets and people. Then there are the images of con- straint and attack: the bullies is like a monstrous Hydra with many heads; the schoolyard like a fiery sun; Ikarus' wings caught in jagged barbed wire near the classroom blackboard. In one view, he is struggling to stay in the air above oceans and continents, and in the corner of the page is a photo of derelict rowboats. The narrator of the spare text is a lonely girl, a golden figure in most of the pic- tures, who is reaching for the boy in flight. When she finally finds the courage to stand up to the bullies, she tells Ikarus he's beautiful and gives him the strength to fly free. The resolution is a little neat, but there's so much to talk about here-the multiple meaning of the pictures, the transformation of the myth, the hero outsider. -Hazel Rochman


    Ikarus Jackson can fly. He swoops above the rooftops and buzzes the gawking passersby, who label him "strange." The narrator of this allegory about being your true self doesn't think he's strange; she thinks he's wonderful ("lkarus Jackson, the fly boy, came to my school last Thursday. His long, strong, proud wings followed wherever he went'). To say Ikarus attracts attention is putting it mildly. Students laugh at Ikarus "useless" wings, even when they see him fly ("nobody likes a show-off"). The narrator, however, is familiar with the judgmental stares of her classmates, and she sympathizes with Ikarus' loneliness. She tells him "what someone should have long ago: 'Your flying is beautiful." Myers' ingenuous story may be a bit purposive, but his collage illustrations are powerful and affecting. Ikarus, a lanky black silhouette with white wings that spread like growing things, captures the eye in every spread; photographic images are taken out of their original context and functionally reimagined in Myers' intriguing compositions. The palette is intense whether hot or cold, and the characters themselves are an eerie amalgam of photographic and textural images. Predictability aside, this is a message worth repcating, and Myers' artistic presentation makes this a book worth having. J MD
    ---Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December 2000

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Hardback
$18.99

Jacketed Hardcover / Smyth

ISBN: 9780590033770

40pp. | 7-½ x 11