When we’re feeling anxious or sad, sometimes we need to pause, escape reality for a moment and give ourselves time to find calm. Isn’t it wonderful just to soar above it all? In these two books, that’s exactly what the characters do, as they ride on the wings of birds and planes through the dazzling landscape of imagination.
When You Need Wings
Oh, that flittery-fluttery feeling inside! It’s the one we all get when we’re nervous. Maybe we’re too excited, or we’re afraid something won’t go well, or we just don’t want to do whatever it is we’re about to do. In When You Need Wings, author-illustrator Lita Judge’s evocative, expressive pencil-and-watercolor art shows a little girl who transforms her anxious energy from distressing to enervating, as the narrator encourages and motivates: “That isn’t your heart. It’s the sound of your very own wings, beating within.”
And so, the little girl who wordlessly resists entering the cacophonous playground at Little Dreamers Preschool takes a moment to focus inward. Ethereal white doves fly her away, and suddenly, she’s in a forest, cavorting with wild animals. The Maurice Sendak-style boogieing scenes are joyous and detailed, providing much to discover on repeat reads, from an alligator’s backward baseball cap to a squirrel’s chunky-knit sweater.
Confidence restored, the girl dashes onto the playground, where a gaggle of new friends welcome her. Attentive readers will notice that each new friend is wearing something reminiscent of the forest animals. Clever! It’s a happy, reassuring ending for a beautifully rendered tribute to the quiet kids whose imaginations help them find real-world tranquility and delight.
In Jim Helmore and Richard Jones’ Paper Planes, we meet best friends and neighbors Mia and Ben, two kiddos who are really, really into making paper airplanes. They frolic with their dogs (who show adorable and assiduous interest in everything the children do), swing on tires, go sailing and plot to build an airplane that’ll make it all the way across the giant lake behind their houses.
Readers will love the kids’ bobblehead-esque proportions—all the better to showcase Mia’s red beret and Ben’s aviator goggles. Dramatic, chalk-textured sweeps of verdant landscape and fish-filled water beckon readers to contemplate what it would be like if (oh, no!) their best friend were to move far away. When it happens to her, Mia feels abandoned and angry, but then she has a wondrous dream: A flock of geese invite her and Ben to climb in planes and join them as they fly through the sky. When Mia awakens, her emotional storm has passed—and a package from Ben arrives in the mail. Won’t she help him finish the airplane he started?
It’s fun to follow Mia’s determined quest as she realizes that strong connections aren’t easily broken. After all, “not even an ocean could keep them apart.” Paper Planes is a meditative, uplifting tale about imagination, resourcefulness and new beginnings that’s sure to inspire an uptick in paper-airplane making.