Cover image for The Hallelujah Flight
The Hallelujah Flight
Publication Information:
New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, c2010.
Physical Description:
1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ; 25 x 27 cm.
General Note:
Maps on lining papers.
Reading Level:
AD 760 L Lexile
Added Author:
In 1932, James Banning, along with his co-pilot Thomas Allen, make history by becoming the first African Americans to fly across the United States, relying on the generosity of people they meet in the towns along the way who help keep their "flying jalopy" going.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book EASY BIL 1 1
Book EASY BIL 1 1

On Order



The extraordinary story of James Banning, the first African-American pilot to fly across country

During the Great Depression, the ace black pilot James Banning decided to fly from coast to coast to serve as an inspiration to people everywhere. So with a little ingenuity and a whole lot of heart, he fixed up the dilapidated OXX6 Eagle Rock plane with his co-pilot and mechanic, Thomas Allen, earning them the derisive nickname, "The Flying Hobos." But with the help of friends and family along the way who signed their names on the wings of the plane in exchange for food, fuel and supplies, Banning and Allen made it through treacherous weather and overcame ruthless prejudice to receive a heroes' welcome upon landing in New York on October 9, 1932.

This exceptional story of determination and pride, shown through John Holyfield's energetic flight scenes and sweeping landscapes, will put you in the cockpit right alongside Banning and Allen as they complete the journey of a lifetime.

Author Notes

Phil Bildner received a B. A. in political science from Johns Hopkins University in 1990 and a J. D. from New York University School of Law in 1993. He was admitted to the bar in both New York and New Jersey and got a job as an associate at a large Manhattan law firm. After practicing law for a year, he decided to pursue a career in education. He received a master's degree in early childhood and elementary education from Long Island University in 1995. He stopped teaching in 2006 in order to write full time.

His picture books include Shoeless Joe and Black Betsy, The Shot Heard 'Round the World, Twenty-One Elephants, Turkey Bowl, The Hallelujah Flight, and The Soccer Fence. Marvelous Cornelius won the 2016 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children's Literature. His young adult novels include Playing the Field and Busted. He also co-created the Sluggers series with Loren Long.

In 2007, he began chaperoning student-volunteer trips to Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. He co-founded The NOLA Tree, a non-profit service organization.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

This high-spirited collaboration re-creates the historic flight of James Banning, the first African-American pilot to fly across the continental United States. Bildner (co-creator of the Sluggers series) chronicles this feat in the voice of Thomas Allen, Banning's mechanic and copilot on the 1932 flight from Los Angeles to New York City. Propelled by breezy dialogue, including repeated cries of "Hallelujah!", the story opens as Banning announces how they'll fund the trip: those who donate food, fuel, and supplies along the way can write their names on the wings of the open-cockpit plane ("They'll fly into the history books right along with us!"). Dubbed the Flying Hoboes by skeptical colleagues, the duo completes their mission despite such hurdles as a leaky engine pump, a fierce storm, and racial prejudice. Rendered in acrylic paint, Holyfield's (Bessie Smith and the Night Riders) stylized paintings help this saga get off the ground effortlessly (night scenes, often lit in blue, take on the feel of movie posters). Especially uplifting is the image of the copilots saluting the sunlit Statue of Liberty from their plane, its wings crowded with signatures. Ages 5-8. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

This story is based on the 1932 flight of James Banning and Thomas Allen, the first African Americans to fly across America. Bildner's tale touches on some of the highs and lows of the journey, including the kindness of people they meet along the way. Holyfield's richly hued and well-shaded acrylic paintings show Banning and Allen taking to the skies. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

In 1932, James Banning was the first African American to complete a transcontinental flight. Told from the viewpoint of his young copilot and mechanic, Thomas Allen, this dramatic picture book relates of their historic journey, in which they flew in a small plane from Los Angeles to New York in 21 days. Unframed, double-page paintings show the pair close-up in the cramped cockpit as they fly over the Grand Canyon and head into storms, the propeller whirring, while the ground passes not too far below. Some locals help, showing the kindness of family and friends, but the dramatic pictures also reveal the prejudice the pilots encountered when they are refused use of washrooms and restaurants. Finally, they reach New York and receive a hero's welcome in Harlem. Along with the drama of the pioneer flight, kids will also enjoy the irreverent fun of the Flying Hoboes in their flying jalopy. The story of the pilots' bonding is as memorable as the breakthrough flight. An introductory author's note offers cultural and historical context.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2010 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-An engaging account based on true events. James Banning and his copilot, Thomas Allen, the "Flying Hoboes" as the story has it, became the first African-American men to fly across the country. Traveling 3300 miles in 21 days, they flew from Los Angeles to Long Island, NY, in their old, rickety OXX6 Eagle Rock plane on October 9, 1932. Landing, they were met with a hero's welcome. The story is filled with the difficulties faced by the two men throughout their journey. Two black men trying to accomplish what few other people could even hope to do during the Depression was daunting. And they faced incidents of racism along the way. But, by and large, they were met with more help and encouragement than disdain. The story is exciting and fast paced, and the writing is upbeat and inviting. Large, colorful illustrations were painted in acrylics on canvas and truly enhance the text. Unfortunately, there is very little factual information about Banning or Allen. Great as a read-alone as well as for telling aloud, this story serves to rescue two worthy men from historical obscurity. Students would benefit from knowing about them and their "Hallelujah Flight."-Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Pioneering aviator James Banning dreamed of becoming the first African-American to fly across the country, though his biplane was old and worn. Co-pilot Thomas Allen relates how that dream came true in 1932 thanks to the help of people across the country, who contributed encouragement and practical support and wrote their names on the airplane's wings to be part of the adventure. Based on both fictional and nonfiction sources, the story is briskly told in Allen's voice, with plenty of imagined dialogue. Holyfield's gorgeous oil paintings are done on textured backgrounds in a palette of blues and browns. Occasional double-page spreads emphasize the breadth of Banning's vision, while the majority of scenes show events along the way: their tiny biplane above the Grand Canyon; angry white townspeople refusing to serve them food; a ferocious storm in Pennsylvania. Naysayers called them the "Flying Hoboes" but they called it "The Hallelujah Flight." Hallelujah, indeed, to Bildner for finding and telling this story. Pair with Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride, by Pam Muoz Ryan and illustrated by Brian Selznick (1999), to illustrate the excitement of early flight. (Picture book. 5-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.