Cover image for Red-tail angels : the story of the Tuskegee airmen of World War II
Red-tail angels : the story of the Tuskegee airmen of World War II

Publication Information:
New York : Walker and Company, c1995.
Physical Description:
viii, 136 p. : illustrations.
Reading Level:
1170 L Lexile
Added Author:
A history of African American pilots with a focus on World War II.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 940.54 MCK 1 1

On Order



A history of African American pilots with a focus on World War II.

Author Notes

Patricia C. McKissack was born in Smyrna, Tennessee on August 9, 1944. She received a bachelor's degree in English from Tennessee State University in 1964 and a master's degree in early childhood literature and media programming from Webster University in 1975. After college, she worked as a junior high school English teacher and a children's book editor at Concordia Publishing.

Since the 1980's, she and her husband Frederick L. McKissack have written over 100 books together. Most of their titles are biographies with a strong focus on African-American themes for young readers. Their early 1990s biography series, Great African Americans included volumes on Frederick Douglass, Marian Anderson, and Paul Robeson. Their other works included Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African-American Whalers and Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the United States. Over their 30 years of writing together, the couple won many awards including the C.S. Lewis Silver Medal, a Newbery Honor, nine Coretta Scott King Author and Honor awards, the Jane Addams Peace Award, and the NAACP Image Award for Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman?. In 1998, they received the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

She also writes fiction on her own. Her book included Flossie and the Fox, Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend Quilt, A Friendship for Today, and Let's Clap, Jump, Sing and Shout; Dance, Spin and Turn It Out! She won the Newberry Honor Book Award and the King Author Award for The Dark Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural in 1993 and the Caldecott Medal for Mirandy and Brother Wind. She dead of cardio-respiratory arrest on April 7, 2017 at the age of 72.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

The McKissacks (Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters) add to their distinguished explorations of African American history with a well-researched, informative look at the only all-black flying unit to serve in WWII. Established in 1941, the pilot-training program at Tuskegee, Ala., had been designed as an ``experiment,'' without full military support to ensure its success and with many officers predicting utter failure. Despite segregated facilities at the base, hostile reactions from the locals and other demoralizing conditions, the aviators trained at Tuskegee went on to fly hundreds of missions over North Africa and Europe. They were known as Red Tails for the designs on their planes; they earned the nickname Red-Tail Angels with their reputation for staying with the bomber planes they escorted. The pilots of the 332nd division, the McKissacks point out, never lost a bomber-a record unmatched by any other group in the Army Air Force. As the McKissacks outline the history of the squadron, they also tell the larger story of racial tension and bigotry in the U.S. Numerous photos, from both military archives and individual fliers, depict the pilots and their deeds. Ages 8-12. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

(Picture Book) The author-illustrator packs a profusion of information about owls into a clear, concise text, and his watercolor paintings are at once homely, vigorous, humorous, and scientific. Arnosky uses a dozen American owls to demonstrate the variety of shapes and sizes among the world's 134 species. He explains the physical characteristics that equip owls as predators and talks about hunting and eating behavior and care of the young. Every page is utilized to its fullest, with softly brush-stroked backgrounds and strongly configured arrangements of owls in the foreground. Small inset drawings diagram the eye, skull, feet, a pellet, and a hatchling inside the egg. This thoughtful introduction inspires wonder as it informs. m.a.b. Marion Dane Bauer A Writer's Story: From Life to Fiction g (Intermediate, Older) When Marion Dane Bauer wrote What's Your Story?: A Young Person's Guide to Writing Fiction (Clarion), she knew it explained only half the mystery; she discussed the craft - characters, theme, plot - but not the inspiration or, as she prefers to call it, the "energy" of writing. A Writer's Story addresses this elusive topic. Although the insights into Bauer's life are chronological and abundant, this is not an autobiography or memoir with emphasis on personal growth or social milestones. Instead, this book for writers and readers details one writer's writing process and profiles the gestation and maturation of a creative self. Where What's Your Story? is prescriptive and logically organized, A Writer's Story is descriptive, with an associative organization. The fourteen chapters are loosely clustered by four often implicit, clichéd questions that here prompt stimulating responses. The opening chapters answer the question "Why did you become a writer?" by revisiting a childhood with three impetuses for writing: aloneness, yearning, and truthfulness. The next few chapters, answering "Where do you get your ideas?", pinpoint specific sources loosely clustered into five categories: unresolved "feeling memories," imagination, embroidered reality, existing stories, and actual events. "How do ideas become a novel?" is answered by a case study of Face to Face (Clarion), in which Bauer reconstructs her three-step process: creation of character, understanding of the ending (not the details, but the essence), and the chapter-by-chapter struggle to carry the character's problem and personal history to a resolution. In the final two chapters, "How did you get published?" is answered with details of Bauer's professional development, and "Why do you write for children?" takes the reader back to the book's beginning, Bauer's childhood. Through careful self-study, clear-eyed honesty, and self-effacing humor, Marion Dane Bauer succeeds in presenting a highly original portrait of the creative process. Writers, both young people and adults, and readers of her novels will find the book, as she hopes, "both interesting and useful." A Writer's Story stands on its own, but its unique content also superbly balances the more traditional information in What's Your Story? A forthcoming book, Our Stories: A Fiction Workshop for Young People, will focus on the process of revision. Taken together, the three perspectives will provide a kaleidoscopic probe into fiction writing. An index of works discussed is included. susan a. burgess Jean-Louis Besson, Author-Illustrator {{October 45}}: Childhood Memories of the War (Intermediate) Translated by Carol Volk. The author was seven years old when World War II broke out, and his childhood memories carry an air of both wonder and acceptance. His devoutly Catholic family lived in Paris and, for a short time after the outbreak of the war, with relatives in the country. The child Jean-Louis shows some awareness of the progress of the war, but mostly life just goes on. He and his classmates have jolly times singing with the British troops before Dunkirk; he observes the German troops arriving in perfect formation in his country town. In Paris, the Bessons undergo air raids and shortages of food, clothing, and fuel, but they also study in school and go to the cinema and to church and to visit friends. The whole family listens to London radio, trying to understand the real course of the war. Although they are puzzled and saddened by the disappearance of Jewish neighbors, others show no concern. In one shocking scene, Jean-Louis's mother expresses her fears to their parish priest, who replies, "The Jews allowed Jesus to be condemned on the cross! And now, what do you expect, they've got troubles." Finally, the war ends, and life slowly returns to normal. Jean-Louis Besson's low-key narrative is accompanied by small, expressive illustrations with lively cartoonlike figures and impressive double-page spreads of street scenes such as the Germans parading down the main street of the small country town, and Paris by night during the blackout. The book is notable for its truly childlike, almost nonjudgmental, point of view and for its personal, on-the-scene pictures. A worthy companion to Michael Foreman's War Boy (Arcade). a.a.f. Mary M. Cerullo Coral Reef: A City That Never Sleeps (Intermediate) Illustrated with photographs in color by Jeffrey L. Rotman. Vivid photographs of the colorful inhabitants of tropical waters command the reader's attention in this attractive introduction to coral reef ecology. Brief chapters offer informative explanations of the geography of coral reefs and the physical characteristics of coral polyps. Using the analogy of the city, Cerullo focuses on the interdependence of reef-dwelling animals. "The reef supplies food, protection, and social life for the creatures that squeeze into every available living space. Reef residents live at many different levels, like apartment dwellers in high-rise buildings. . . . Many coral reefs are more densely populated than the largest cities on Earth." She goes on to introduce many species briefly, dividing them into daytime and nighttime feeders. Hunting and survival tactics, the useful work of cleaner fish, breeding, feeding adaptations, and the special dangers of twilight time are among the interesting aspects of reef life discussed. The clarity and color of the beautiful photographs of various species of fish, sea stars, eels, octopuses, and giant clams are remarkable. Cerullo, author of Sharks: Challengers of the Deep and Lobsters: Gangsters of the Sea (both Cobblehill), ends her intelligently constructed and highly appealing presentation on a thought-provoking note, briefly discussing human activities that are destroying the reefs, as well as more constructive efforts in conservation. Bibliography and index. m.a.b. H Tom Feelings, Author-Illustrator The Middle Passage: White Ships/Black Cargo (Picture Book) In his introduction to this dramatic book, Feelings speaks of the artist as a storyteller and of his decision to use "historical narrative pictures" to capture the passion and the pain of the Middle Passage crossing from Africa to the Americas that took millions of his people into slavery. Through artwork done in pen and ink and tempera, Feelings begins his wordless story with an expansive double-page spread conveying the dignity and peace of a proud people living in their homeland. After this view, the artist plunges into scenes of raids on villages, in which people are surrounded and overpowered by attackers armed with guns, then led away, yoked and roped, in long lines on the punishing march to the sea. There they are held in dungeonlike conditions in slave forts until they can be loaded into the ships that Feelings calls "huge white birds of prey." On the ships, human beings are packed into inhumanly small spaces to maximize the profit from the cargo. Grisly scenes show beatings, rapes, and the crew clearing corpses from the hold to throw to the sharks that followed the boats. In all these harrowing portraits, the white faces of the crew spring from the dark backgrounds like spectral images of evil incarnate. Some pictures show desperate attempts at suicide and mutiny to escape from the brutal slave ships. The final pages, depicting some of the survivors (estimated at one third of all those captured) as they arrive at the slave markets, focus on people still filled with pride and strength, holding their heads high. This long-awaited work surpasses our highest expectations. Tom Feelings's drawings engage eye, mind, and heart as they speak eloquently of the infamy and suffering of the Middle Passage. h.b.z. Roy A. Gallant The Day the Sky Split Apart: Investigating a Cosmic Mystery (Older) Illustrated with black-and-white drawings and photographs. Here's a cosmic mystery of major proportions, stranger than fiction and still unsolved nearly ninety years after the cataclysmic event that has come to be called the Tunguska "meteorite." Roy Gallant, long-time teacher of astronomy, writes from personal interest in the great explosion that flattened an enormous stretch of Siberian wilderness in 1908. Though the traumatic occurrence was noted at the time around the world, scientists were amazingly slow to penetrate the forbidding landscape for serious study. Gallant writes of his own experience on a recent expedition to the site and intertwines his personal observations with a history of the slowly evolving efforts of Russian and international scientists to determine the cause of the long-ago event, which has inspired numerous scientific theories as well as science fiction. Was it a comet, meteor, or asteroid? Why did it explode before impact? And how could the damage be so profound without actual impact? The account gets bogged down at times in the threads of internecine Russian politics and scientific wrangling, but Gallant manages to hold the primary focus on the enormity of the event and the terrifying notion that it certainly could happen again. His substantial documentation and explanation includes maps and numerous photographs, fascinating in content though dull in appearance, as rather befits the impossible atmospheric conditions of this largely forsaken region. Bibliography and index. m.a.b. Belinda Hollyer Stories from the Classical Ballet (Intermediate) Illustrated by Sophy Williams. Eight classical ballets - La Bayadère, Coppélia, The Firebird, Giselle, The Nutcracker, Petroushka, The Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake - are treated in a compilation sure to delight those interested in the art form. To enhance the sense of a performance, each of the plot summaries is preceded by an interpretive full-page illustration placed opposite a descriptive internal title page designed like a theater program, which includes, among other information, the composer of the music, the author of the libretto, and the choreographer. A brief history of the ballet and its most famous performers is a thoughtful overture to the main text. A general introduction by former ballerina Irina Baronova, now a vice president of the Royal Academy of Dancing in England, offers insight into her own career as well as the development of ballet companies in the twentieth century. Her performance notes add dimension and insight, as in the discussion of her decision not to dance the role of Giselle because she felt that her physique was not sufficiently ethereal. The retellings are fluid and readable, with an emphasis on action rather than dialogue - appropriate for story versions of an art form that is essentially visual. This approach is somewhat different from that used by Geraldine McCaughrean in The Random House Book of Stories from the Ballet, which focuses on the elements of story accompanied with numerous illustrations for accenting pivotal moments. Each book in its own way delights; Hollyer's, however, may be most suited to those with more than a passing interest in the topic. m.m.b. H Kathleen Kenna A People Apart (Intermediate) Photographs by Andrew Stawicki. The Old Order Mennonites described in this fine photo essay live a life very different from that of the more modern Mennonites of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with which many people are more familiar. Closer to what easterners think of as Amish, the Old Order followers practice strict adherence to precepts that prohibit the use of modern machinery, electricity, and such gadgets as zippers. The author respectfully describes the old ways and the variations among Mennonite communities. By visiting homes and meetinghouses, the author and photographer won the trust of members of Mennonite congregations, who permitted rare photographs and shared information about their lives. The photographs themselves are of excellent quality - beautifully framed, clear, and well chosen to expand our knowledge of a unique people. Extremely personal, the book gives unusual insight into a profoundly devout culture. e.s.w. Ellen Levine A Fence Away from Freedom: Japanese Americans and World War II (Older) "After Pearl Harbor, the teachers would never say we were American citizens. Not one of them." Since the 1988 Civil Liberties Act authorized redress payments for the surviving Japanese Americans evacuated to World War II internment camps, several children's books have recounted this sorry episode in American history. Ellen Levine adds substantially to our understanding of the human experience of citizens suddenly made outcasts. Her carefully constructed account is based on in-depth interviews with thirty-five individuals who were children or teenagers when the bombing of Pearl Harbor dramatically altered their lives. Their recollections are broken into chronological and topical chunks interspersed with the author's explanations of wartime events and camp life. These personal stories of displacement form a powerful sense of the pain and injustice rendered. The emotional resonance of the personal histories, along with the detailed information about camp life, politics, and postwar events, makes the book a rich resource. The drabness of the black-and-white photographs is the only detraction from this compelling presentation. Appended material includes a glossary, a chronology, acronyms, a map, biographies, a bibliography, and an index. m.a.b. Patricia and Fredrick McKissack Red-Tail Angels: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II (Intermediate/Older) Illustrated with black-and-white photographs. Here is a piece of history that needed to be told, and the McKissacks have told it superbly. The focus is on the formation of the special 99th Fighter Squadron in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1941 for training black pilots to serve in World War II - an act fraught with political ramifications, for segregation pervaded the military as it pervaded society in general. African Americans were not allowed to serve in the regular United States Air Force until after World War II (in 1948 President Truman issued the executive order that led to the elimination of discriminatory treatment in the military). By carefully providing a context for the history of the 99th Fighter Squadron, the McKissacks not only celebrate its accomplishments but also expose and counter the erroneous theories that African Americans lacked the skill, the courage, or the faculties necessary for success as pilots in wartime. The first chapter summarizes the development of aviation from 1900 to 1939, including contributions of black aviators such as Harriet Quimby, the first woman to hold an American pilot's license. Subsequent chapters document the training, the triumphs, and the ugly treatment accorded the squadron in the South of the 1940s. Eventually, the Tuskegee airmen earned a dazzling array of honors for their bravery in battle as well as the confidence of the bomber crews they escorted. Nicknamed the Red-Tail Angels for the markings on their planes and for their unblemished record as guardians, they outperformed all other groups with a similar mission in the United States Army Air Force. Truly, they were not only pioneers but also "a powerful force that, indeed, worked to destroy the racial barriers the military and the nation were so reluctant to pull down on their own." Impeccably documented, handsomely designed, thoughtfully executed, this book by two of our most committed and talented writers gives these pioneers' accomplishments meaning for a new generation. Bibliography, glossary, and index. m.m.b. Marcia Sewall, Author-Illustrator Thunder from the Clear Sky (Intermediate) In alternating accounts, a Wampanoag and a Pilgrim tell the stories of the first encounters between their two peoples. In simple, poetic language, the Wampanoag speaks of the long-ago time when his people first saw what they took to be a floating island with tall trees and clouds. As his ancestors paddled in canoes toward the "island" - a sailing ship - "claps of thunder sounded from the clear sky." That ship and many others after it came to trade with the Wampanoag people. When Europeans came later with their families to settle, Chief Massasoit greeted them in peace and made treaties with them for mutual protection. The Pilgrim, who describes himself as "one of the First Comers to Plymouth," tells of the decisions to leave England and then Holland, of the difficult voyage, and of the acceptance of their settlement in the New World by Chief Massasoit, the Pilgrims' very good friend. As more towns and villages were established, however, tensions between the two groups began to increase, and after the death of Massasoit, his son Metacomet, called King Philip, tried to unite the native nations for their survival. With the help of what the Pilgrims called friendly Indians and the Wampanoag called traitors, the native leaders and their hiding places were betrayed, and King Philip's war ended with many deaths on both sides. The presentation of the same events from alternating points of view provides remarkable insights and material for discussion. The gouache paintings that illustrate the stories show fine attention to the accuracy of historic details. Bibliography and glossary. h.b.z. Ulli Steltzer, Author-Photographer Building an Igloo (Picture Book) In a handsome and informative photo essay, Steltzer follows Tookillkee Kiguktak and his son Jopee as they build an igloo to use as a shelter on a hunting trip. In a thorough introduction, the author explains that like other Inuit today, Tookillkee lives in a house, not an igloo, but that he learned how to build an igloo when he was young. The author also provides brief background information about the Arctic, the Inuit lifestyle, and the temporary homes made of snow. The text itself, accompanied by stunning black-and-white photographs, is spare but informative. Serving as captions to the photos, the text explains what is happening in each picture and describes the several-hour process of building an igloo, from finding the right snow and undisturbed location to placing a piece of ocean ice as a windowpane. The light and shadows are very dramatic in the clean photographs, which convey additional information and communicate the beauty of the landscape. Steltzer has created a fascinating, accessible, and respectful glimpse of a traditional art. m.v.k. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-8. This history of America's first black military aviators is as carefully researched and finely crafted as the McKissacks' previous works on Pullman porters and the civil-rights movement. After a brief account of African American aviation pioneers, they focus on the formation and training of the 332nd Fighter Group and its exploits in the North African and European campaigns of World War II. The liberal use of firsthand accounts adds an emotional intensity that makes the book nearly impossible to put down, with the experiences of Gen. Benjamin Davis, Gen. Daniel "Chappie" James, and other Tuskegee airmen revealing the extraordinary courage, determination, and sheer grit needed to survive and succeed. Readers will share the McKissacks' admiration for the Red-Tail Angels, who faced not only enemy pilots but also demoralizing and often dangerous situations in the U.S. and abroad because of discrimination and segregation within the armed forces. Black-and-white photographs illustrate the volume, and an extensive bibliography is appended. (Reviewed Feb. 15, 1996)0802782922Chris Sherman

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-The prolific McKissacks have collaborated once again to produce yet another well-crafted, thoroughly researched account of a little-known facet of African American history. Red-Tail Angels is much more than just the story of the black "Tuskegee Airmen" who served with distinction in segregated squadrons and bombardment and fighter groups under white commanding officers during the Second World War. The authors also present necessary background information that delineates the black experience in the military from the Revolutionary War through World War I. Readers learn that, "Despite their performance and character, black soldiers were not accepted by the military or by the civilian communities to which they returned." The narrative continues with historical information about flight in the U.S., women and blacks in aviation, and West Point cadets who faced tremendous odds in their struggle to become commissioned officers in the army. The rest of the coverage moves year-by-year from 1940-1945 with an epilogue for the years 1946-1948. It was, conclude the authors, the Tuskegee Airmen and their predecessors who helped create more "open doors" for the black airmen and airwomen of today and the future. This attractive book has a wonderful collection of seldom-seen historical photos and an extensive bibliography of secondary and primary sources (interviews). A lively, compelling addition to any collection.æDavid A. Lindsey, Lakewood High and Middle School Libraries, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

The powerful, inspirational story of the only African-American contingent of pilots to fly in WW II, nicknamed the Red-Tail Angels for the markings on their aircraft. This full-scale history of the Tuskegee Airmen is meticulously researched and detailed, vivid with quotes from participants and documents of the times, and extensively illustrated with black-and-white period photos. The McKissacks (Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters, 1994, etc.) provide a thoughtful, balanced look at segregation and discrimination in the US military dating from the Revolutionary War through WW II, using primary sources, court records, newspaper accounts, and written policies of the period. They also introduce other African-American aviators from the earliest days of flight, including Besse Coleman and Willa Brown. A fascinating and little- exposed area of US history. (glossary, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 12+)

Table of Contents

Authors' Notep. vii
Introductionp. 3
1 1900-1939p. 13
2 1940p. 37
3 1941p. 49
4 1942p. 61
5 1943p. 71
6 1944p. 85
7 1945p. 109
Epilogue: 1946-1948p. 121
Appendixp. 127
Bibliographyp. 129
Indexp. 132