Anthology review: Flying Lessons & Other Stories by Ellen Oh

Flying Lessons & Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh
Featuring: Kwame Alexander, Kelly J. Baptist, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Source: Borrowed from my library

Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold anthology—written by the best children’s authors—celebrates the uniqueness and universality in all of us.

In a partnership with We Need Diverse Books, industry giants Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson join newcomer Kelly J. Baptist in a story collection that is as humorous as it is heartfelt. This impressive group of authors has earned among them every major award in children’s publishing and popularity as New York Times bestsellers.

From these distinguished authors come ten distinct and vibrant stories.

I always find it a little difficult to review anthologies. Especially in this one, there’s such a mix of stories. I’ve broken it down into each individual story and then done an average review at the end.

How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium by Matt de la Peña

This short story was so inspiring! The main character was so focused on succeeding in his dream of playing basketball even when the other players didn’t accept him. It took me a little while to adjust to the story being written in the second person, but it didn’t end up being as much of an issue for me as I would’ve expected. There was a great lesson at the end of this one.

Rating:  ★★★★☆

The Difficult Path by Grace Lin 

Overall, this kind of middle-grade historical fiction is probably one of my least favorite genres. (I probably would’ve loved it when I was actually considered middle-grade.) This was a good story, but it felt a little pushy in its lesson.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Sol Painting Inc. by Meg Medina

Merci was so determined to be successful even though she’s so young! I loved her can-do attitude. Her father clearly loved her to pieces and it broke my heart a little bit that he was willing to do anything necessary to give her a good education.

The racist little white girls made me so upset! There’s definitely a good lesson to be had in this one.

Rating:  ★★★★☆

Secret Samantha by Tim Federle

Of all the short stories in this anthology, this is the one I liked the most. I would’ve loved to read a full-length novel about Sam!

Rating: ★★★★★

The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn by Kelly J. Baptist

This one was so sad. I suppose it was supposed to be heartwarming at the end, but there was never really any resolution.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains by Tim Tingle

I couldn’t really connect with this one. I think this is for even younger than middle grade?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Main Street by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson is the only author in this anthology that I’ve previously read. She’s a beautiful writer and this short story was no exception. It’s an incredibly well-written look at race, stereotypes, and friendship.

Rating: ★★★★★

Flying Lessons by Soman Chainani

I really liked this one! I can relate a lot to our protagonist, a nerdy boy who would rather read than interact with people his own age. His grandma actually has to set him up with a cute boy and it was so sweet!

Rating: ★★★★★

Seventy-Six Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents by Kwame Alexander 

I don’t really understand the more fantastical aspects of this story. Is it supposed to be real? It’s still a fun story, very different from the others, and I’m sure that middle-grade readers will really enjoy it!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Sometimes a Dream Needs a Push by Walter Dean Myers

It’s interesting that this book starts and ends with basketball. This is a nice story about a father who decides to coach his son’s wheelchair basketball team. It was a little sports-heavy for me (see above about how I related most to the nerdy boy with his face in a book) but still a good story.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall

This anthology ended up being aimed a little younger than I was expecting, but I still enjoyed a lot of the short stories! My average rating was 3.7, so I’ll round up to 4.

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