Up, Up, and Away? Flight School by Lita Judge
"I WAS HATCHED TO FLY," SAID PENGUIN.
"BUT, DEAR, YOU ARE A PENGUIN," TEACHER SAID.
"UNDENIABLY," SAID PENGUIN. "BUT I HAVE THE SOUL OF AN EAGLE."
When a rotund young penguin, obviously far from home, arrives to matriculate at a tropical flight school, it certainly doesn't appear to the staff or the other students that he has the right stuff.
What can a good teacher say in the face of such a burning urge to learn?
Perched on their pilings, the other students--Flamingo, Owl, Booby, Wood Duck, and Cormorant--stifle the urge to scoff at Penguin's unimpressive wingspan and quite un-aerodynamic contours, and pitch in to try to help the new student. With his red goggles and eager good-natured face, Penguin is so appealing that they smile as his claim that he is "born to soar" and let him join them on their perches as they practice their flapping.
But Penguin's first soar ("Geronimo!") turns into a dive as he plummets below the sea and glides underwater. Teacher peers dubiously down into the depths through her spectacles as clownfish and angelfish flee in all directions.
"I'M SORRY, BIRDIE," SAID TEACHER.
"PENGUINS AREN'T BUILT TO FLY."
"I JUST NEED A LITTLE HELP WITH THE TECHNICAL POINTS," COUNTERS PENGUIN.
But at last a sad Penguin is about to give up and crank up the outboard on his boat to chug south, when Flamingo has an idea. Penguin is outfitted with an assortment of wing feathers secured by fishing line, and Flamingo lifts off with Penguin in tow as a glider behind him. It's a thrill as Penguin manages a few flap flap flip, flaps in flight before he loses air speed and plunges down to earth again!
It's no perfect three-point landing for Penguin, as he hangs upside down from his fishing line feathers in a palm tree, but it's enough for Penguin to have achieved his dream. His classmates and a visibly relieved Teacher watch a happy penguin finally head off happily for home. Whew!
But in a few days Teacher spots his little red boat approaching again. And who's that in the passenger seat?
An ostrich with the "soul of a swallow?"
A guy can dream, can't he? is the theme of Lita Judge's newest, Flight School (Atheneum Books, 2014). In illustrations reminiscent of Helen Lester's Tacky the Penguin Judge's motley assortment of birds are a comic cast of characters, each with his own personality and body language which helps tell this story of improbable aspirations. Page design, with alternating use of spot art and full-page watercolor and pencil drawings, offers both predictable and surprising outcomes, and the final page spread, with the hopeful but naive ostrich and the dubious flight students is hilarious. Here we go again!