Short Stories, Big Ideas

A review of Flying Lessons and Other Stories by Ellen Oh

I used to read short stories quite often, but it has been a long time since I had picked up a short story collection.  I was super excited to read Flying Lessons & Other Stories, not only because it has stories by some fantastic authors, but also because of the short story format.  And I was not disappointed.   I laughed and cried, and came away glad that I had an opportunity to get to know these characters.

Flying Lessons & Other Stories  is edited by Ellen Oh, the founder of We Need Diverse Books.  Flying Lessons & Other Stories gives us wonderful, diverse stories by diverse authors.  This is a highly recommended read for middle-grade students.

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 is the first story in the book and it starts out with a bang!  The style is slightly odd, being told in the second person.  But, if you can get over that, it is a powerful story about success, and the sting of failure.  About working hard for what you want and beginning to understand other people around you.  Oh yeah - and basketball!

The Difficult Path by Grace Lin This is one of my favorite stories in the book.  In ancient China, a young girl is a servant in the Li household.  The story takes an unexpected turn and is delightful.  I only wish it were longer.

Sol Painting Inc. by Meg Medina Merci and her brother are helping their father with his painting business one summer.  Merci likes the work, her brother not so much.  The story is about an incident at a fancy school.  It is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.  It can be hard when children learn that the way they see their parents is not always the same way the world sees them.  It is a powerful reminder about how hard parents, especially immigrant parents, work for their children.

Secret Samantha by Tim Federle  A story about making new friends.  I could identify with many of Sam's struggles, and had to laugh at the teacher a little, but this was not my favorite story.  

The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn by Kelly J. Baptist A powerful story about a family dealing with grief and (hopefully) redemption. The story is heartbreaking, but as told through Isaiah's point of view, you still retain hope for the future.  Definitely worth a follow up. 

Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains by Tim Tingle Choctaw Bigfoot celebrates the storytelling tradition and big families. Uncle tells a Bigfoot story.  The familiar tale with a twist is enjoyable.

Main Street by Jacqueline Woodson Another one of my favorites!  It is a tale of two girls in a small town, friendship, grief, identity, and racism.

Flying Lessons by Soman Chinani With almost no warning, Santosh's nani (grandmother) takes him on a trip to Europe.  Nani is quite a character.  While she made me laugh, I can also imagine how it must have felt to be Santosh.  Nani's wonderful insight into happiness and success are powerful and will stay with readers for a long time.

Seventy-Six Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents by Kwame Alexander  This story is written in verse, which worked well.  Have you ever dreamed of having a super power?  The story was fun and enjoyable, but I am not sure how I feel about the ending.

Sometimes a Dream Needs a Push by Walter Dean Myers  This short story collection is dedicated to the late Walter Dean Myers, and this is the perfect story to wrap up the book.  The main character in this story plays basketball in a wheelchair league.  His father becomes the coach.  A story of family, guilt, and grief.  Once again your heart breaks, but you still go away feeling hopeful.