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Benny the Biplane by Fritz Carmichael
BENNY THE BIPLANE is a beginning reader for children ages 3-8 with a bias toward education and American aviation history, particularly the rich history of the Boeing Stearman Kaydet trainer, a biplane that became ubiquitous in the training of US Army and Navy pilots during World War II.
The text is that of a traditional children’s picture book for very young readers and weighs in at just 304 words in 19 text pages (36 pages overall). Using repetition of simple time elements and clauses and mostly monosyllabic words, the text is syntactically short and easy to read. Its simplicity makes for an easy approach by young readers.
BENNY THE BIPLANE covers such concepts as jobs, sadness, hope, and success, with a resolution and an ending that reinforce the concept that even when the outlook appears dim, the future may hold better opportunities than those that have been lost.
BENNY THE BIPLANE is unlike other children’s books because It incorporates historical photographs of actual biplanes, including a list of illustrations with approximate shooting dates and locations (where available). This additional detail widens the book’s target age range, provides additional information for interested readers, and creates additional learning and discussion opportunities for children, their parents, librarians, and educators.
For flying nuts (we’re not sure that’s the technically correct term, but we’re running with it anyway), these photographs may bring back memories of the rich heritage of biplanes in the United States and Europe.
The initial reaction, from some readers raised on heavily saturated picture books with unchallenging underlying themes, may be, “Huh?” We get it–this book is unlike most children’s books on the market. From an educational standpoint, the book provides excellent reading practice for children who are still mastering the fundamentals of simple sentence structure and common word forms. It should appeal to young boys who are only modestly interested in books and reading, though we have found that girls love the book as much as or more than boys do.
Children as young as three years have enjoyed having BENNY THE BIPLANE read to them (they also enjoy hauling the book with them and inflicting as much “personalization” as possible on the book–the tactile approach to reading, one that we fully endorse).
As a picture book, BENNY THE BIPLANE is relatively short, so it’s a great, easy read on those nights when a longer book won’t quite fit the bill. We hope you love it!
As an aside, we’ve noticed that military veterans seem to love this book–just an idea for those searching for a unique gift.