Cover image for Wingwalker
Wells, Rosemary.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Hyperion Books For Children, [2002]

Physical Description:
63 pages : color illustrations ; 27 cm
During the Depression, Reuben and his out-of-work parents move from Oklahoma to Minnesota, where his father gets a job as a carnival wingwalker and Reuben has a chance to overcome his terror of flying.
Reading Level:
650 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.3 1.0 59933.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 4.2 3 Quiz: 32818 Guided reading level: O.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Once upon a time in America, half the people lost every dime they ever had. Then the coming of the Dust Bowl hit as hard as a prairie tornado. Reuben, just completing second grade in Ambler, Oklahoma, has grown up knowing the richness of farm life. Now his father, desperate to make ends meet, takes a job as a wingwalker in a traveling county fair. Uprooted from the life he's loved and afraid of his own shadow, Reuben needs a full measure of love and courage to get by.

Author Notes

Rosemary Wells was born in New York City on January 29, 1943. She studied at the Museum School in Boston. Without her degree, she left school at the age of 19 to get married. She began her career in publishing, working as an art editor and designer first at Allyn and Bacon and later at Macmillan Publishing.

She is an author and illustrator of over 60 books for children and young adults. Her first book was an illustrated edition of Gilbert and Sullivan's I Have a Song to Sing-O. Her other works include Martha's Birthday, The Fog Comes on Little Pig Feet, Unfortunately Harriet, Mary on Horseback, and Timothy Goes to School. She also created the characters of Max and Ruby, Noisy Nora, and Yoko, which are featured in some of her books. She has won numerous awards including a Children's Book Council Award for Noisy Nora in 1974, the Edgar Allan Poe award for two young adult books, Through the Looking Glass and When No One Was Looking, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Shy Charles.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 3-5. Wells shows she can paint as well with words as she can with color in this evocative story set during the Depression. Unlike his father, a dance instructor whose head is in the clouds, Reuben, almost eight, doesn't like the idea of flying, A winning ticket at the 1933 Oklahoma Air Races entitles him to a ride in the sky with a stunt flyer, and Reuben hates every minute. When the dust starts swirling through Oklahoma, and jobs, such as dance instructor, blow into the wind, Reuben and his family wait and worry--until Father sees an ad for a carnival wing walker. The family moves to Minnesota, where dusty fields are replaced by a thousand lakes, and the homogeneous population of Ambler, Oklahoma, a community with a tattooed lady, a fire eater, and a father who dances the Tango on the wings of an airplane. And one day, to his amazement, so does Reuben. This is a beautifully crafted book. Wells has chosen her words with precision («I would forever cut a little diamond of disappointment in my father's heart»), and great care has been taken with the book design: the pages are thick, cream-colored paper, and the type is elegant yet readable. As fine as the text are Selznick's insightful Norman Rockwell-like pictures, brushed with Oklahoma dust. The rectangular pictures, placed against bare, buff-colored backgrounds, seem like windows that look backward to a time when life was different but hearts were the same. Ilene Cooper.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Studded with Selznick's evocative illustrations, Wells's affecting chapter book opens in 1933, when the young narrator wins an airplane ride with a stunt pilot at the Oklahoma Air Races. Reuben is terrified, but his airplane-mad father can't see it: "I saw pride shining in his eyes like stars," Reuben observes. "If I did not go, I would forever cut a little diamond shape of disappointment out of my father's heart." After the dreaded wild ride, Reuben swears he will never go higher than his attic window. But Reuben's sights are to be radically expanded. When dust storms turn the green prairies "the color of meal crackers," Reuben's parents lose their jobs. His father, answering an ad for a "wingwalker" who "must be brave and light on the feet" (the job entails standing on the wing of a plane as it circles above paying onlookers), moves the family to join a carnival in Minnesota. In a voice at once ingenuous and wise, Reuben relays his mutually enriching encounters with the kind carnival performers, who help him soar, literally and figuratively. Rendered in a muted palette, the art has a quiet gravity, whether showing Hopper-like streets of small towns or even people queuing at carnival attractions, their eyes averted or hidden from the viewer. The final spread has all the more power for its contrast: sunlight illuminates a cloudy sky as the hero, finally, takes wing. Ages 7-10. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-6-In this deceptively slim, slice-of-life chapter book, the narrator recounts a pivotal childhood summer. Reuben is a carefree second grader living in rural Oklahoma with his mother, a caf cook, and his father, a dance instructor, when the Depression and Dust Bowl end the family's stable, quiet way of life. Desperate for work, the boy's father takes a job as an airplane wingwalker in a Minnesota traveling carnival. Reuben's retelling of the dramatic events is subtle and matter-of-fact, filled with the small, everyday details that color memories and help readers to see life through his eyes. Although some youngsters may need historical background to understand the family's experiences, they will relate to Reuben's feelings, and to the timeless themes-coping with teasing, peer pressure, unwelcome change, and overcoming one's fears. The carnival workers are portrayed with dignity and humor. Filled with muted earth tones and hinting of folk art, Selznick's striking, bordered paintings create an evocative portrait of the era, and aptly complement the quality text. Even the endpapers reflect the period, resembling popular wallpaper patterns of the '30s. An engaging story, and a well-crafted, thoroughly enjoyable book.-Heide Piehler, Shorewood Public Library, WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.