Stone (Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream) opens with an enticing question, “What is it like to jump out of an airplane?” The answer, which lets readers imagine doing just that as a paratrooper, will immediately draw them into this thorough story of the U.S. military’s first black paratroopers. More than just an account of their endeavors during WWII, the narrative takes on a broader perspective as it contextualizes the story of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion. Set against the entrenched racism of the 1940s, the nine chapters include asides about media stereotypes regarding African-Americans and how photographs of black soldiers were often left out of the military record. Myriad quotations from personal interviews and more than 100 b&w photos reveal the heroism and perseverance of these groundbreaking men. While they didn’t see combat (they were instead sent out West to become smoke jumpers), Stone’s final chapters reveal how the Triple Nickles’ service helped integrate both the military and society at large. A captivating look at a small but significant piece of military and civil rights history. Ages 10–up. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Jan.)
The fascinating untold story of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, America's first black paratroopers. While white American soldiers battled Hitler's tyranny overseas, African-Americans who enlisted to fight for their country faced the tyranny of racial discrimination on the homefront. Segregated from white soldiers and relegated to service duties and menial tasks, enlisted black men faced what Ashley Bryan calls in the foreword "the racism that was our daily fare at the time." When 1st Sgt. Walter Morris, whose men served as guards at The Parachute School at Fort Benning, saw white soldiers training to be paratroopers, he knew his men would have to train and act like them to be treated like soldiers. Daring initiative and leadership led to the creation of the "Triple Nickles." Defying the deeply ingrained stereotypes of the time, the Triple Nickles proved themselves as capable and tough as any white soldiers, but they were never used in combat, serving instead as smoke jumpers extinguishing Japanese-ignited forest fires in the Pacific Northwest. Stone's richly layered narrative explores the cultural and institutional prejudices of the time as well as the history of African-Americans in the military. Her interviews with veterans of the unit provide groundbreaking insight. Among the archival illustrations in this handsomely designed book are drawings Bryan created while he served in World War II. An exceptionally well-researched, lovingly crafted and important tribute to unsung American heroes. (photographs, chronology, sources note, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10 & up)
Rich with detail, the pictures not only complement the narrative, but also tell a stirring story of their own, chronicling the triumphs and frustrations of the soldiers as they pursued their dreams. Complete accessibility to a wide range of readers, coupled with expert research and meticulous care, makes this a must-have for any library.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
An exceptionally well-researched, lovingly crafted and important tribute to unsung American heroes.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A captivating look at a small but significant piece of military and civil rights history.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Written with great immediacy, clarity, and authority, Stone’s vivid narrative draws readers into the Triple Nickle’s wartime experiences. Many well-chosen quotes enhance the text, while excellent black-and-white illustrations, mainly photos, document both the men of the 555th and racial prejudice on the home front...This handsome volume documents the sometimes harrowing, often frustrating, and ultimately rewarding experiences of the Triple Nickles.
—Booklist (starred review)
This will appeal to readers who like history, adventure, and the military. ... [Stone's] strength as an author is that she makes rereading the text a joy.
The book’s focus is wide: there are excellent sections on segregation and stereotypes in American history, Japanese American internment camps, Japanese balloon bombs, the Battle of the Bulge, and Operation Firefly, brought to life with archival photographs and Stone’s always clear prose.
Richly illustrated with photographs, this compelling story of the Triple Nickles’ training and Pacific coast mission will be of particular interest to young teens who have read Shelley Pearsall’s Jump into the Sky (BCCB 10/12), and the appended bibliography, timeline, notes, and index will guide their further exploration of these heroes.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
The well-researched book includes interviews with many of the original paratroopers. ... This would be a good book for use in a study of World War II, a look at the civil rights movement, or a unit on discrimination.
—Library Media Connection
Stone opens her new book with what it felt like to be a paratrooper — the thrill and the fright of jumping out of an airplane, ready for battle… Facing racial intolerance and raging fires, pushing for integration and opportunity, the Triple Nickles make clear that courage has no color but many facets.
—The Washington Post
Stone weaves the story of these brave men and their wartime efforts within the larger story of discrimination within the military and the nation itself...This is outstanding nonfiction and is a real curriculum gem as well as being a deeply compelling reading experience.
—Booklist's Blog Bookends
Through interviews with World War II veterans such as Walter Morris, Tanya Lee Stone's illustrated history tells the little-known story of the Army's 555th Infantry Battalion of black soldiers, who had to fight racism within the military for the right to jump out of planes.
A fascinating, thorough and inspiring account.
Consider this a fine bit of research and history that deserves praise and honors galore.
—A Fuse #8 Production (SLJ blog)
[A]n inspiring tale that fits into curriculum units on American history, WW2, black history, civil rights history and even a discussion on bullying and racism. ... But this is a book for adults as well. Meticulously researched using primary source material, the story comes alive against the background of segregation, American values vs. Hitler's monstrous acts, and the passions of young American men who were frustrated in demonstrating their loyalty to their country by the color of their skin.
—Huff Post Impact (blog)
Balancing a rich mix of photos and illustrations, Courage is narrative-focused — perfect for introducing inquisitive schoolchildren to America's complicated history with race and the military.