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Flying Lessons & Other Stories Summary & Study Guide Description
Flying Lessons & Other Stories Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
The following version of the book was used to create this study guide: Oh, Ellen, editor. Flying Lessons & Other Stories. Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017.
Flying Lessons & Other Stories is a collection of 10 short stories edited by Ellen Oh. The stories vary in form and content, but all center around young people of approximately 10 to 15 years old. As the editor, Oh explains in the foreword, the stories are linked not only by their focus on adolescents, but by their focus on diversity in literature. Many of the stories focus on non-white characters, have LGBTQ themes, or focus on issues such as disabilities.
The collection opens with the story “How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium” by Matt De La Pena. In this story, narrated in the second person, You is a young male basketball player who is about to enter high school. The story is told in the second person, addressing the reader as if the reader were the main character. After learning about a place called Muni Gym where all of the cities’ top underground players go to practice, you spend every day of your summer hitching a ride with your Dad to work and walking more than an hour from his factory to the gym. At first, no one allows you to play because you are seemingly so young, small, and unskilled. Instead, you are harassed and mocked for your repeated appearances at the gym. One day, the gym’s best player, Dante, tells you he is sick of seeing you. He wants you to leave and never come back. When you protest, he gives you one opportunity to prove yourself in a game. During the game, you are the best player on the court and score the winning point, proving your worth. After this day, you are constantly chosen for games. When school starts and you think back to your summer, you realize that the most important things you learned actually happened off the court, during your interactions with your fellow players.
In “The Difficult Path” by Grace Lin, the narrator and protagonist is a young girl named Lingsi. She is a servant to the powerful Li family in Imperial China. When Lingsi was sold to the Li family, her mother forced Mrs. Li to promise that when Lingsi turned six, she would learn to read. On Lingsi’s sixth birthday, Mrs. Li can’t get the ancestral incense to light, and the tutor suggests it is due to a broken promise. Mrs. Li recalls her promise and Lingsi is allowed to begin studying reading and writing alongside the family’s oafish son, FuDing. Lingsi is an exceptional student, and she passes through the years learning as much as she can and studying hard. When her final lesson comes, even the tutor is sad he will no longer have the pleasure of teaching her. Lingsi is devastated that her days as a student are over, but she doesn’t have much time to mourn as the servants must begin preparing for a procession to the Infinite Stream Temple, where FuDing will be presented to a matchmaker with the hopes of finding him a wife. En route to the temple, the traveling party is ambushed by the Red Fleet Flag band of pirates. When Lingsi wakes after the attack, she finds she has been taken prisoner aboard one of the ships. Surprisingly, the captain of the Red Flag Fleet is a woman, Tianyi. Tianyi orders Lingsi to be released, but Lingsi begs to stay. Tianyi finally allows Lingsi to remain onboard if she agrees to teach her how to read.
In “Sol Painting, Inc.” by Meg Medina, the protagonist and narrator is 12-year-old Merci, who is spending her summer working with her brother Roli for her Papi’s painting company. Roli excels in school, while Merci is more aloof. Instead of academics, she prefers to focus on the idea of someday running Papi’s company and transforming it into a painting and home improvement empire. One day, while the three of them are working together, Papi surprises his children by taking them to do a painting job at Seaward Pines, the prestigious school where Roli is currently a student, and Merci will start school in the fall. Papi tells them he agreed to paint the gym in exchange for Merci’s tuition. Merci is focused on the work, but Roli is clearly humiliated to be working there. While the crew paints the gym, a group of Seaward Pines students burst into the gym. At first, they accidentally smear the fresh paint--but after realizing the paint is wet, they begin to purposefully play fight, and ruin the paint job as a result. When a school representative comes to apologize on the girls’ behalf, Papi is not angry. Instead, he remains calm, and accepts the apology, no matter how insincere it may be. Merci expects him to become angry, and is shocked at his passivity. In addition to being mad at the group of girls, she becomes angry with Papi, and feels that he was simply willfully ignoring the problem. Back at home, Merci continues to ignore Papi. Roli helps her understand that Papi’s action was actually him making a sacrifice so that Merci, whose tuition to a good school was being paid with money from that job, may have better opportunities.
In “Secret Samantha” by Tim Federle, Sam is a sixth-grader coming to terms with her “boyish” looks and interests. She is also dealing with the fact that it is her first Christmas with divorced parents. Sam’s teacher, Miss Lee, announces the class will be conducting a Secret Santa--a game in which students are assigned another student, to whom they have to secretly send a gift. The students choose “elf names” to represent themselves in the game, and Sam gives the name Sparkles when she really wishes to give the name Flame. Then, a new girl arrives to class who is outspoken and abnormally dressed. She gives the name Blade for the Secret Santa, and Sam picks her as her partner. Sam becomes fascinated with Blade, and agonizes over the idea of what to get her. At the mall, she buys both a makeup kit and a pair of skull-patterned shoelaces, and ultimately chooses the makeup kit as the gift. Blade is clearly disappointed when she receives the gift, and Sam is disappointed when she receives a gift of a sparkly pink purse. Sam feels like she wants to impress Blade, and also that no one understands her. Ultimately, Sam decides to give Blade the shoelaces as a backup gift, and Blade is thrilled. She transforms the shoelaces into a pair of friendship bracelets.
In “The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn” teenager Isaiah recently lost his father and has since been responsible for taking care of his young sister, Charlie, in addition to his depressed, alcoholic mother. One day, Isaiah stumbles upon a golden notebook and inside finds it is filled with stories his dad wrote. In the stories, Isaiah is portrayed as a superhero, who gains powers after eating his mother’s beans and rice. Isaiah begins working to transcribe the stories and enter them into a story story contest sponsored by the library. Meanwhile, Isaiah’s family gets evicted from their home and is forced to stay in a one-room motel that smells like cigarette smoke. Isaiah begins acting out at school when his classmates mock him for smelling like smoke. At home, he criticizes his Mama for not having a job, and accuses her of using all of the family’s money to get drunk. He expresses how sad he is at the loss of his father, and how she isn’t the only one who is allowed to be sad because of his death. Isaiah runs off to the library, where he finishes transcribing the story for the contest. Mama and Charlie find him there, and she apologizes to him. They bond over the stories in the notebook.
In “Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains” by Tim Gunn, a young Choctaw boy named Turtle Kid is enjoying a weekend with his family at his grandmother’s house. His Uncle Kenneth beckons him over and launches into a long and detailed story about the Chukma family. As he tells the story, more and more cousins begin gathering around Uncle Kenneth to hear the tale. In the story, the family’s car breaks down in the woods, and they are attacked by a bigfoot-like creature known as Naloosha Chitto. The family hurries into the woods, where they attempt to hide from Naloosha Chitto. Their escape efforts are aided by little, elf-like people known as the Bohpoli, who distract Naloosha Chitto so the family can escape and make it safely to the park ranger’s office. When Uncle Kenneth attempts to wrap up the story, the cousins all have questions and want more details about the Chukma family. Uncle Kenneth does his best to answer the questions, but eventually cuts them off, proclaiming the official end to the tale, and the family embraces.
In “Main Street” by Jacqueline Woodson, the narrator Treetop lives in an idyllic New Hampshire town. She is presently recovering from the sudden death of her mother due to an unnamed illness. One day, a new girl named Celeste moves into the town and becomes fast friends with Treetop. Celeste is the only black girl who lives in the town, which is both surprising for the town’s residents and for Celeste herself. Treetop’s friends alienate her and Celeste due to their own ignorance and racism. Still, this doesn’t hurt the friendship or stop Celeste from fighting back against those who would discriminate against her. After Celeste has lived in the town for some time, her mother decides they are moving back to New York City. Treetop and Celeste make a promise to meet in New York City when they are 18 years old. After Celeste leaves town, Treetop’s old friends slowly begin talking to her again. Yet, Treetop can’t help but feel she is changed, and is no longer the person she was before. For the first time, she sees beyond her small-minded town and thinks ahead to when she someday will have the opportunity to leave.
In “Flying Lessons” a 12-year-old Indian-American named Santosh is in Barcelona with his grandmother, Nani. They are wrapping up the final days of a three-week excursion throughout Europe, which Nani whisked him away on without asking his opinion. Santosh excels in school and hoped the trip would be a tour of cultural institutions and landmarks. Instead, the trip has involved Nani taking him on a series of absurd adventures and leaving him strange places to fend for himself. On their third to last day, she takes him to the beach and leaves him there. He ends up hiding in a cave, and Nani berates him for his failure to make friends. The next day, he returns to the beach and is accidentally hit with a ball by a boy named Tomas and his friends. Tomas invites him to join the game, but Santosh assumes he is just being nice and refuses. Nani later tells Santosh she witnesses the entire scene and doesn’t understand why he refused to play. Nani explains that the real point of the trip was to expose Santosh to a different type of life than the academic rigor he is used to. While she is proud of his success in school, she can tell that school being his sole focus is starting to make him sad. Santosh is offended, but does deeply desire to make friends. The next day, he returns to the beach without telling Nani and sees Tomas lying next to a girl. Nani shows up and strolls over to Tomas, where she pretends to faint, giving Santosh and Tomas an excuse to talk. They talk for the rest of the day, until Tomas has to leave.
In “Seventy-Six Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents: A Story-In-Verse” by Kwame Alexander, the narrator, Monk, writes a memoir in verse for his seventh-grade class. He explains how he plans to embellish his life story ever-so-slightly. First, he explains that he has always been a social outcast; considered nerdy for his passions like Star Wars. He also explains he has never had much success with girls. Then, his tale turns to one day when he and his family were driving. His father briefly fell asleep behind the wheel, causing Monk to hit his head against the seat in front of him. After an intense headache, Monk realizes he can hear the thoughts of those around him. He tells his best friend, Herve, who doesn’t believe him. Monk decides to prove his power to his friend the next day in school. Monk knows that the teacher, Mr. Olley, will be giving a pop quiz. He decides to ask Mr. Olley about the quiz, and reads his thoughts to learn the quiz’s contents. Then, Monk asks questions about the specific quiz topics, which causes Mr. Olley to panic and cancel the quiz. Everyone hails Monk as a hero, except for Angel Carter, his crush. She comes up to him in the hallway and tells him he isn’t that special. Monk proceeds to challenge Angel by having her ask him a question he could never know the answer to. He proceeds to correctly guess the city in which Angel’s grandmother lives. Then, in another round, he correctly guesses how much it cost Angel’s mother to have her hair braided. Yet, rather than humiliate Angel in front of their classmates, Monk tells Angel he will drop the challenge if she walks him to his next class while holding his hand.
In “Sometimes a Dream Needs a Push” by Walter Dean Myers, Chris is a young boy who is confined to a wheelchair after a car accident in which his father was driving. His father was a professional basketball player some time ago, and Chris loved to play basketball before his accident. After the accident, his father became emotionally closed off, as he blamed himself for Chris’s injury. One day, an elder at Chris’s church tells him about a new wheelchair basketball team he is trying to start. Chris is eager to join, and his family attends a game between two other teams. Chris is disappointed, as his dad does not seem interested in the game. Yet, it turns out that his dad actually wants to help the team, and shows up at Chris’s first practice to help them learn shooting and passing fundamentals. At Chris’s team’s first game, they don’t win--but they play well, and this is enough to make them happy and decide to continue with the game. While Chris’s dad doesn’t continue to attend every practice, he attends the games. Chris gains a new understanding about his father and learns to appreciate his father’s unique shows of support.
This section contains 2,527 words
(approx. 7 pages at 400 words per page)