Fly Away Home is a powerful picture book about homelessness. The narrator and his father live at the airport. In spare prose, the boy tells his story.
“My dad and I live in an airport . . . the airport is better than the streets.” So begins the narrative by a young boy who matter-of-factly describes his daily existence. The simple text touches on many emotions: sadness because the boy lost his mother, anger and resentment of those who have a home, and hope and hopelessness. The title Fly Away Home refers to an episode wherein the boy is given hope when a bird trapped in the airport flies to freedom.
This book makes a great readaloud and springboard for discussion. While listening, students will be so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. They are utterly sympathetic to the family’s plight. After reading, discussions of homelessness, loss of a parent, and hope follow naturally.
The illustrations complement the text. Ronald Himler’s watercolors show the vast impersonal nature of the airport and the efforts of the boy and his father to fade into the background. Often, the two are quite literally in the background. The pictures convey intense loneliness and determination.
My students often make the connection to The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith and his son, Jaden Smith. That movie dramatizes the true story of a man who became a successful stockbroker despite the significant obstacle of having neither money nor a home.
Click here for a lesson plan and worksheet (on page 3.)