Black Dove, White Raven

Written by Elizabeth Wein
Review by Kristen Hannum

Emilia’s and Teo’s mothers were stunt pilots, flying in 1920s airshows across America despite the Jim Crow laws that made it difficult for the mixed-race duo to travel and work together. When a bird flies into their plane’s propeller and Teo’s mother is killed, Emilia’s mother becomes Momma to both children. She keeps alive Teo’s mother’s dream of going to Ethiopia, Teo’s father’s homeland. By the time Momma gets them to Ethiopia in the mid-1930s, the Italians are shaping plans to invade, and the prospect of war threatens to turn their dream into a nightmare.

This young adult novel is an insightful and memorable visit to a racist 1930s America and a fast-developing yet, in some ways, medieval Ethiopia. Teo and Emilia are winning characters who are easy to care about, and Momma (like the other adult characters) is more flawed – yet also brave and appealing. Wein tells her story, with its suspense and unexpected twists, through flight logs, letters, notes passed between Teo and Emilia, and classroom assignments, all written by the two siblings over the course of their early adolescence. This epistolary style told me what had happened but didn’t allow me to see Ethiopia through the characters’ eyes. I kept wishing someone would make the book into a movie so I could actually walk – and fly – alongside Teo and Emilia.