New Children’s Book Steals the Spotlight, Sells Out at Its Debut at Oshkosh AirVenture Show
First Book by Fantasy of Flight Founder Kermit Weeks Ready for Reno Air Races Sept. 10-14
Move over “Jay Jay the Jet Plane”— a new aviation-themed children’s book is quickly gaining altitude among critics and fans.
Written by Kermit Weeks, the creator and owner of Fantasy of Flight, an aviation-themed attraction in Polk City, Fla., “All of Life is a School” (KWIP Publishing, $19.95) made its debut at the AirVenture air show, one of the world’s largest aviation events, held July 28 through Aug. 3 in Oshkosh, Wis. Response to Weeks’ book, his first children’s publication, was over-whelming. By mid-week he had completely sold out of the 400-plus copies he brought to the air show.
Now that his book has been warmly received by the public, Weeks is prepared. He plans to send 1000 copies to the Reno Air Races, September 10 – 14.
“Writing a children’s book is something I’ve always wanted to do, and of course, the aviation theme is a part of me, so it was difficult to take a step back and look at the finished work objectively,” said Weeks, a former aerobatics champion and aircraft designer. “But seeing the enthusiastic response from those who purchased the book has been truly gratifying. I think there may just be more children’s books in my future.”
Drawing on his own experiences as a young man with his head in the clouds, it is no surprise that Weeks’ main character, Gee Bee Zee, is sometimes a little too eager to take to the skies. The little yellow monoplane takes off on an important assignment without paying close attention to his flight teacher’s lessons. If not for backup from his older brother, Jimmy G., Zee might have failed at his task.
The Gee Bee brothers are accompanied by a colorful lineup of expressive vintage aircraft characters from the Golden Age of Aviation, brought to life by Weeks’ imagination and illustrations by Project Firefly.
The scene is set at the mythical “Fantasy of Flight” airfield, where many types of airplanes created in the 1920s and ’30s live and where older, wiser airplanes help youngsters push the boundaries of flight. The true-life Fantasy of Flight is the premier aviation-themed attraction open since 1995 in Polk City, Fla., and the only aircraft museum in the world showcasing daily aerial demonstrations for guests. Weeks displays more than 40 vintage airplanes at the attraction, while others in his collection are in the process of being restored for flight.
Project Firefly illustrators Ron Cohee and Robert Stanton, former Disney animators, with art coordination by Pam Darley, give effervescence to Weeks’ characters through bright hues, cartoon-like features and realistic depictions of flight maneuvers.
Eager Zee is a reproduction of the 1931 Gee Bee Model Z Super Sportster that guests can see up close at Weeks’ Fantasy of Flight attraction. Older, wiser Jimmy G. is the red-and-white monoplane based on the Gee Bee Model R-1 and named after famed pilot Jimmy Doolittle, who flew it to victory in the Thompson Trophy race of 1932. And, coming soon, Fantasy of Flight guests will be able to visit with another colorful character from the book as the attraction welcomes a new airplane to its collection —The Brown B-2 Racer “Miss Los Angeles”, which was the inspiration for Missy. Other characters are based on historic aviators and airplane designers. Flight instructor Roscoe’s character combines attributes of a Wedell-Williams plane and the renowned pilot who flew it to victory in the 1934 Thompson Trophy race, Roscoe Turner. New student Benny bears the moniker of award-winning airplane designer Benny Howard, known for his DGA (Darn Good Airplane) series of planes. Along with other airplane characters, Zee and Jimmy soar with the message that children should pursue their dreams and their passions.
It was important to Weeks that his book developed the Fantasy of Flight concept of “going beyond ourselves,” said the first-time author. “Everyone can relate to the metaphor of reaching for the sky and the stars. Within us all, we soar in our imaginations and fly in our dreams.”
Weeks says he wrote his children’s book for two reasons – to impart a valuable lesson to his daughter, Katie, and to continue laying a foundation for a new generation theme-park industry based on “things that are real. I will continue to pursue my own dreams and create Fantasy of Flight as a place where others can discover theirs.”
“All of Life is a School” (KWIP Publishing, $19.95, 64 pages) is available in hardback at the Fantasy of Flight gift shop, and through www.geebee.com.
Fantasy of Flight is an aviation-themed attraction showcasing vintage aircraft from the world’s largest private collection; themed immersion experiences; flight simulators; interactive exhibits; a tram tour of aircraft maintenance areas; Restoration and Backlot tours; and an Aerial Demonstration of the Day. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Audio tours, hot air balloon rides and biplane rides also are available. The Art Deco-styled Compass Rose Diner serves lunch daily from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.