Airplane Books and Activities

Airplanes offer endless fascination for children.  How do airplanes stay in the air?  Why do they not fall down when it rains?  Why do they make so much noise? What happens at the airport? And why don’t airplanes flap their wings?  Luckily there are many wonderful books about airplanes to answer all these questions and more.   

Airplane books and activities.  The 50 books on this list are about airplanes, flight and flying.  Here you will find books that are educational (Jet Plane: how it works), entertaining (A Glorious Flight), inspiring (Who is Amelia Earhart), and encouraging hands on exploration (Wright Brothers for kids).  For ease of navigation I divided the following list of 50 books into four sections: Our Favorites (mixed ages), For the little ones (0-3), As they grow (4-8) and For Very Serious Explorers (7 and up).

The 50 books on this list are about airplanes, flight and flying.  Here you will find books that are educational (Jet Plane: how it works), entertaining (A Glorious Flight), inspiring (Who is Amelia Earhart), and encouraging hands on exploration (Wright Brothers for kids).  

 
For ease of navigation I divided the following list of 50 books into four sections: Our Favorites (mixed ages), For the little ones (0-3), As they grow (4-8) and For Very Serious Explorers (7 and up).  My kids are 7, 4, and 2 and I state recommended age based on my experience of reading these books to them. I highlight some books, and just mention the others. 
 
Where it’s appropriate I include airplane activities and related web links.  I hope you will find our list useful in selecting your next book about airplanes and flying.
 
For your convenience, this post contains affiliate links to amazon.  If you buy something through my links, I will get a small commission at no cost to you.  Thank you for supporting my blog.  
 

Top 10 Favorite Airplane Books 

Simple Science: Flight
This is a fun read for all ages.  This book explores amazing world of aviation with humor and presents complex ideas in a way that is easy to follow.  The silly illustrations are not only colorful but guide understanding.  Some of the fun things discussed in this book are How Wings work,Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machines, what does the shape of airplane has to do with flying, and who invented the controllable airplane. We like the colorful boxes that jump off the page with fun tidbits. Did you know that hummingbird can flap its wings up to 80 times a second? I can only manage five and that’s after practicing all day.
 
Activities:
(2) Try this exciting STEM kit called Fly with me from a Groovy Lab in a Box
 
A day at the Airport by Richard Scarry
2. A day at the Airport by Richard Scarry (2-8)
The plot of the story is simple and I don’t think it alone can account for the endless fascination that this book offers.  I think it’s a combination of silly illustrations and improbable events.  My kids sit and look at the pages for the longest time and always find something new to bring to my attention that they want to discuss.  Kittens travel in a hot dog shaped air balloon, suitcases burst open, cars get smashed, hats escape their owners … How silly is all that!  Get this book not for information (although it’s a great resource for airport vocabulary with over 70 labeled words) but for the silliness and fun.  I haven’t yet met a kid that didn’t enjoy this book.
Activity:

Enjoy Richard Scarry Airport Game. The object of the game is to pick up passengers and fly them to their destination. At the destination player picks up a souvenir. The player with the most souvenir points wins. Lots of adding and counting for older kids, fine motor movement for younger ones (in loading and unloading the airplanes). Even my 2-year old participates as long as I “help” him to figure out the next step, but manufacturer recommended age is 3 and up.
 
 

3. The Magic School Bus Taking Flight: a book about Flight by Joanna Cole (4 and up) Mrs. Frizzle’s class takes a trip to the model airplane show and ends up taking a flight in a remote control plane.  They are in for a wild run when the remote control gets broken and they have to figure out a way to land safely.  My kids understand that adventures of the School Bus are not possible in real life and that makes them all the more exciting.  The main flying concepts like “lift” and “push” are mentioned and illustrated. Activities:

(1) We liked this free Lesson from the Scholastic.  My kids especially liked testing what would fly farther a flat sheet of typing paper, a crumpled paper ball or a paper airplane.
(2) Try The Magic School Bus: soaring into flight (The Young Scientist Club) kit.  Recommended for ages 5 and up.

 

4.  Jet Plane: How it works by David MaCaulay (6 and up) This book makes the process of flying understandable to kids and their parents.  For example, the wings of the jet airplane are curved on top and flat on the bottom.  As the plane moves forward “the air moves faster over the wings than under them.  The faster air pulls up.  The slower air pushes up.  This creates a force called lift.”  As always, David MaCaulay manages to take big ideas like lift, thrust,combustion chamber, and break it into its components, so that even a 7-year old can feel like an expert on a subject.  MaCaulay’s illustrations are superb and the diagrams contribute to understanding.  The diagram that shows how throttle is connected to fuel tank that sends extra fuel to engines finally allowed me to see the process that I only imagined in my head. Activity: Make this cut-and-fold jet plane with Kid Spot  

5. Going on a Plane (Usborne First Experience) (2 and up) This is the first airplane book we ever owned.  I bought it before the first airplane flight with my oldest just before he turned two.  He loved this book then and he still loves it now at seven!  This book introduces children to all the things that are involved in airplane travel.  From packing the bags to checking the luggage at the airport, from getting ready for take-off to landing… With this book kids will definitely know what to expect at the airport and during their flight.  There is some silliness to spice up somewhat boring events: daddy spills the content of Rosie’s basket in the airport, mommy’s hat flies off while getting off the plane.  Looking for a duck hiding on each page never gets old.  I definitely recommend reading this book (and taking it with you to read on a plane), if you are planning to be flying with small children. Activities:  Sing some airplane songs and make a toilet paper roll airplane decorated with glitter with Child Care Lounge.    

6.  The Wright Brothers for kids by Mary Kay Carson (6 and up) This amazing book offers a mixture of valuable information, rare photos from the Wright Brothers’ personal collection (no less), quality diagrams and illustrations AND hands on activities!  How can it get better than that!  I personally learned some things about the brothers and their invention that I have never knew before.  My kids were impressed with the close relationship between brothers. Activities: 21 activities included in the book  

7. From Birds to… aircraft: 21stcentury skills Innovation Library (2013) (7 and up) Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci tried to build a flying machine based on observations of birds back in 15th century?  Out of his observations came a book called Codex on the Flight of Birds, but none of his flying machines managed to fly.  Another Italian inventor Danian de Falcuis even used chicken feather to construct wings. He attached those chicken wings to his own arms and jumped off a castle wall.  And you know what happened?  He flew like a bird!  Ok, not really.  What happened was he fell down like a rock and broke a leg.  This book is full of similarly exciting stories for children.  Recommended age 7 and up. Activities: (1) Make and fly a kite (2) Read an article about an intricate interplay between Birds and Airplanes on Live Science.  This article promotes a lot of vivid discussion.  

 

8. The Noisy Airplane Ride by Mike Downs (3 – 9) Finally!  All the whirrs, chugs, and roars of an airplane are explained.  This book – written by an airline pilot and a father of three – captured our hearts with its cute rhyming, onomatopoeia, and colorful illustrations. “Stomp, stomp, tromp/ down the Jetway with a grin/ take your seat and buckle in/ Wusshh… A vent above sends cool air/ It makes you blink and blows your hair…”  If you are going on a plane and taking only one book with you, make it this one.  You will not be stumped for an answer when you here, “What’s that noise?” Activity: This book is great for introducing the subject of Onomatopoeia to kids.  Onomatopoeia refers to words that mimic the sound (or action) they represent.  Moo, beep-beep, and bang-bang are all good examples. Read some great poems and talk about onomatopoeia with the help of this site.  

 

9.  The Glorious Flight by Alice Provensen (4 – 9) This Caldecott Medal winner is a historical fiction for kids at its best.  It has humor, great illustrations (of course), and accurate facts.  It talks about Louis Bleriot, the first man to fly across the English Channel in a flying machine of his own design and construction.  Its narration style brings to my mind Amelia, an Oscar-winning French movie of about 10 years ago. Activity: A great point of discussion after reading this book is perseverance and the value of mistakes in invention.  Berliot failed numerous times, broke bones, airplanes and lost money.  Yes, he didn’t give up.  Being good at something usually involves a lot of work.  I find this guide to fostering Learn-from-mistakes environment super helpful.  

 

10. The Little Airplane by Lois Lensky (2 – 8) We have yet to met Lois Lensky book that we haven’t liked and if you have kids who are interested in airplanes they will definitely love this book.  There is just the right mix of text and color.  We thought a good focus for the lesson to go with this book is “I want to be a Pilot.”  We talked about what’s like to be a pilot, what kind of things pilots need to know and played Blind-fold landing game.  To play this game: a child who is a pilot stands by one side of the room, his eyes are covered with a scarf, he needs to listen to the air traffic controller’s instructions “a bit to the left, now straight, a bit to the right,…” to get to the other side of the room and “land” safely. Activities: Airplanes games, songs, crafts and more from Mommy Lessons 101.  

 

For the Little Ones (0-3)

 

11. Away in my airplane by Margaret Wise Brown  

12.  This Plane by Paul Collicut.  Very colorful illustrations of large airplanes with one sentence per page.  “This plane is made of wood and canvas.”  “This plane is made of metal.”  My 2-year old can not get enough of it.  My 4-year old likes to trace the airplanes with tracing paper.  And my 7-year old builds his models using the illustrations in this book.  

13.  Planes (Usborne Lift and Look)  

14.  Usborne Flip Flap Airport

15.  Lettice: the Flying Rabbit by Mandy Stanley  

16. Amazing airplanes by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker  

17. Freddie goes on an airplane by Nicola Smee  

18.  Planes (Board Book) by Byron Barton  

19. The story of Wright Brothers by Michelle Prater Burke  

20.  Airplane Flight: a lift-the-flap adventure by Susanna Leonard Hill  

 

As They Grow (4-8)

 
21.  You Wouldn’t want to be on the First Flying Machine: a high-soaring ride you’d rather not take by Ian Graham
22. The Boy and the airplane by Mark Pett
23. Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen.  Both my son and my daughter think it’s one of the best books about kids and inventions.  

24.  The Airplane Alphabet book by Jerry Pallotta  

25. All Aboard Airplanes by Frank Evans  

26. Planes (National Geographic Kids) by Amy Shields  

27. DK Big Book of Airplanes by Caroline Bingham and Anne Millard  

28. Planes Fly! by George Ella Lyon  

29. Airplanes: Soaring!  Diving! Turning!  by Patricia Hubbell  

30. Airplane and Flying Machines (Scholastic First Discovery Books) by Donald Grant  

31. Flying by Donald Crews  

32. Angela’s Airplane by Robert Munsch  

33. Sadie the airmail pilot by Kellie Strom  

34. My First Airplane Trip by D. L. Madson  

35. Airplanes by Cynthia Amoroso We like all the books in Big Machines At Work series.  This book talks about the parts of the airplane, how airplanes are powered by engines or propellers, and how do airplanes fly.  We like big color photos and large print.

36. I want to be a pilot by Dan Liebman  

37. Up and Away: Taking a Flight by Marilyn Davis  

38. Airplane (DK Mighty Machines series) by Christopher Maynard

39. My First Airplane Ride by Patricia Hubbell  

 

For Very Serious Explorers

 

40. Flight (DK Eyewitness Books) by Andrew Nahum

41.  Science through Art: Flight by Hillary Devonshire

42. The Flying Book: everything you’ve ever wondered about flying on airplanes by David Blatner  

43. Book of Flight: the Smithsonian National Air and Space museum  

44. The Simple Science of Flight: from insects to Jumbo Jets by Henk Tennekes  

45. Why don’t jumbo jets flap their wings by David Alexander  

46. Fantastic Flights: 100 years of flying on the edge by Patrick O’Brien  

47. Going Solo by Roald Dahl  

48. Who is Amelia Earhart by Kate Boehm Jerome  

49. A is for Airplane: an aviation alphabet by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle  

50. Flight: Discover Science by Kim Taylor

Books about Airplanes for kids
51. Paper Airplane Book by Ken Blackburn and Jeff Lammers.  Everything you need to know about paper airplanes: how to make them, best throwing techniques and very detailed instructions.  What we found most most exciting of all is that the book includes a huge selection of paper airplane pages on a very colorful, glossy paper.  Here you will find The Interceptor, The Falcon, The Spitfire and more.  The pages are marked with dashed and dotted lines for ease of assembly.  Very rare scissors are required.  The Flight log provided tons of inspiration.  
Our airplane phase is still in full swing.  If we discover more exciting books about airplanes, I will sure add them here.  Let me know, if you find this list helpful.  Are there any airplane books you love that are not on my list?  What are your favorite airplane books?
 

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