TeachingBooks Virtual Book Tour

The TeachingBooks Virtual Book Tour is your opportunity to learn from and build personal connections with extraordinary book creators and their brand-new titles. Included in all Virtual Book Tour posts are original interviews with authors and illustrators, lesson plans, an activity designed for young people, and much more!

Welcome Barbara Binns

Barbara Binns on Unlawful Orders: A Portrait of Dr. James B. Williams, Tuskegee Airman, Surgeon, and Activist

In this post, we feature author Barbara Binns, whose previous, acclaimed titles include the novel Courage. You can hear her speak about her new book, Unlawful Orders: A Portrait of Dr. James B. Williams, Tuskegee Airman, Surgeon, and Activist, and try her “invitation to imagine” activity. You’ll also find other resources to explore. Thanks for joining us, and let us know what you think in the comments below!


Unlawful Orders: A Portrait of Dr. James B. Williams, Tuskegee Airman, Surgeon, and Activist

  • Written by Barbara Binns
  • Published by Scholastic Focus, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.
  • Release date: October 18, 2022

The Tuskegee Airmen heroically fought for the right to be officers of the US military so that they might participate in World War II. However, after winning that battle, they faced their next great challenge at Freeman Field, Iowa, where racist white officers barred them from entering the prestigious Officers’ Club. The Freeman Field Mutiny, as it became known, would eventually lead to the desegregation of the U.S. armed forces, forever changing the course of American history and race relations. One Black officer who refused to give in to the bigotry at Freeman Field was James Buchanan “JB” Williams. JB’s devotion to the betterment of others took him from the classroom where he learned to be a doctor, to serving as a medic in the US military, and eventually joining the elite Tuskegee Airmen, where he fought to change the minds of all who believed Black men couldn’t make good soldiers. Critically acclaimed author Barbara Binns tells the story of one man’s remarkable life, and in doing so, explores the trials of the brave Black freedom fighters who defended the world against racism and bigotry, both on the front lines and at home.

From Unlawful Orders: A Portrait of Dr. James B. Williams, Tuskegee Airman, Surgeon, and Activist, written by Barbara Binns.

Black Americans have always fought, or tried to fight, for their country.

Click here to view a longer preview of Unlawful Orders: A Portrait of Dr. James B. Williams, Tuskegee Airman, Surgeon, and Activist, written by Barbara Binns.

Explore Unlawful Orders: A Portrait of Dr. James B. Williams, Tuskegee Airman, Surgeon, and Activist

Listen to Barbara Binns talking with TeachingBooks about creating Unlawful Orders: A Portrait of Dr. James B. Williams, Tuskegee Airman, Surgeon, and Activist. You can click the player below or experience the recording on TeachingBooks, where you can read along as you listen, and also translate the text to another language.


Invitation to Imagine

TeachingBooks asks each author or illustrator on our Virtual Book Tour to share a writing prompt, a drawing exercise, or just an interesting question to spark curiosity and creativity. Enjoy the following activity contributed by Barbara Binns.

Imagination Activity with Barbara Binns

I just missed out on a chance to actually meet Dr. James Buchanan Williams. Although he lived in the same part of Chicago where I grew up, and we may have passed on the streets many times over the years, I never knew who he was or had the chance to talk to him about his exciting life before his death. This is a challenge that may help you avoid missing out on similar opportunities. Most of you have family members, or friends, older people in your lives that you know very little about. So, become a detective, or a reporter, or a really good friend, and do research by asking them to tell you stories of their lives. You may discover that your own family members are living history tales, and that they were only waiting, perhaps even hoping, someone would invite them to share. So, I challenge you to find the heroes who are in your lives right now.


Finish This Sentence . . . with Barbara Binns

As part of our Virtual Book Tour, TeachingBooks asks authors and illustrators to complete short sentence prompts. Enjoy Barbara Binn’s response.

“My favorite books as a child were…”

My favorite books as a child were science fiction, most notably two books. Ruthven Todd’s Space Cat, taught me that “You can’t go to space without a cat, that’s flat.” I know, the rhyme was hokey, but I was much younger back then. I could read the book myself, and I loved it.

In Eleanor Cameron’s The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, two boys build their very own rocket ship (with a little unrecognized help) and fly to a nearby invisible planet.


Thank you!

To wrap up this Virtual Book Tour, we thank Barbara Binns for signing a book for all of us.

The title page of Unlawful Orders, signed by the author Barbara Binns, with the message, "Happy Reading"

More Connections to Barbara Binns and Unlawful Orders: A Portrait of Dr. James B. Williams, Tuskegee Airman, Surgeon, and Activist


Explore all of the titles featured in the TeachingBooks Virtual Book Tour: one link with author interviews, lesson plans, activities, and more!

All text and images are courtesy of Barbara Binns and Scholastic, Inc. and may not be used without expressed written consent.

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