In the first book in a new a new graphic novel nonfiction series, Unsolved Case Files, Sullivan retells the incredible and completely true story of the only unsolved airplane hijacking case in the entire history of the United States.
Readers are taken chronologically, step-by-step through D.B. Cooper’s plan to obtain $200,000 USD by hijacking an airplane with an onboard bomb. Suspense is created by showing how stressful this situation was for the Northwest Orient Airlines staff, as well as to all those who were on the ground racing to assist with the situation. It ends on a mysterious note, as no one has all the pieces to this puzzle. The most likely theories of what happened, and who D. B. Cooper was are presented. The book concludes with a page of sources that were used to gather all the information to put this retelling together. This is an excellent tool for educators to utilize to encourage students to dig deeper.
Author Tom Sullivan does an outstanding job of keeping the reader turning pages to see what happens next, and excels at immersing the reader into the 1970s. Pink sticky notes throughout the book give concise explanations of things like teletypewriters, how crazy the world was about letting everyone smoke wherever they wanted including airplanes and hospitals, and the absolute lack of security at airports. It’s hard to imagine this reality today. Additionally, sidebars and notes are added that give easy to understand descriptions behind the physics of flight, different types of parachutes, and all kinds of details that provide the reader with a much deeper understanding of what this whole event would’ve felt like.
The artistic style of this book is fun and completely appropriate for the topic. The entire book is enclosed in a yellow folder as if you’re opening an old police file. Inside reader’s discover scrapbook style pages, and full page artwork rather than the typical panel style often found in comics. Sticky notes, images of real evidence paper clipped in such as boarding passes and airplane schematics, maps, and diagrams provide variety across this publication. Typewriter style font adds to the authenticity of the early 1970s time period. Colors are used to intensify the drama of scenes, such as when D.B. Cooper is jumping out of the plane, the whole scene is pitch black, adding emotion to what a terrifying experience it must’ve been to actually make that jump.
Overall, this book is outstanding. Nonfiction books tend to have the reputation of being on the boring side, but this book is far from being dull. Sullivan expertly weaves together this true story, while adding in facts and explanations that somehow heighten the tension, rather than bog it down with too much detail. It’s a quick read that generates endless discussion questions. I highly recommend not only buying this book, but also keeping an eye out for the next installment, Jailbreak at Alcatraz, which isn’t yet published.
Unsolved Case Files: Escape at 10,000 Feet: D.B. Cooper and the Missing Money
By Tom Sullivan
Balzer + Bray, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
Series ISBNS and Order
Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)