The illustration shows Jack Johnson's feet as he flies with some seagulls in the skies above Malibu.
He's Got His Head in the Clouds. For Real...
Wilson Schlame loves to make Jack Johnson feel like a total loser. And Jack's had it. That's how he ended up down at the beach. In a creepy, old abandoned house. In the dark. Trying to hide from Wilson. But everything is about to change. Because Jack just dug up the coolest book. It's called Flying Lessons. It tells how humans can learn to fly. Poor jack. He wanted to get back at Wilson. But now that Jack's learned how to fly, things down on earth are getting really scary...
In Malibu, California, Jack Johnson can't win anything in life. He is constantly in competition with Wilson Schlamme, a better-looking, smarter, more athletic, better-at-everything-all-the-time always guy. He even beats Jack in wooing Mia Montez, a beautiful young girl with whom Jack and Wilson are both in love with, who is always wearing hearts on her earrings, wrists, socks, and so on. Jack draws Mia a superhero, Wilson draws her a quintet of superheroes and calls them "Mia's Defenders." Jack gets a new 21-Speed bike to impress Mia, but Wilson has just received a new mountain bike. The three of them race home, and of course Wilson wins. Wilson wins everything.
Mia invites the two to her birthday party. Wilson promises a big surprise for Mia from his dog. Jack does not really want to go, as he knows he will just be one-upped by Wilson. Jack is greeted warmly by Mia's stepmother upon arriving, until she is told that he is not the Wilson they have all been expecting.
When Wilson does show up to the party, he makes his inexplicable entrance by jumping up in the air, grabbing two balloons, and crafting a perfect balloon man. Then as Mia sets out the Twister mat, Wilson announces that Terminator (his dog) has a special surprise for all the guests: he has been taught to turn the color wheel. The dog enters the party conveniently just as this information is revealed, and he does indeed spin the wheel. During the game, Jack rips his pants and has Superman boxers underneath. Wilson exclaims this and Jack tries to leave, but Mia convinces him to stay.
When Mia opens Jack's birthday present, she is thrilled, as he has bought her a thoughtful present: an album by the band Purple Rose. Wilson, naturally, has bought her front-row tickets to the Purple Rose concert. Of course he has. Jack responds by screaming like a girl and running out on the party, despite Mia's calling after him to stay.
Jack hides out in an abandoned beach front house. Then he falls through the floorboards. There, he finds a book called Flying Lessons. Then a vicious squadron of rats appears out of nowhere and attacks Jack, who kicks them away and eventually just stomps all over the army of rats on the way to a staircase that leads out of the basement.
Jack takes the book back home with him. A couple days pass, before he decides to read the book. Perusing the pages of the how-to, he comes to the conclusion that if he could fly, he would finally one-up Wilson and impress Mia.
Besides a series of stretches, the book gives a recipe for a flying dough that you ingest in order to be able to fly. The recipe contains yeast, which, the Flying Lessons book helpfully points out, rises.
Jack mixes the dough, then adds a packet of magical blue powder, that was included with the book. As he turns his attention, his dog, Morty, jumps up on the counter and eats half the bowl of dough. The dog then floats in midair through the living room, out the window, and flies directly up into the sky.
Jack panics, ingests the rest of the dough himself, and flies up into the sky to rescue his dog. He flies up near the sun. Jack catches his dog, plays around with flying some more, then lands safely in his backyard, hoping that no one saw him. Jack has the perfect plan: he will meet with Wilson and Mia, tell them he has a big surprise for them, then he will fly and win her heart and show Wilson. After many rained out days and false starts, Jack finally meets with Wilson and Mia.
Jack flies up into the air above Mia and looks down with delight, as he sees his plan worked. Then he looks beside him and sees Wilson also flying. Wilson can also fly. Wilson tells Jack that he snuck the Flying Lessons book out of his garage, because he was spying on him. Jack falls down and Wilson lands smoothly and they both approach a visibly shaken Mia. Wilson bails, since he has tennis practice.
Mia wants Jack to show her how to fly and he reluctantly agrees. However, when he makes his way back home with Mia in tow, he can't find the book anymore. Jack then remembers that his folks were doing spring cleaning and likely have thrown the book out. Mia tells him that it's just as well, because she does not think they should be flying anyway. He laughs this off, presumably because she is just making excuses for not being able to fly.
A few days later, Wilson tells Jack that he has promised the gym teacher a "very special race," and Jack sees the entire student body gathered outside the gym. Mia again tells Jack not to go through with it. But he tells her he does not want to but has to try. The two indeed do fly and race and Wilson tricks Jack into losing the race. But when both land, they realize that the audience is standing in stunned silence.
Word about the race spreads across the country. Some scientists try to kidnap Jack, but he escapes. Then his parents get a great idea: they will market their boy as the Amazing Flying Boy to a local car dealership.
Meanwhile, Jack learns that Wilson has his own television show, Wonder Wilson and His Amazing Rescues. With all the busy showbiz adventures, both Wilson and Jack are unable to spend time with Mia, despite Jack's best efforts to meet with her.
Jack's father announces that he has signed Jack up for a big race with Wilson, where the winner will receive a million dollars. On the day of the big race, Wilson and Jack prepare to fly off into the sky when Jack suddenly can't fly. He falls off the platform as Wilson soars in the heavens. Wilson wins again and Jack is left back to his normal life.
With Wilson being hounded by army scientists and obsessive fans, he has no life beyond his celebrity. So he drops out of school and moves away. Jack gets to spend more time with Mia and (secretly) retain his ability to fly (Jack only pretended to lose his ability so he could escape being a celebrity). For once, Jack won what he wanted. Wilson got the burden of flight (and celebrity) and Jack got Mia all for himself. In the end, it's revealed that sometimes, very late at night, Jack sneaks out and soars over the breezes of Malibu...
Reprints and rereleases
So far, How I Learned to Fly has received one reprint, which was in February 2006.
2003 - 2007 reprint series
- This book is more fantasy than horror, though it has been said that the real horror of the book is the fact that Jack is a celebrity and all the public attention is ruining his life, making the story a satire or Aesop's tale about the burden of being famous.
- The blurb on the back cover of the original book misspells Wilson's last name. In the book, his name is Schlamme, but it is spelled as Schlame on the back cover.
- This is one of the few books with a full happy ending.
- This and Why I'm Afraid of Bees are the only books in the original series without a supernatural enemy.
- Jack's father was mentioned by name in the book: Ted Johnson.
- Jack wears red Converse sneakers in this book.