________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 15 . . . . March 30, 2001

cover High Flight: A Story of World War II.

Linda Granfield. Illustrated by Michael Martchenko.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 1999.
32 pp., cloth, $18.99.
ISBN 0-88776-469-X.

Subject Headings:
World War, 1939-1945-Poetry.
Canada-Royal Canadian Air Force-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Air pilots, Military-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.

Review by Catherine Best.

**** /4


In his Spitfire, Pilot Officer John Magee flew solo flights over the green hills of England. Gathering speed and altitude, he moved through layers of sunlit, billowing clouds that formed gray ceilings frosted with white.

Despite the racket made by the plane's machinery, the sky offered peace. This was time for the pilot to be alone with his thoughts, to feel free from the turmoil below. In September 1941, one of John's many letters home described the results of such a flight: "I am enclosing a verse I wrote the other day. It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed. I thought it might interest you."

In writing this book, Linda Granfield has chronicled the story behind probably the most well-known poem to emerge from World War II. She has thoroughly researched the poet's life, and the results are a riveting story about the life of John Magee before the war and during his brief, but tragic career as a pilot during the war. She does more than just tell about how the poem came to be - she brings to life the realities of being a young man at a time when the war was happening.

      This is a beautifully illustrated book which tells the story of John Magee, a young American who, like many young men of his age during World War II, volunteered for the Canadian RCAF in 1940 before the United States joined the war. He was the son of American parents but had been raised in China while his father was serving as a missionary and educated in England. Prior to the war he had already self-published a small book of poetry and was about to embark on a course of study at Yale University. When the war started, he joined the RCAF and began his career as a pilot. On September 3, 1941 John Magee wrote the poem "High Flight" while on a training mission and included it a letter home to his parents. Three months later, after he was killed when returning from a mission, his parents published the poem in a church bulletin as a memoriam. It quickly became heralded as one of the great poems of the war, and it has become a tribute and inspiration to all those who fly.

      Linda Granfield's text and Michael Martchenko's illustrations blend wonderfully to give the reader a realistic and captivating picture of Magee's life before and during World War II. Although this is a picture book, the reader should not be fooled into thinking that it is a book for younger readers. Granfield has packed lots of extensively researched factual and interesting material into this well-written book. We see through the illustrations and read in the text about the thrills of aerial battles, but we also develop an understanding of the destructive powers of war. Granfield has produced another exceptional book which tastefully and thoroughly introduces young readers to this historical period. This book is a welcome addition to any upper elementary classroom and a valuable tool for any teacher who wants to discuss World War II.

Highly Recommended.

Catherine Best is a former librarian who now teaches Grade Five at St. Mary's Elementary School in St. John's, NF.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364