CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 21 . . . . June 22, 2001
Still, everyone grinned and put on that knowing look of fourteen-year-olds, back in the more innocent days of 1939 - that knowing look that said we knew it all - when in reality, we knew nothing.Initially, Jamie Davis is intrigued by his grandfather's journal after he opens it to a horrifying description of a woman's death. He becomes more interested in his grandfather's story when he realizes that he is the same age as his grandfather was during the war, and he becomes fascinated by the tales his grandfather tells of the Canadian flying ace, Willie McKnight. The stories about Willie and his dare-devil exploits in a Hurricane airplane interest Jamie to the extent that he travels from his home in Red Deer, Alberta, to visit an aviation museum in Calgary, where he finds out that they are trying to rebuild a Hurricane. Jamie's interest in the story eventually leads him to a World War II veteran who makes it possible for Jamie to deliver the missing Hurricane parts to the museum.
While Willie McKnight was a celebrated flying ace in WWII and a two-time recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, he was an unfamiliar figure in his own hometown. Reid's novel is meant to teach students a part of Canadian history that is seldom covered, as well as to impart a sense of history about life for teenagers in England in WWII. The book is divided into two sections: diary sections written from the point of a 14-year-old boy in 1939, and the second is the day-to-day life of a modern boy in Red Deer. The diary segments are by far the more realistic: they give a real sense of teenagers and make the war realistic and immediate. Unfortunately, Jamie is a fairly unrealistic teenager. The character's sole purpose is as a vehicle for the historical part of the novel. He would have been more realistic as a younger character. The novel would best be used with older elementary students as a part of a study of WWII.
Recommended with Reservations.
Betsy Fraser is a librarian with Calgary Public Library.
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