Wednesday, April 04, 2007
On the Wings of Heroes
I FINALLY finished listening to The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. In the book's defense, I did not have a regular listening routine due to an irregular life schedule right now. (Come to think of it, when is life ever orderly?) I almost gave up several times because I found the main character's continual bemoaning (tiring in an audiobook, maybe it would have played better in print) of her lost sister just too much. Glad I finished it because I would have wondered about the ending if I had given up but I am glad it is over.
On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2007
I cannot think of any author who does more to refresh the palate and revive the spirit than Richard Peck. He has such fun telling a story. His uplifting and moving novel, On the Wings of Heroes was exactly what I was in the mood for.
This book is an extension, of sorts, of a short story he contributed to Guys Write for Guys Read by Jon Scieszka about his wonderful father and his love of Halloween.
This story begins on the eve of WWII. Peck perfectly evokes a time when neighbors knew each other and families banded together to support their community and the war effort with scrap metal drives, jalopy parades, black outs and tire rationing.
Davy Bowman's beloved older brother enlists and becomes a bombardier on a B-17, flying missions over Germany. Davy worships his brother and his dad. His father loves his boys and fears for the oldest one because, as a WWI veteran, he knows war. The relationship between the boys and their dad is wonderfully written. Peck commented at a book signing, "I'm trying to share my father with boys who don't have them."
Sugar rationing, milkweed collecting and Boy Scout paper drives are part of the lives of Davy and his best friend Scooter. School teachers are called away to work in the war plants leaving bullies free reign in the classroom. News on the radio is all important and loving grandparents arrive to help out when times are tough.
The town is full of Peck's typically quirky characters and life lessons. Is the shotgun wielding Miss Titus crazy or the canniest substitute teacher in the world? What is in the trunk in Mr. Stonecypher's scary attic?
Certainly, Davy's heroes are his father and his brother but after reading this book you understand the heroism of those on the home front too: the long retired teacher who steps into the classroom again; the father whose son did not come home from WWI but will give to the war effort; the victory gardens; blue, silver, and gold stars in the windows representing families in waiting or grieving.
The beauty, tenderness and humor in this very American story put it at the top of my favorite books list.