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*Born to Fly* by Michael Ferrari- young readers fantasy book review
Born to Fly
by Michael Ferrari
Ages 9-12 224 pages Delacorte July 2009 Hardcover    

Eleven year old Bird has always been passionate about flying airplanes; she and her family live near a military base in Rhode Island. Considered a little odd by her classmates, Bird is obsessed with flying and tells stories about a sea monster. Her father is her best friend – teaching her to fly an airplane, listening to her tales, and most of all, believing in her. When her father is sent off to fight in World War II, he sends her a P-40 fighter plane flight manual, which promises the reader that anyone who memorizes the book will be able to fly the plane.

Without her father, Bird struggles at home and in school. When a Japanese-American boy, Kenji, arrives at school, Bird can identify with his outcast status, and the two eventually become friends. While fishing one day, the children see a mini-submarine in the bay by their town. Knowing the officials will never believe their stories, Bird and Kenji set out to photograph the submarine.

When a local plant is blown up, Kenji’s uncle is wrongly accused, assumed by authorities to be spying for the Japanese because of his heritage. The explosion occurred at the same time Bird and Kenji were looking for the submarine and stumbled upon evidence to support Kenji’s uncle’s evidence. The children are scared. Intimidated by authorities, Bird waits until her father comes home on leave to tell the truth about all she knows about that night. Bird keeps silent for too long - too late to clear Kenji’s uncle.

All her world comes crashing down when her father dies in battle, and Bird must summon the strength to tell the truth, a truth more shocking then she even realizes. When a prominent person turns out to be the infiltrator of local military security, Bird must fly a plane to gather the evidence to prove the innocence of Kenji’s uncle.

This first novel by Michael Ferrari is the 2007 winner of the Delacorte Yearling Prize. The author offers historical facts about Japanese interment and his inspiration for writing in notes at the end. The text is easy to read but a bit dull in parts. The characters of Bird and Kenji are well-developed, while others are stereotypical and flat.

Children will identify with the character of Bird and become swept up in the excitement of the mysterious submarine and people in the forest. The fast-paced ending and surprising reunion bring the book to a close. Children, especially middle-grade girls, will enjoy the story and identify with wanting to express their independence by doing something nobody thought they could do alone – like flying an airplane.

Although parts of the book are difficult to believe given the young ages of the characters, the story captures the mind-set and essence of the home front during World War II.

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  Kristine Wildner/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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