Born to Fly
Author: Michael Ferrari
Pages: 224
Publisher/Date: Knopf Delacorte Dell/Random House, 2009
ISBN: 9780385737159
Age Levels: 8-12

Book Review

The setting is a small town in Rhode Island during World War II. Fifth-grader Bird loves flying with her airplane-mechanic father more than anything:
We were flying above the clouds in Mr. Watson’s yellow Piper. I guided the small propeller plane so that it moved through the air just like an eagle. Seeing me in my World War I pilot’s skullcap goggles and my Huck Finn dungarees, you’d never guess that someone with a neat name like Bird McGill was actually an eleven-year-old girl. But I was. I worked the controls carefully, scanning the sky for bogies at twelve o’clock.
When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Bird’s father is called to active duty. Bird is more determined than ever to someday fly a P-40 Warhawk, despite her older sister’s admonition that women can’t be fighter pilots. To that end, Bird studies the manual her father gave her until she nearly has it memorized.

Not long after, a Japanese-American boy, Kenji Fujita, arrives at Bird’s school. Accused of being a spy, Kenji is taunted by the students. When Kenji and Bird see an enemy submarine in the town’s lake, no one believes them. To prove that they are telling the truth, the two endeavor to take a photograph of the sub. During the attempt, Bird stumbles, literally, into a plot to blow up the local airplane engine factory as well as assassinate President Roosevelt.

Ferrari does an exceptionally fine job of balancing the fast-paced action with the small, evocative details and smartly written dialogue that make this so much more than just an action-adventure.

Classroom Experience: We read the book aloud to a sixth-grade class, stopping at appropriate cliff-hangers. The students eagerly anticipated, indeed begged for, the next installment.

Reviewed by the teachers at Education Oasis
©2009 Education Oasis

About the Author

Michael Ferrari lives in Avon Lake, Ohio, where he is a teacher. He crafted the idea for Born to Fly after attending a WWII air show where he overheard a boy tell his little sister as she climbed inside a P-40 cockpit that girls can never be fighter pilots. He wrote the story for her and for his daughters.