The Boy Who Could Fly Without a Motor
Author: Theodore Taylor
Pages: 153
Publisher/Date: Harcourt/2004
ISBN: 0152047670 (pb)
Age Levels: 8-12

Read an excerpt of the book from the publisher!

Book Review

The year is 1935. The setting: a small, rocky island off the coast of California, home to a lighthouse, a family of three, a dog named Smacks.

The main character, Jon Jeffers, is nine, stuck on the island with his mother, Mabel, and his father, James, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard and a temporary lighthouse keeper.

Jon is lonely—so lonely that he attempts to contact someone (using telepathy) who can help him learn to "body fly." That way he could fly across the waves and visit the mainland anytime he wanted.

What he ends up doing is attracting the attention of a grumpy, long-dead Chinese magician named Ling Wu. Jon asks Ling Wu to teach him how to levitate. Ling Wu agrees, but makes Jon promise that he won't tell anyone the secret (and threatens to boil Jon in dragon's bile, stuff flaming straw up his nose, turn his ears into goat's horns, and nail his toes to a shark's back) if he does. Jon promises.

After much trial and error—and a crash into his bedroom furniture—Jon learns to soar. He disobeys Ling Wu's orders not to fly a far distance and almost ends up in the ocean. His disobedience also causes his powers of levitation to go haywire. He begins to levitate at odd moments, and in front of his parents.

Eventually the truth comes out. Jon is suddenly thrust into the lime light. The military becomes involved, as does President Roosevelt. Jon is a worldwide flying sensation. The problem is, he can't control it, and must walk around weighted down with paint buckets lest he fly into the atmosphere.

The solution, thanks to Ling Wu, brings this touching, funny, satisfying, story full circle.

Jon is a likeable character that middle grade readers will readily identify with. The story is ripe with ideas to explore: Jon's loneliness, his tenacious efforts to make his dream come true, his attempts to keep his word despite tremendous pressure not to.

Reviewed by the teachers at Education Oasis
©2005 Education Oasis

About the Author

Theodore Taylor is a favorite author of teachers and students alike. He has written many award-winning and widely praised middle grade and teen novels, including The Bomb, The Weirdo, the modern classic The Cay, and its prequel-sequel, Timothy of the Cay. He lives in Laguna Beach, California. Be sure to visit the author's website.