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Jump into the Sky Hardcover – August 14, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 6-9-Levi has been left behind all of his life, first by his mother when he was an infant, then by his father for a job and later the Army, and now by his aunt for relief from the responsibility of raising him. Toward the end of World War II, Aunt Odella puts the 13-year-old on a train by himself from Chicago to North Carolina to join his father who is stationed there, without telling her brother. Upon reaching the base, Levi learns that his father's unit, an all-black paratrooper unit, has just shipped out for Oregon. One of the men is still on base recuperating from an injury. He and his family take Levi into their home until they can rejoin the unit. Slowly Levi and his father begin to learn about each other after their three-year separation, and Levi also learns the meaning of sticking up for who and what you believe in. Although the title leads one to think the book is about the paratroopers, the primary focus is on Levi and the wartime home front as the color lines were beginning to change. While Levi rails against the segregation in the South and the "invisibility" he finds in the West, the African American paratroopers are frustrated that although they are well trained, they are not allowed to fight for their country. This fine historical novel is well written and Levi is a fully developed character. However, readers looking for action and adventure should look elsewhere.-Nancy Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SCα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Odella believes war is so close to ending that she sends her nephew Levi from Chicago to his father at Camp Mackall, in North Carolina. But she overlooks the treacherous journey the boy will face in the Jim Crow South of 1945, and the fact that her brother, on active duty, has no clue Levi is arriving. The train adventure is traumatic for the innocent Levi, and he almost loses his life to a gun-toting store owner in Fayetteville: “All I’d asked for was a soda pop. . . . But the look in that man’s eyes had been pure straight evil.” Then it gets worse: Dad’s unit, an elite African American paratrooper battalion, has just shipped out to Oregon. Levi meets and stays with a soldier from his dad’s unit until they join up with the battalion. Pearsall captures the soul and bravery of gentle Levi, who, along with the adults in his life, is never safe from the humiliations of bigotry. This poignant, powerful tale of father and son getting to know each other in small, delicate steps is suffused with Levi’s yearning for approval. Strong characterizations on all sides support the weighty story line. Best of all is the fascinating tale of the “Triple Nickel” 555th Paratrooper Infantry Battalion. Grades 5-8. --Anne OMalley

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 940L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (August 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375836993
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375836992
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #850,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Shelley Pearsall grew up in the blue-collar Cleveland suburb of Parma where she began writing stories in her bedroom closet as a child. She sent her first story to a New York publishing house at the age of thirteen. Although the manuscript was never published, its themes of survival and freedom ultimately became the inspiration for Pearsall's first published novel, TROUBLE DON'T LAST, written twenty years later.

In 2003, TROUBLE DON'T LAST received the prestigious Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction among other honors. Pearsall's first contemporary novel ALL OF THE ABOVE was a 2007 ALA Notable book. Her books have received starred reviews and have been named Booklist Editor's Choice, New York Public Library Top 100, VOYA Top Shelf, Junior Library Guild, and have been nominated for numerous state reading award lists. In 2005, Pearsall was the Children's Writer-in-Residence for the James Thurber House.
Before becoming a full-time author, Shelley Pearsall was an intermediate and middle school teacher. She has also tried many unusual jobs over the years, including a Revolutionary War shipwreck archaeology project, working in an 18th century shoemaker shop in Colonial Williamsburg, and performing Great Lakes stories on an ore boat. Although she no longer works as a classroom teacher, she is a frequent guest author in elementary and middle schools where she does presentations and leads writing workshops on everything from Elvis to shoes.
Shelley Pearsall lives in Silver Lake, Ohio with her husband Mike, stepson Ethan, and a senior-citizen cat named Marbles.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By bookworm1858 VINE VOICE on August 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I was very excited to give this book a read as it is set in America during the waning days of WWII (we actually experience V-E Day as well V-J Day). I haven't read many books during that time and lately have read mostly European-set war books.

Our protagonist is Levi whose aunt has been keeping him in Chicago while his father serves in the army but who is sent to join his father at camp in North Carolina. When Levi arrives, he discovers that he just missed his father and stays with an injured armyman before they journey to Oregon to meet up with the rest of the men. It's not exactly the most exciting novel given that it's all in the US but I appreciated it (just a warning for other readers).

There are however several bursts of intensity surrounding Levi's trips through the South, where he experiences Jim Crow laws and receives threats based solely on the color of his skin. This is scariest when a shopkeeper turns a gun on Levi, who's really one of the sweetest book boys I've ever read, while forcing him to drink. I was actually prepared for even worse things to happen based on the time period and location but that was definitely the most overt aggression although there are many other instances of discrimination.

One place of discrimination is in the army (remember that troops were still segregated although integration will be coming soon). Levi's father was part of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, an all-black airborne unit, whose members crave to serve their country overseas but who are relegated to the homefront, including fighting fires in Oregon and searching for elusive Japanese fire balloons, the very existence of which they come to doubt although their work is eventually justified.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Power TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Jump into the Sky by Shelly Pearsall takes place at the end of World War Two. The book follows Levi whose aunt has shipped him from Chicago to North Carolina to meet up with his father who is in the military. Levi encounters hatred and fear in a Jim Crow era south. He also meets some very kind people who help him and finally is able to meet up with his father, a member of an elite paratrooper squadron in Washington State.

This is a fantastic piece of historical fiction that kids will enjoy and provides plenty of room for exploration. I was fascinated by the story of the paratrooper company and the descriptions of Jim Crow era south are chilling. This is a nice addition to the group of children's books that take place in the time period and it provides a different perspective portraying the African American experience making it a must buy for middle school libraries and classroom. I finished the book quickly and was always interested in what would happen next.

Appropriateness: There are some harsh racial overtones that a young reader would probably need to discuss. I would recommend this book to readers 11+ (although it is not inappropriate for older elementary schoolers, just very heavy).
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Format: Paperback
My book Jump into the Sky was very interesting. I think it can be classified into a few different genres. At points in the book it withholds action. There are also places were there is sadness and depression. After reading the book, I have observed that the depressing childhood memories for the main character Levi Battle always seems to be like an umbrella, obscuring him from living in the present.

The story kind of hops around the United States. It starts in Chicago in 1945. Levi Battle lives in a crammed apartment with his Aunt Odella. They are still in the war, so most places are scraping the bottom of the barrel for any money they can make from the poor people already. Levi’s mom left him just after he was born in the front seat of their Ford wrapped in a fur coat with a note that said, “I’ll be Levin.”
That is how Levi got his name. His daddy has always been one to work away from home and the war is no exception. This is a good sample to understand what lies ahead in the book.

I think the author Shelly Pearsall does an average job at making you fell in the story with Levi. My comment to her would be to illustrate her scenes a little bit more. I personally think the characters in the story have believable personalities. It very much describes the post depression, late war characters worn by those events. The main characters are very realistic. I’m not sure I know anyone like them, however. I personally think the author did an over all exceptional job in the characters aspect of this book.

I think Shelly Pearsall does a wonderful job at writing this book. She really taps into the Southern style of life. The speech style of the African American characters in the book is perfectly done.
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By Amber Mc. on December 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Levi Battle is accustomed to family members leaving him. His mother abandoned him on the seat of a Ford when he was just a baby, and his father left him many times over the years. But Levi is unprepared to be the one leaving when his Aunt Odella abruptly decides to send him from Chicago to live with his paratrooper father down south at Camp Mackall, North Carolina. When Levi arrives in the South, the thirteen-year-old boy receives an abrupt and frightening introduction to Jim Crow laws and racial bigotry. His troubles only increase when he learns that his father has been sent to Oregon. Levi is taken in by friendly Cal, a paratrooper from his father’s unit, the 555th, and his wife Peaches. He travels with them to Pendleton, Oregon, where he reunites with his father and learns about the 555th’s secret mission.

Pearsall’s writing is honest and frank, and she does not shy away from showing the bitter racism that African Americans faced during the 1940s. Aggravation and tension run high among the 555th paratroopers, occasionally escaping in bursts of verbal frustration. Pearson expertly captures Levi’s voice, and the inclusion of wartime terms and references in his figurative language reminds the reader that the war is always lingering in Levi’s mind. Pearsall’s characterizations beyond her protagonist are also superb and memorable, from the mysterious basket weaver MawMaw Sands to moody, insecure Willajean. A child interested in family or friendship dynamics, World War II, or the military may thoroughly enjoy this book. The book would be useful during lessons or presentations about family relationships, Jim Crow laws or the end of World War II. Libraries with collections for upper elementary and middle school students would benefit from the addition of this excellent selection of historical fiction.
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