From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-In 1944, 19-year-old Hank is an American pilot flying his 15th bombing mission when his plane is shot down over Alsace, near the Swiss border. Locals assist him in getting to neutral territory. There, a Red Cross doctor advises him to attempt an escape from Europe across France with the help of the French Resistance. Hank's many adventures as he makes his way toward home and freedom comprise the rest of the story. This is a gritty, unblinking look at the horrors that the Nazis visited upon France during the occupation. Hank is a smart, strong, and courageous character who survives under the worst of conditions. He becomes closely acquainted with death as he sees men killed and learns that he, too, must kill in order to survive. As likable as he is, Hank is almost too good to be true. But the real heroes of the story are the French civilians who help Hank and many Allied soldiers like him to escape from the Nazis. There is a fair amount of French mixed into the telling of these stories. While this does lend authenticity, it may prove daunting to readers unfamiliar with the language. The ending seems rather romanticized, but the author's afterword explains that the story is based on some of her own father's experiences. Readers with an interest in warfare and adventure will find a sure winner here. Pair this novel with Don Wulffson's Soldier X (Viking, 2001) for a comparison with life as a young German soldier.
Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 6-9. It's packed with action, intrigue, and suspense, but this novel celebrates acts of kindness and heroism without glorifying war. American Henry Forester, a young flier with the RAF during World War II, is a complex mix of insecurities, unresolved feelings about his punitive father, and heroic aspiration. On his thirteenth bombing mission, he is shot down, having no idea where he has landed. His journey back through Nazi-occupied Europe and his involvement with members of the French resistance are depicted with chilling realism. Small details (bike wheels in France were made of wood because the Germans had confiscated all the rubber) add both credibility and appeal to this gripping adventure, inspired by stories told to the author by her father. An afterword concerns the resistance movement. Connie Fletcher
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