- Age Range: 10 and up
- Grade Level: Kindergarten - 12
- Hardcover: 32 pages
- Publisher: Tundra Books; First edition (August 28, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 088776469X
- ISBN-13: 978-0887764691
- Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.4 x 10.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #786,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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High Flight: A Story of World War II Hardcover – August 28, 1999
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Just months before he died during a routine training maneuver, 19-year-old fighter pilot John Magee wrote the poem "High Flight" in celebration of flight, which has been shared, memorized, and recited for more than a half century. In 1940 an anxious Magee enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and, inspired by his experiences among the clouds, wrote the 14-line poem ("Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth. . . Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."), which was published in a Pennsylvania newspaper. Granfield seemlessly blends the facts of Magee's short life with details of everything from conditions in the cockpit to daily life in London during the Blitz. Full-page paintings by Michael Martchenko help reflect both the warmth of Magee's home life and the camaraderie and drama of war. The combination of the picture-book layout and the dense text may deter a few readers at both ends of the scale, but those who pick up the book will find a compact, involving portrait of a young man whose words captured the essence of flying. Randy Meyer
From the Inside Flap
an Air Force Pilot John Magee was only nineteen years old when he wrote the poem High Flight in 1941. Born in Shanghai and educated at Rugby School in England, Magee showed early promise as a poet. Impatient to take part in the war raging in Europe, Magee gave up a place at Yale University to enlist in the RCAF. Not long after writing High Flight, John Magee was killed in an air accident in Britain.
Since its publication in a church bulletin, High Flight has become the anthem for all who love to fly. Linda Granfield tells the story of Magee and the terrible air battles of the Second World War in a book lovingly illustrated by Michael Martchenko. A fitting tribute to the 75th anniversary of the RCAF, and a heartfelt reminder of the beauty of the skies for all members of the USAF.
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Magee, an American born in China, went to school in England, joined the Canadian air force and died in a training accident in England just four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour launched the United States into World War II. Like all great timeless literature from the realm of combat -- the Funeral Oration of Pericles, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and McCrae's In Flanders Fields -- it is about ideals instead of ideology.
In 114 words, dated Sept. 3, 1941, he celebrated the sheer joy of flight. He could have had a scholarship to Yale in the fall of 1940 to study the classics; instead, that October he went to Canada. By then his father was assistant minister at St. John's Church in Washington, D.C., popularly known as "the church of the presidents." His parents hadn't been thrilled about his decision to fly instead of going to Yale, but they gave him their reluctant support.
The poem, written on the back page of one of his letters from England, may have been his explanation of "this is why I like to fly" to his parents. Having spent hours in the cockpit of many aicraft, from sailplanes to bush planes, and executive jets to a Flying Fortress, I understand the feeling. I can't say "share," because the single engine fighters of World War II created a brief era in flight that will never be repeated. Today's jets are pure power, simply point and go anywhere; World War I aircraft were sadly limited by a lack of power. Magee flew when the sheer joy of piston engine power matched but didn't eclipse the nerve and ability of a pilot's feelings, reactions, skills and dreams.
In only 28 pages, superbly illustrated by Toronto artist Michael Martchenko, Linda Granfield book tells how the spirit of a young man -- somewhat rebellious and undisciplined to start -- soared like the high flight he describes so memorably. I first found the poem when I was in the seventh grade, some 50 years ago, and memorized it as part of the 200 lines of memory work that were required every school year. It's the only poem from those years that stayed with me.
This book is the first account I've read that describe's Magee's background, and how the poem came to be written. In school, we were told it was "written on the back of an envelope." The real story, admirably told by Granfield, is more inspiring. Truth is always better than fantasy or imagination.
It's called a children's book. Don't be fooled. It's too good just for children. Anyone who understands the soaring adventure of the human spirit will love it. Magee made his dream come true. Very few of us get to live a more perfect life.
This is a "picture book" biography for older kids of the short and tragic life of John Gillespie Magee, Jr. Living only a short 19 years many countries claim him as one of their own. Born in Shanghai, China to missionary parents he was sent to boarding school in England at nine years of age. He returned to live with his parents, now in the US, in time to start college. An American citizen by birth , his British accent set him apart from others his age and he thought of England as home. When World War II broke out newspapers reported of air attacks on his beloved England. The United States was not in the the war yet, nor would it be for several more years, so John went to Canada and signed up with the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) where he knew he would be fighting on Britain's side.
John was not a very mature 18 year old when he entered the army and had troubles with his superiors in following orders and was often called on for dangerous flying. He was otherwise, an all around well-liked kid by his peers and those who had dealings with him. John liked to try his hand at poetry, often going to the extreme romantic side but one day after writing a letter to his parents he turned it over and wrote a "ditty" he had composed in his head while out practice flying on his own one evening. This was the poem he called "High Flight". His parents were impressed and took it to church with them where they shared it and his Aunt sent it in to the local paper. From there it caught on with the papers world wide and "High Flight" became the most famous poem to come out of World War II. Three months later John would be dead after his plane crashed into another during flying formation manoeuvres.
This book is the short story of his tragic life, the story of how a famous poem came to be written, and the story of the wasted youth who die in war. This is a good book, entertaining but not exactly exciting as Magee didn't really have that exciting of a life but he left his mark and it is a bittersweet tale. Ds, who is ten and autistic, even realized the youth of John and commented on it many times. Ds has a 21 year old brother and he just couldn't comprehend an 18/19 yo fighting and dying in a war. Good lesson learned. Unfortunately neither of us are very crazy for this poem but Martchenko's illustrations are as wonderful as expected being one of the foremost children's illustrators in Canada.
Weep not for this young poet. As pilots sometimes say about a colleague when taken by accident: "He died doing something he loved". It seems John Gillespie Magee, Jr. had found the ideal place to worship.