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On the Wings of Heroes: 10/20/09
I saw the review of On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck at Maw Books Blog. I had enjoyed Past Perfect Present Tense and wanted to read something else by the author. I'm glad I took recommendation and picked this novel about growing up during World War Two.
Davy Bowman narrates the novel, recounting the way the Second World War affected his town, his family and his life. The book begins at Halloween with his older brother shipping off to learn how to be a B-17 pilot. While the older brother reports on his courses (including learning elementary math all the way through trig in a couple of weeks), Davy is having air raids in school, having to collect scraps after school and is learning to live with rationing of basic staples, gasoline, rubber and other things.
At school, tensions rise. Old teachers leave for better jobs in factories and the new teachers are sometimes too young to handle the students and too inexperienced to teach them. Class bullies take advantage of the situation.
Peck though doesn't leave the bullying as a way to foil Davy. He goes deeper to flesh out these bullies. He gives them personalities, families and stories. He brings in the mother of the ring leader. Her reaction to her daughter's poor behavior is believable and for me, heart wrenching.
Although On the Wings of Heroes is short, it manages to cover the entire length of the United States's involvement in the war. In that time, Davy and his friends grow up.
For children who probably don't have many living relatives who have first hand experience with WWII, On the Wings of Heroes brings to life what it would have been like for families back then. It does it with humor and humility.