________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 6 . . . . November 10, 2005


The Desert Hawk: The True Story of J.F. “Stocky” Edwards, Canada's World War II Flying Ace.

Barbara Hehner.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2005.
145 pp., pbk., $9.99.
ISBN 0-00-639478-7.

Subject Headings:
Edwards, James F.
(James Francis), 1921- - Juvenile literature.
Canada. Royal Canadian Air Force-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Fighter pilots-Canada-Biography-Juvenile literature.
World War, 1939-1945-Aerial operations, Canadian-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Ronald J. Hore.

*** /4



Now each sortie was even more dangerous. As before, Jim and the other fighter pilots would escort bombers to the target, which now was the advancing German troops and vehicles on the ground. Then the Kittyhawks would drop their own bombs. And finally, they would dive in and strafe with their guns. On many of these missions, they also found themselves duelling with Messerschmitts that came swooping at them from above.

By the second week of June, Jim had damaged or destroyed four more enemy fighters. He finally felt that he had mastered the tricky Kittyhawk. Just as important to his survival, he had studied the tactics used by the attacking Messerschmitts. He had developed his own philosophy about fighting the air war; he would seize any chance to fire on an enemy plane, but he would never allow himself to be reckless. His motto became "To fly and do my job, and to live and fly again."


The Desert Hawk relates the story of James F. "Stocky" Edwards, one of Canada's greatest WWII air aces, from his childhood to the present time. Broken into 14 Chapters and a prologue, his story is told in chronological order. The first chapter, "Prairie Boy," covers his childhood. The next three chapters, "Joining Up," "Taking Flight," and "A Long Way From Home," take readers through training and to England. The heart of the book, covering eight chapters from page 42 to page 111, tells the story of Jim's adventures during the war. At the end of the war, he is only 24-years-old, an experienced fighter pilot who had shot down more than 20 enemy aircraft, and he holds the rank of Wing Commander. Most of his combat experiences take place in North Africa. The final two chapters cover Jim's life after the war. The book includes: "A Note on Names," "A Note on Aces,” a "Glossary," "Acknowledgments," "Picture Credits" and biography of the author. The volume also contains one map of the theatre of war and 25 black and white photographs from the period. The photographs are generally on the small size, most being less than half a page.

     The story, which is told in plain English, presents Jim Edwards as an average Canadian boy, growing up on the prairies and loving hockey. The pictures fit in well with the tale, and the information provided will not confuse the young reader. There are descriptions of life in the desert and dog-fights between fighter planes. The author also brings in the personal family details about the thoughts and life of the young boy growing up and going off to war. One advantage is that James Edwards provided many of the photographs and was available for interviews to confirm and personalize the details in the story.

     Because the book includes the story of James Edward's life before and after the war and is filled with personal details, it will appeal to a broader range of readers than just the individual in search of a tale described as "daring, death-defying, miraculous and heroic." James Edwards overcame several obstacles and lived to learn from his mistakes. His story is an example of someone who knew what he wanted to do and persevered to do it.


Ronald J. Hore, involved with writer's groups and writer's workshops for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.  

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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