________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 4 . . . . October 12, 2007


Flight of the Tiger Moth.

Mary Woodbury.
Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 2007.
231 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-55050-364-7.

Subject Headings:
World War, 1939-1945-Canada-Juvenile fiction.
Tiger Moth (Training plane)-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Todd Kyle.

* /4


Soaring over the endless prairie, far from the city, Sandy put the plan through its paces. He banked, rolled and looped the Tiger Moth. Jack couldn't help grinning, even though the metal seat bit into his skin.

Suddenly Sandy pulled the plane into a heart-stopping stall. He dived, banked, rose and did a complete roll. Jack's stomach lurched. The seat belt dug into his shoulders. Sandy laughed, straightened the plane and flew in a circle, heading down and skimming over the fields.

"Do you want to try it?" he asked.

Fifteen-year-old Jack longs to fly a Tiger Moth in the war that is raging far from his home in Saskatchewan, especially after his sister Flo's fiancé, Sandy, lets him take the controls during a clandestine flight. Too young to enlist, he watches as Flo and Sandy are shipped off overseas, and he takes a summer job at the RCAF base working in the planes. His summer is busy: he rescues a puppy abandoned by the town bully Jimmy; he makes friends of several British airmen, including Basil and Trevor, with whom he plans a talent show to cheer up his depressed mother; and he investigates the truth behind his uncle's apparent war-induced suicide. As Sandy is reported missing in action and Flo injured in a raid, Jack finds himself having to fly a Tiger Moth once again when Basil's plane crashes in a field and the quickest way to get him to the base hospital is to fly the plane. Basil is saved, and even Jimmy is around to congratulate the very matured Jack.

     Inspired by the author's husband's childhood near a Saskatchewan RCAF base, this book is less an action-packed coming-of-age story than a hodgepodge of awkwardly-intersecting story arcs that never seem to, in a matter of speaking, get off the ground. In between Jack's first and second flight, there are so many life issues invoked that the story, itself, is lost. The potentially most profound of these, the mysterious death of the uncle (who strangely is also Flo's father), is not handled with any of the incision and depth it requires, while the action - like the confrontation with Jimmy and the flight to save Basil - is buried in over-explanation.

     Description is sprinkled meaninglessly and liberally, foreshadowing is alternately baffling and too obvious, and narration is choppy and uneven. Characterization is interesting but poorly developed: Jimmy, his brothers, and their abusive father bring a classic rural bully family to life, but Jimmy's sudden respect for Jack is inexplicable. The effect is a story that appeals neither to reluctant boys nor serious readers.

Not recommended.

Todd Kyle, a former President of the Canadian Association of Children's Librarians, is currently a library branch manager in Mississauga, ON.

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

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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