Sixteen-year-old Edward Simpson dreams of being a pilot, and World War I affords him the opportunity.
It’s the early days of flying machines, and Edward’s uncle Horst, who builds various kinds of airplanes to fly the Saskatchewan skies in 1914, is in the thick of it, saying, “We will soar like the birds and laugh at the poor people on the ground below.” He arranges for Edward to go to flight school in Montana. From there, Edward goes to the Royal Flying Corps in England and off to war. H.G. Wells had predicted air battles in the clouds and bomb-carrying flying machines capable of destroying whole cities, and soon Edward sees firsthand the killing capabilities of his beloved flying machines. But he literally feels above it all, thinking, “If only I could stay up here forever, free from the insanity below.” Though he loses friends and acknowledges the death and destruction below, he is able to put the war at a distance and be realistic about his role in it: “It’s what I am, and I cannot deny that.” Wilson writes eloquently about one boy’s love of flight and his dream of flying. Though dialogue is sometimes used didactically to teach readers the history of flight, Edward’s narrative is thoroughly engaging.
A fine, old-fashioned-feeling coming-of-age tale set in the World War I skies. (Historical fiction. 9-14)