A Terrific Read for Young Adults (and their parents) Marjorie Hodgson Parker's book David & the Mighty Eighth is an easy and engaging read, highly recommended for the young adult audience she is aiming for (and adults will find it excellent as well). Marjorie's historical fiction book is based on a true story of the British who endured the relentless attacks of the Luftwaffe during the Blitzkrieg ('Blitz') of World War II.
From the opening sentence ('Sirens wailed between deafening explosions.') the book flows relentlessly along. The book opens with bombs falling on London as the Freeman family huddles in a bunker. David, the son, is young and scared; Mary, his sister, is shell shocked; and their mother stoically endures it all. We soon learn that the father is a hero, a Spitfire pilot, defending the skies against great odds from the Luftwaffe attacks. Then, this family, that has endured so much finds out that the father has been shot down over Holland and his fate is not learned until the denouement of the book.
Because London is so dangerous, David and Mary are sent by their mother to their grandparents' farm in East Anglia. There the two siblings work hard on the farm at chores, and David hopes for his grandfather's approval, which always seems withheld. David forms a friendship with Roger, and they develop a fascination with the planes the 'Yanks' bring when they arrive to begin fighting the war alongside their British allies. Eventually David forms a friendship with an American, Tex, pilot of a B-24 Liberator named 'Pugnacious Patty.' Much of the remainder of the story is a coming of age tale, as David questions his courage, worries continually about his father's fate, and has anxious days trying to win his grandfather's approval, succeed in school, and handle his fear that Tex and his crew will not return from their dangerous missions over Germany. Meanwhile, romance burgeons between Tex and Mary. David's courage is tested as a V-1 bomb explodes over a farmhouse and David must rescue the blind man within.
Marjorie has done an excellent job making the reader care about these people. We care that Tex and his crew return safely from their missions and are able to return home to the United States. We care about David's father, David and his family. This is a book about faith, courage, sacrifice, strength, and families. There are lessons here aplenty for young readers, and one hopes this book is widely read by American youths who have not been tested as these stalwart Brits were during the dark days of World War II.
Reviewed by: Weymouth Symmes (2011)
A young British boy, David Freeman, is caught in the cruelty of WWII from the time he is 10 until he is 15 years old. Evacuated from his war-torn London home during the Blitz, devastated by the news that his father, a Royal Air Force pilot, is missing in action, and determined to become a man, David seeks what it takes to have courage. Based on a true story, this historical fiction recounts David's adventures and the forging of his friendship with an American pilot, Tex, and his crew. The friendly airmen with the Eighth Air Force give David hope when Hitler's Nazis seem unstoppable. This coming-of-age account teaches that despite the horrors of war, good can be found in the worst of times, and it is a testimony to the resilience of the human spirit.