One world war and two heroes—one of whom is “invisible”—are the main ingredients of this incredibly moving and worthwhile story.
To find out who is invisible and why, you’ll have to read R. A. Sheats’s Invisible Hero. One thing is sure: the reader will be very glad they got to know childhood friends Ernest “Boots” Thomas and Jim Sledge. Invisible Hero begins with a poignant description of the upbringing and early lives of these two members of the “greatest generation.”
After covering the young boys’ early days in the small town of Monticello, Florida, almost everything changes in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor. From this point on, the action centers on Boots’s initial training and his follow-on assignment as a Marine drill instructor at Parris Island, South Carolina. Young Boots immediately takes charge and impresses both his immediate superiors and the men he’s training and preparing for combat service in the now-raging battles of the Pacific Theater.
After training several classes of new Marines, the young leader finally gets his wish and is assigned to a combat unit. Boots would get his first taste of battle during the incredibly fierce fighting on Iwo Jima in February of 1945. The author’s descriptions of battle are detailed, riveting, and moving. Although Boots is involved in the iconic raising of the American flag on top of Mount Suribachi, that episode is not the main thrust of the story. Instead, we learn of a young man’s dedication and incredible bravery in the face of a determined and lethal enemy.
Although geared to the young adult audience, all ages will appreciate this story. Only a few technical problems detracted from this memorable portrait of two American heroes.
Review by John Cathcart (February 2019)
From a small-town childhood to the bloody shores of Iwo Jima and a flag-raising that would be seen around the world, follow the exciting true story of Ernest “Boots” Thomas and Jim Sledge in this action-packed adventure of bravery and self-sacrifice. "Invisible Hero" captures the thrilling and dramatic story of two boys and their lives and adventures in the Second World War. Follow Boots Thomas and his best friend Jim Sledge and experience what life was like growing up in a small town in the shadow of the Great Depression, and then see firsthand how the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and World War Two transformed these boys’ lives forever. In this gripping tale of valor, self-sacrifice, and supreme love that lays down everything for a friend, learn the true meaning of loyalty, responsibility, and the solemn duty of honoring those who have fallen. The history of Platoon Sergeant Ernest “Boots” Thomas has inspired people of all ages for generations. His small-town childhood, the unswerving dedication he brought to every task, and his heroic desire to protect his family and home—joined with the wartime fame of raising a historic flag on the bloody sands of Iwo Jima—make the story of Boots Thomas an exciting and inspiring tale for young and old alike. As a young man who refused to glamorize his part in a justly historic battle and who bestowed all credit on his comrades instead of himself, Boots Thomas truly encapsulated the words of Solomon: “let another praise you, and not your own mouth” (Prov. 27:2). The history of his short life provides a stirring model for children of all ages. Thomas’ diligence in even the little things, his responsibility in positions of authority, and his willing acceptance of the difficult tasks laid before him are all examples from which generations of children can learn. As his company commander Captain Dave Severance said of him on Iwo Jima: “I know of no more appropriate praise than to say that [Boots Thomas] was a credit to his parents who raised him.” Alongside the history of Sergeant Thomas flows the story of Jim Sledge, Thomas’ closest friend. Raised in a little town in rural Florida, the two boys grew up together like brothers. When their paths diverged with college training and the coming of World War Two, they remained in contact through letters and visits. Boots joined the Marines and Jim enlisted in the Army Air Corps. After the war, Jim returned to Monticello alone. Boots’ death on Iwo Jima at only twenty years of age could easily have been regarded as the last tragic scene in a tragically short life, but for Jim Sledge the solemn duty of honoring the memory of his fallen friend drove him to a lifetime of preserving the history of Boots’ life and work and the lessons it provides to the rising generations. Jim’s selfless dedication of keeping alive his friend’s memory for over seven decades of life beautifully captures the truth of Solomon’s words: “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). Within "Invisible Hero" the history of Sergeant Boots Thomas and Jim Sledge (previously published under the title "Call Me No Hero") has been condensed and rewritten for a younger audience. Though the story has been greatly abridged, the facts remain the same, preserving the historicity of the book for younger readers.
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Young Adult (fiction or non-fiction)
Number of Pages: 175