Born to Fly

Michael Ferrari

Delacorte Press, July 2009, 212 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-385-73715-9

Genre: Young Reader

Subgenre: Realistic Fiction / WWII / Thriller
Reviewed: 2/16/2010

Reviewed by: Conan Tigard

Book Cover


Suddenly Farley leapt out and grabbed Kenji from behind.

"It's time Mr. B-b-baseball saw a real Yankee slider. Show him, Raymond." Farley held Kenji with his arms tight around him.

Raymond worked up a juicy hocker, which wasn't hard 'cause he always sneaked his dad's chewing tobacco. Then he spit and let fly at Kenji.

But at the last second, Kenji spun around perfectly so that it was Farley who wound up blinded with an eyeful of tobacco juice.

"Ahhh!" Farley screamed.

Kenji broke free and took off, heading right for me. Raymond jumped down and fussed to clean up Farley. "I'm sorry, Farley."

Farley brushed himself off. "Leave me alone! Just get him!"

Kenji ran hard, panicked. I knew exactly how he felt. I'd been there a hundred time with Farley hot on my heels. But the stink of marsh weeds was still fresh on my hands, reminding me who got me stuck with this lame report topic. "Serves him right," I said to myself.

The bullies were gaining, though, and I could see that Kenji was getting tired.

"You're gonna eat mud!" Farley snarled.

Finally my conscience kicked in. Not even Kenji deserved that. I tossed my weed collection into the boat and rocked the boat free.

"Hey! Over here," I yelled.

Kenji spotted me, but seemed suspicious.

"Stay out of this, Birdbrain!" Farley hollered when he saw me. He and Raymond speeded up as I started to cast off.

"Hurry!" I told Kenji. "Come on."

It was clear he had no choice but to trust me. He splashed through the water and flopped into the rowboat.

Farley and Raymond, neither one a good swimmer, sloshed into the water after us.

I quickly shoved the other oar into Kenji's hand. "Row, stupid!"

He did, but not very well. We rowed furiously, but our strokes were fighting each other, causing the boat to zigzag.

Suddenly Farley popped his head out of the water and grabbed hold of my oar. "Got you, Jap lover!" His grimy hands were a lot stronger than mine and it took all my weight to keep him from tipping the boat over.

But Kenji thought fast and swatted his oar, splashing water right up Farley's nose.

It worked! Farley started coughing out seawater and let go of my paddle.

After a few more sloppy strokes, Kenji and I found a one-two rhythm and we started to pull away. Farley and Raymond chased us as far as the sandbar cutoff, but once they went underwater and realized they couldn't touch bottom, they decided to retreat. Looking like two drenched rats, the bullies barked and bellyached from the shore.

"Chicken!" taunted Raymond.

"Traitor!" screamed Farley. "You'll pay for this, Bird."



In December of 1941, in Geneseo, Rhode Island, Bird McGill has just turned 11-years old. Her father takes her up in a plane for her birthday because she wants to be a pilot some day. He even lets her fly the plane for a while, which he has done many times before, teaching her everything she needs to know about flying. Bird's biggest dream is to someday pilot a P-40 Warhawk.

On December 7, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor and the United States is thrust into World War II. Bird's father joins the armed forces and goes off to fight in the war. Bird is very depressed as her best friend has also recently moved away and she no longer has any friends left. Plus, she has trouble with two school bullies, Farley Peck and his toady Raymond, just about every day. They love to pick on her.

One day, a Japanese boy, Kenji Fujita, who has grown up in America, arrives at Bird's school. Farley takes it on to be Kenji's new tormentor as he hates the Japanese. When Kenji accidentally takes Bird's topic, the P-40 Warhawk factory, for the school project, Bird is very upset because she wanted to write about her favorite airplane, not marsh weeds. Kenji picked it because he lives with his uncle, his parents are at an internment camp in California, and his uncle works at the airplane factory. He doesn't really care about airplanes.

While Bird is collecting marsh weeds for her project, she spies Farley and Raymond chasing Kenji. She calls him over and they jump in a Father Krauss' rowboat and escape the bullies by rowing out into the bay. When they discover a mini submarine in the bay, which runs into them, they try to tell the town, but no one believes them, even Deputy Steyer. After all, isn't Bird the one who always talks about the giant monster that lives out in the bay?

A few day later, Bird and Kenji return at night, now friends, with the intent of taking a picture of the submarine by shooting off fireworks for light. Just then, the P-40 Warhawk factory blows up, Bird trips over a dead body, and is threatened by a strange man wearing black clothing and a black mask. The menacing man threatens to kill her family if she says anything about what happened that night.

When Kenji's uncle is arrested for murder and blowing up the factory, Bird realizes that she must do something, but she doesn't know what. How can she help Kenji without getting her family killed?

Born to Fly is a realistic fiction WWII thriller written by Michael Ferrari. This is the author's first published novel. This book is intended for young readers ages 8 and up.



Born to Fly blew my socks off. I sat down on Sunday night and read past midnight until I had finished half of the book. Then on Monday night, I read for hours until I had finished the book near midnight. I just couldn't put this book down. I have nothing but praise for first-time author Michael Ferrari. Born to Fly is a spectacular novel and kept me guessing until the thrilling climax.

I have read a few other fictional stories about the way Americans treated Japanese during World War II and I was appalled. I understand how we can look suspiciously at a race when we are at war and wonder if they are working for the enemy. We have been at war with the Taliban for many years now and I sometimes wonder when I see someone, but then dismiss it as ignorance on my part. But rounding all the Japanese up and putting them in internment camps, like they did during WWII, seems a bit on the paranoid side.

Finally, we have a book with a strong female girl as the main character. Bird desperately wants to be a fighter pilot and fly a P-40 Warhawk, which she finally gets to do in this book, although it is not under the circumstances that she thought it would be. She is a girl who doesn't always make the right decisions. After all, she is still only 11-years old. But she learns from her bad decisions and then makes the right ones. She is a great role-model for young girls.

This is a wonderful book for both boys and girls. I was totally enthralled by the storyline and extremely tense during the action scenes. During the court room drama, my stomach was in knots wondering if Bird would let Kenji's uncle go to jail because of the threats by the man in black. Would she make the right decision or not? Wow! What a breathtaking novel!

Born to Fly is about as near to perfect as you can get for a first-time novelist. Overall, this book is stupendous and should not be missed by anyone who loves a great story. I cannot wait to see what Michael Ferrari writes next. This book had me flying high in the clouds.

I rated this book a 10 out of 10.

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