Born to Fly

Born to Fly

by Michael Ferrari


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Ever since she can remember, Bird has loved flying in small propeller airplanes with her mechanic dad. When the local airstrip is turned into a military flight school, Bird is in heaven—and she manages to turn one young airman's interest in her older sister into some personal flight lessons.
Then a young Japanese American student named Kenji Fujita joins Bird's class, and the entire school seems to be convinced that he's a spy, a secret agent, or at the very least, that he and his uncle want the Japs to win.
But through a class project, Bird and Kenji befriend each other and accidentally discover real spy activity in the area. So begins an adventure that will shake the town and may even change the future of the United States.

Winner of the Dell Yearling Contest

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375846076
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 03/08/2011
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 1,195,968
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

M. J. FERRARI has worked as an English teacher, vacuum cleaner salesman, freight dockworker, lipstick machine operator, air-to-air cameraman, network T.V. censor, and feature film editor.  He is currently working as a litigation proofreader (zzzz . . .) and hoping to return to teaching. He got the idea for Born to Fly at a World War II airshow when he overheard a boy tell his little sister as she climbed inside a P-40 cockpit that girls can never be fighter pilots.  It broke her heart.  He wrote the story for her, and her daughters.

Read an Excerpt


Just 'cause I was a girl in 1941, don't think I was some sissy. Shoot, I saw stuff that would've made that bully Farley Peck pee right through his pants. Like summer, the year before. That's when me and my best friend Wendy saw the Genny, the giant man-eating sea serpent that lived in Geneseo Bay. Except Wendy didn't get a good look like I did. To tell you the truth, I don't think she really saw anything, she just said she did to back me up. That's what friends do. But then Wendy's dad got a job building roads, or houses, or something with the Work Projects Administration, and they moved to Wisconsin. It didn't really matter, because no one believed me anyway. I was always seeing stuff that no one else did. Mom thought I probably just needed glasses, but my dad said it was because I had "imagination." Once, when I was two, they found me way up on the roof of our barn. Dad said I must have flown up there. That's how I got my name.

"What do you think, Bird?"

"This is the best birthday present ever, Dad."

We were flying above the clouds in Mr. Watson's yellow Piper. I guided the small propeller plane so that it moved through the air just like an eagle. Seeing me in my World War One pilot's skullcap and goggles and my Huck Finn dungarees, you would've never guessed that someone with a neat name like Bird McGill was actually just an eleven-year-old girl. But I was. I worked the controls carefully, scanning the skies for bogies at twelve o'clock.

"She's no Warhawk, but she sure beats that puddle jumper we had last year," Dad told me.

My dad was a mechanic, the best one around. He could fix just about anything, but his favorite things were airplanes. He had rebuilt Mr. Watson's airplane carburetor last month.

"Mr. Watson says we can take her up anytime," Dad said.

This wasn't the first time I'd been up in a plane. Dad had taken me up plenty of times. My big sister Margaret was afraid to go and my little brother Alvin was still too young. Mom flew with us sometimes, but she didn't like it like I did. Plus, when Mom wasn't around and it was just the two of us, Dad would let me take the controls. I knew just about all there was to know about flying. You have to watch your airspeed and your altimeter (that's what tells you how high you are). You've got to know how to ride your rudder, adjust your trim and throttle, and know just how much flaps to use when taking off and landing. My favorite airplane was the P-40 Warhawk. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. Someday, I was gonna fly one.

See, every airplane needs wings and a tail. The wings need flaps, and the tail needs a rudder. And it's a good idea to have wheels, if you ever hope to land and take off again. But you can hardly call it an airplane if it doesn't look like it was born to fly. An airplane can only fly as good as it looks. My dad said it's like falling in love. If one look at the plane doesn't make you want to shoot up into the clouds, the plane's hardly worth talking about.

Down below us was Geneseo, the town where we lived. It's in the state of Rhode Island. Funny thing is, Rhode Island isn't an island at all. An island has water on all sides, like Hawaii or Treasure Island. But we only had water on one side. We lived near the ocean, but thanks to the bay, which hooked around like a big arm, we could swim and fish and the water never got too rough, like it did farther out in the Atlantic Ocean.

My dad's name was Peter. That was what Mom called him when she was scared or mad, or didn't want him to let me do something that she thought was too dangerous or un_lady_like (like flying an airplane). My dad was handsome, with strong arms and a big, easy smile. I liked the way he looked at me when I was flying. Like he was proud.

When you're flying and you look down, everything looks different. All the stuff you thought was so big, or scary, is just small. Underneath us, Geneseo was laid out like a map, with Main Street dividing the town in half. On the north side were the bay, the airfield, our house, and the Widow Gorman's farm. On the other side were nine or ten clusters of houses in little rows. Main Street was crooked, and from up here it looked like a lazy snake. It was lined with two wavy rows of maple trees planted by Ruth Geneseo more than two hundred years ago to welcome her husband home from the Indian Wars. The story goes, Ruth couldn't see too well, so the trees weren't exactly in a straight line. But her husband, Wilford, thought they were the most beautiful things he'd ever seen. He built a hotel at the end of the road so that everyone would get to walk right between the two rows of trees whenever they came to town. To my left I saw the white roof of the courthouse, then a dull red box that must have been the school, and finally the pointy spire of the church. Below my right wing I could even see two men fishing from a rowboat in the bay, far below.

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Born to Fly 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are not many books out there for kids with a girl heroine. If you're looking for a book with a strong female main character, this is your book. The setting for the story is a small town on the east coast following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This book offers adventure and a bit of an educational journey into what it might have been like to live in the US during WWII. There are also big lessons to learn in this book. One being tolerence for people different from ourselves. As I read, I couldn't help to compare the feelings after the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the feelings after 911 in the USA. Would recommend this books to boys and girls in 4th/5th grade.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
as soon as i read the short description i knew i was hooked. This book has a mixture of a mystery along with realistic fiction with a tad of history. It is surly a MUST READ!!!!
skstiles612 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bird Mcgill loves to fly. She is only eleven years old. Her father repairs airplanes. On her birthday her father lets her try to land the plane. She almost does it. Dad has to step in and help out. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Bird's father finds himself drafted. To make matters worse for Bird a new boy has joined her class. His name is Kenji. The two of them become friends and have joined forces to find a spy. The book was full of historical information. Most of the students I teach don't know how we treated Japanese Americans during this war. I am hoping that it may bring some understanding of past prejudices. This was an awesome book
KHusser on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Historical fiction about a young girl during WWII, and her desire to fly fighter planes and become independent like her male counterparts. This debut novel is action-packed, utilizes 1940¿s slang, (some offensive terms, therefore use caution with younger students) and educates the reader about rationing, death, and prejudice against Japanese Americans. A unique blend of information and adventure from an eleven¿year olds point of view.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't quite buy the female voice (yes, even though she's a tomboy) and although the plot has lots of adventure, I couldn't quite suspend my disbelief to buy it. I'm also not sure of the audience. It seems too young for middle school (with an 11-year-old protagonist), but I feel like elementary students will need a lot of scaffolding to get what's going on.
Lindz2012 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed seeing that a girl wanted to fly a plane. That her dad was teaching her. Her dad let her have her chance of landing a plane on her birthday. This book does have some action and Adventure. Those their a mystery unfolds once her father was drafted to sent off to fight in the war.There information about WWII in this book and about the attack on Pearl Harbor. It does give some information on our history. It goes into issues about bullying, prejudiced, Learning to make friends, I see what kids and others did to other kids back then.Bird and Kenji do find some real spy activity while they are researching for their school report. Kenji is new in town and joins Bird class. Want to know more then I suggest reading it for I do not want to give spoilers away.Does Bird get to fly a plane?, Doe she get her wish of her father to come home?, Does she and Kenji form a friendship? These answer can be found in the book. It a good read for children and you get some background information on Pearl Harbor and WWII.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Born to fly is the best book ever i willl read it over and over again Camin
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The middle age stallion galloped in and stood in front of Cloud. "Hello, im Tawny rolo. Can i join?" He neighed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautiful black stallion came trotting in. She whinnied and prolaimed "May i join."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
They both looked aroundl
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
luv it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Are you a boy or girl
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book and what are you people talking/reviewing about!?!?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Who is single
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a ground breaking sad and good peiceof literature. But most of the credit to the auther
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My teacher is reading thus ti us in class for caudill books. Really good. Im so edumacated
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a really good book. This is a nutmeg so i am forced to read it but dont care reeeeeeaaaaallllllyyy good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book. My mother got an advance reader copy. I used this as my book report book. My friends thought it sounded like a good book. I think this book is good because boys and girls would like to read it. It also tells you to follow your dreams. The end was a little hard to follow, but the rest was very well written. People of all ages would like this book.
Kari Santas More than 1 year ago
you must read this book! i am not that much in to planes but this book i couldnt put down! the main character bird is just like me because se is a tom boy. you gotta read!