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Born to Fly

Born to Fly

4.8 21
by Michael Ferrari

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Born to Fly tells the story of eleven-year-old tomboy Bird McGill. 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. But when a young Japanese American student named Kenji Fujita joins Bird’s class, the entire school


Born to Fly tells the story of eleven-year-old tomboy Bird McGill. 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. But when a young Japanese American student named Kenji Fujita joins Bird’s class, the entire school seems to be convinced that he’s a spy, or at the very least, that he and his uncle want the Japanese to win. Bird is wary of Kenji, not just because he’s Japanese, but because he steals her flight-related topic for a school report and leaves her to write about the deadly boring local marsh weed. But on Bird’s first trip to the marsh, she and Kenji accidentally discover real spy activity in the area. Bird realizes that Kenji is actually a stand-up guy—and she and Kenji begin an adventure that will shake the town and may even change the future of the United States.

Winner of the Dell Yearling Contest

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ferrari's novel, which won the Delacorte Yearling Prize for debut middle-grade authors, takes readers on a high-flying, nail-biting historical adventure that is uplifting and just good fun. Set during WWII in a sleepy Rhode Island town, Ferrari's story is narrated by an imaginative preteen girl whose nothing-can-stop-me attitude will appeal to readers of both sexes. Sixth-grader Bird McGill loves flying airplanes with her dad. But when he joins the war effort, Bird feels like she's lost her only ally. Then Kenji, a guarded Japanese boy, shows up in her class. As he becomes an even bigger outcast and bully-target than her (“Why don't you go home to Japland,” sneers a classmate), Bird reluctantly befriends him. Together, Bird and Kenji stumble upon suspicious activity in their hometown and vow to unravel the mystery. Ferrari weaves in period details, but wisely keeps the focus on the duo's antics and fragile, budding friendship. As danger grows, so does their trust in and reliance on each other. Readers will be anxious to learn the fate of these two daring kids and the spy they are determined to derail. Ages 8–12. (July)
Children's Literature - Suzanna E. Henshon
In his debut novel, Michael Ferrari brings Bird McCill to life with the very first lines, "Just ‘cause I was a girl in 1941, do not think I was some sissy. Shoot, I saw stuff that would've made that bully Farley Peck pee right through his pants." Bird dreams of being a P-40 fighter pilot, spreading her wings and pursuing her dreams. What could be better than touching the clouds? It is 1941, and, when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Bird's life changes forever. Bird's father enlists in the army and is shipped overseas to the war zone. Then Japanese-American boy, Kenji, arrives at school. While other children think he is a spy, Bird is drawn to the quiet, sensitive boy who saves her life on several occasions. This friendship is tested in unusual ways, particularly when Bird is asked to testify at the trial of Kenji's uncle. Can Bird speak up and risk her own life to share the truth? Kenji and Bird discover a real life spy in their own community who is plotting to destroy the military supplies. Bird realizes these spy activities might put President Roosevelt's life in jeopardy. Can Bird fly to Providence in time to save the president's life, or will the course of history change forever? In this exciting story, Michael Ferrari creates a compelling heroine who will inspire and enchant young readers. Reviewer: Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Bird McGill regards her dad as her best friend. He takes her up in the planes he repairs and lets her take the controls, and he encourages her dream of becoming a pilot. But a special bulletin disrupts her 11th-birthday afternoon: Japan has attacked the military base in Pearl Harbor, and Bird's world is turned upside down. During the next few months, the local airstrip is turned into a military flight school, and her dad is shipped overseas. When a Japanese-American boy joins Bird's class that spring, he is met with distrust. Although his uncle, with whom he is staying, is a longtime resident of Bird's Rhode Island town, they are both thought to be spies, or at least loyal to Japan. Circumstances compel Kenji and Bird to join forces one day to escape Farley, a class bully, and in the process they stumble on evidence of an enemy submarine in the area. When they attempt to report what they have seen, nobody believes them. Their problems are compounded when Farley's shiftless father is murdered and the local engine factory is sabotaged: Kenji's uncle is blamed. Only Bird can clear Uncle Tomo, but the murderer has threatened to kill her family if she speaks up. Well-developed characters make this story of friendship amid hostilities shine. While the coincidences surrounding the murderer can stretch credulity at times, this action-packed first novel is full of engaging twists and turns, and readers learn about the injustices done to many Japanese Americans during World War II. First-rate historical fiction.—Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Eleven-year-old outcast Bird McGill feels she was born to fly. Luckily, her father's work as a plane mechanic gives her the opportunity. In her small Rhode Island town, her imaginative stories aren't taken seriously, but she really did see an enemy submarine in the bay in 1942. When she and her new friend, Kenji Fujita, try to take its picture, she stumbles onto a corpse and a murderous spy. It is her passion for the P-40 airplane flown by pilots at a nearby airfield that keeps other lives from being lost. Ferrari successfully recreates a time early in World War II, when anti-Japanese sentiment was high and fathers went to war and didn't always return. Birdie's first-person voice is convincing, and the narrative moves briskly. With this debut, the author aims to provide the kind of adventure for girls that boys often enjoy in children's books. Middle-grade readers of either gender looking for suspenseful historical fiction won't notice that the combination of events adds up to an unlikely story, but they will enjoy Bird's flight. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Random House
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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Michael Ferrari lives in Avon Lake, Ohio, where he is a teacher. Born to Fly is his first novel.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Born to Fly 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 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!!!!
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!