On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck

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It’s very possible that I have a Richard Peck obsession happening right now.  I just added A Long Way from Chicago to the curriculum for my fourth grade class, and I picked up copies of one of the sequels at a book sale recently (review to come once I’ve finished it!)  So, I grabbed up a class set of On the Wings of Heroes at the same sale in the hopes that it would be worth it.  Totally worth it!

The story is set in a small town (very Peck) at the start of WWII (also very Peck), but unlike his comical Grandma Dowdel antics of the previously mentioned books, this one strives to be a bit more realistic.  Of course, there are naturally humorous observations in it and Peck’s choice of words when describing people and places continues to make me smile, even when I’m on the verge of tears due to the sentimentality of the plot.

Davy is a young boy growing up in a small town in middle America.  He clearly paints pictures of how relationships in the town were before the war and how things change as our nation waded deeper into battle overseas. Davy idolizes his big brother, Bill, who is entering the fray as part of the Army Air Force.  This entry into the war breaks the heart of their father, Earl, who was injured in WWI.  However, Earl and his wife, Joyce, are proud of their son, even though they fear for his safety.

I really enjoyed the balance of this book.  There was a very clear storyline of how life was for the small towns of rural America during WWII.  There is an endless stream of rationing and scrap drives of everything from metal to rubber to paper.  I think that my students will really be able to relate to everyday sacrifices that people made during that time, since many of them are still too young to fully comprehend what serving in the armed forces would be like.  My brain started buzzing with ideas of how to apply the descriptions of daily life to projects and discussions with my students…that is always a good sign for me when I’m reading a YA novel!  The story is emotional, but not overly sappy and funny, but not overly silly.  As I finished the last page, I already knew that I would be adding this to my fifth grade curriculum for the upcoming year.

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