90. High Flight: A Story of World War II by Linda Granfield

High Flight: A Story of World War II by Linda Granfield. Illustrated by Michael Martchenko. (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 32
Ages: 9+
Finished: Apr. 8, 2011
First Published: 1999
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: children, non-fiction, biography, poetry
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

How old do you have to be to leave your mark?

Acquired: Purchased a new copy from an online retailer.

Reason for Reading: real aloud to ds as part of our history curriculum.

This is a "picture book" biography for older kids of the short and tragic life of John Gillespie Magee, Jr. Living only a short 19 years many countries claim him as one of their own. Born in Shanghai, China to missionary parents he was sent to boarding school in England at nine years of age. He returned to live with his parents, now in the US, in time to start college. An American citizen by birth , his British accent set him apart from others his age and he thought of England as home. When World War II broke out newspapers reported of air attacks on his beloved England. The United States was not in the the war yet, nor would it be for several more years, so John went to Canada and signed up with the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) where he knew he would be fighting on Britain's side.

John was not a very mature 18 year old when he entered the army and had troubles with his superiors in following orders and was often called on for dangerous flying. He was otherwise, an all around well-liked kid by his peers and those who had dealings with him. John liked to try his hand at poetry, often going to the extreme romantic side but one day after writing a letter to his parents he turned it over and wrote a "ditty" he had composed in his head while out practice flying on his own one evening. This was the poem he called "High Flight". His parents were impressed and took it to church with them where they shared it and his Aunt sent it in to the local paper. From there it caught on with the papers world wide and "High Flight" became the most famous poem to come out of World War II. Three months later John would be dead after his plane crashed into another during flying formation manoeuvres.

This book is the short story of his tragic life, the story of how a famous poem came to be written, and the story of the wasted youth who die in war. This is a good book, entertaining but not exactly exciting as Magee didn't really have that exciting of a life but he left his mark and it is a bittersweet tale. Ds, who is ten and autistic, even realized the youth of John and commented on it many times. Ds has a 21 year old brother and he just couldn't comprehend an 18/19 yo fighting and dying in a war. Good lesson learned. Unfortunately neither of us are very crazy for this poem but Martchenko's illustrations are as wonderful as expected being one of the foremost children's illustrators in Canada.

Interesting tidbit of info: When this book was first being published, I was working on a kidlit Canadian historical fiction/biography project online for the homeschool community (though it became popular with other educators) and Linda emailed me asking for my address. The aforementioned 21yo brother (turning 22 this month!) who was 10 at the time, was thrilled to receive a postcard from Linda Granfield of this book with a personal note to him on the back. We still have it, though for some reason it is tucked inside our copy of "Flanders Fields".


  1. Wow Nicola, I just heard from John of The Book Mine Set that congratulations are in order. I had no idea you got married. Congrats!

  2. Thanks Teddy! I didn't make a big deal about it here on the blog, just one post. Easy enough to miss. We got married in the Church on Jan. 29. It was beautiful!

  3. Hey, Nicola,
    Someone told me about your blog. SO very glad to read this and happy to see that your sons enjoyed the book with you. Nice that your older son still has the postcard. Amazing! and touching!
    Your sons (even the older one!) might like my most recent title, "Remembering John McCrae" about the man who wrote "In Flanders Fields."
    Happy Spring and greetings to your sons.
    Linda Granfield

  4. Hi Linda! Thanks for stopping by! I've reunited the postcard with the proper book now too LOL. I'm interested in reading your other book. Plus I'm also keeping my eyes open for your Niagara Falls book. My older son and I loved that one and now that we actually live in the Falls I really want to read it with my younger son. I'm hoping to come across a used copy we can keep, if not we'll have to use the library. Too bad it's OP!

  5. This sounds really good. Will have to let my daughter know about it. I hope it's okay to link to your review on War Through the Generations.

    P.S. Congrats on your marriage! :)


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