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Biggles Learns to Fly Kindle Edition
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I thought this may all be too distant, unreal and maybe just a bit gruelling for my 7 and 9 year olds... but not a bit of it. They were intrigued, enthralled and keen to learn more about this important time in our history. Chocks away!
It is September 1916 when this story opens, and James ‘Biggles’ Bigglesworth finds himself at flying school. Really only seventeen years old Biggles has managed to lie about his age and get in to the Forces. We follow Biggles here as he learns to fly and then is sent to the Front. Although not for children that are too young as this does have a lot of death in it, this book works on more than one level. Biggles is a very human character; he makes mistakes, and also learns from them whilst also at the same time pondering the war, and using his brain.
Full of action, adventure and derring-do this is a book that is easy to lose yourself in, and makes some perfect escapism. Biggles starts off rather gung-ho at the beginning of this book, but you can see how his character changes as he becomes more cautious and thoughtful about what he is doing, thus making less rash actions. Although this is a novel it is more a series of interconnecting stories making this rather episodic, which does work well within the frame of this.
There is something of the romantic about bi-planes bringing back thoughts of nostalgia, rather like steam engines, and I am sure older men will want to read this again as they remember their boyhood and this is ideal for slightly older children and may even instil an interest in them of the First World War. Full of detail and bringing back the days of flying by the seat of your pants; this is a book that should appeal to a broad age range.
I kindly received a review copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley.
This book was not the first written of the series but Capt. Johns is undoubtedly recalling his own youth and days in the fighter squadrons. He wrote it in 1935 and must have been amazed by how fast the aviation world had taken off and become sophisticated.
Reading the book we get reminded that the trenches stretched from the French or Belgian coast to the borders of Switzerland. Artillery were often shelling a position they could not see so planes were sent up to spot for them and the basic but effective signalling in use is described. We also see that cavalry was still in use and the unpleasantness of trench warfare is experienced a few times during crash landings, when the young officer is happy to escape back to his own lines.
The people and stress of those early days of aerial combat are extremely well realised, so that a young reader will be thrilled and a mature reader left gasping at the bravery involved. I had read many of the series but not this book, and was delighted to get a chance to read it as reissued for the centenary of the Great War. I'd hoped that Johns might have mentioned something of Biggles' family or home but this is not the case.
To my mind the WW1 books are the best written of the series. Biggles starred in many books but later became a one-dimensional figure as Johns wrote what his publishers told him that boys wanted to read. You may also be interested in 'Biggles - the Authorised Biography' by John Pearson which treats the character as though he was a real person.
I may well be knocking on (64) but fifty years on I was entertained by a W E Johns "Biggles" I had not seen before and remember well the other stories that gave many happy hours reading.
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Most recent customer reviews
Turns out he is firmly fixed in the future.
Still a great series of stories.