Jump into the Sky

Jump into the Sky
Age Range
10+
Release Date
August 14, 2012
ISBN
9780375836992
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In 1945, thirteen-year-old Levi is sent to find the father he has not seen in three years, going from Chicago, to segregated North Carolina, and finally to Pendleton, Oregon,where he learns that his father's unit, the all-Black 555th paratrooper battalion, will never see combat but finally has a mission. Includes historical notes.

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Different side of WWII
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Levi has been living with an aunt in Chicago since his mother left him and his father is in the army during in WWII. When his aunt tires of having him, she sends him off to where his father is stationed in the south. This is quite a culture shock for the smart, well-behaved boy who is subject to the Jim Crow behavior in this part of the US for the first time. To make matters worse, his father's unit has just been shipped to Oregon. Luckily, one of his father's men, Cal, takes him in to help out with his wife, Peaches, who is expecting and soon has a baby girl. Eventually, Cal is sent to join the 555th, and Levi is reunited with his father. WWII is winding down, but the Japanese are sending bombs into the US on balloons, and the 555th, while fighting against racial prejudice, is also trying to keep those at bay.
Good Points
I have two reading speeds, Review Speed With Laser Focus and Enjoying Myself. Pearsall is a great writer who frequently lulled me into leisurely enjoying her prose. This is also an under represented area of WWII history, and the research is well done.
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Jump into a Good Book
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Levi Battle is accustomed to family members leaving him. His mother abandoned him on the seat of a Ford when he was just a baby, and his father left him many times over the years. But Levi is unprepared to be the one leaving when his Aunt Odella abruptly decides to send him from Chicago to live with his paratrooper father down south at Camp Mackall, North Carolina. When Levi arrives in the South, the thirteen-year-old boy receives an abrupt and frightening introduction to Jim Crow laws and racial bigotry. His troubles only increase when he learns that his father has been sent to Oregon. Levi is taken in by friendly Cal, a paratrooper from his father’s unit, the 555th, and his wife Peaches. He travels with them to Pendleton, Oregon, where he reunites with his father and learns about the 555th’s secret mission.

Pearsall’s writing is honest and frank, and she does not shy away from showing the bitter racism that African Americans faced during the 1940s. Aggravation and tension run high among the 555th paratroopers, occasionally escaping in bursts of verbal frustration. Pearson expertly captures Levi’s voice, and the inclusion of wartime terms and references in his figurative language reminds the reader that the war is always lingering in Levi’s mind. Pearsall’s characterizations beyond her protagonist are also superb and memorable, from the mysterious basket weaver MawMaw Sands to moody, insecure Willajean. A child interested in family or friendship dynamics, World War II, or the military may thoroughly enjoy this book. The book would be useful during lessons or presentations about family relationships, Jim Crow laws or the end of World War II. Libraries with collections for upper elementary and middle school students would benefit from the addition of this excellent selection of historical fiction.
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