November 8, 2012
Life on the homefront
Flight Of the Tiger Moth
by Mary Woodbury
Jack Waters lives in small town Cairn, Saskatchewan. It's 1943, and a flight training school has been set up nearby. Jack wants to become a fighter pilot but not only is he underage, his poor eyesight prevents him from being accepted. So he works as an aircraft cleaner and mechanic. Secretly, he's been up in the air with his sister's fiancé, Sandy, who teaches him the basics in the bright yellow Tiger Moth. Sandy gets sent to England, where he begins night missions over Europe. Flo, Jack's sister, also heads to England, where she's going to work in a military hospital. Meanwhile Jack makes friends with flight trainees Trevor and Basil. Together, they hang out, swim, and take part in a musical fête.
If all that doesn't sound terribly exciting, it's because the book isn't about the fighting overseas. It's mainly about the effects war has had on the homefront. So it lacks a certain amount of action. Many pages are devoted to Jack's rescue of an abandoned puppy and his overprotective mother's anxieties. Her worries are further exacerbated when Sandy is listed as missing in action, and Flo is injured during a bombing raid.
Conflicts do arise - between Jack and a local bully, and the town boys and the RAF boys - but they're quickly resolved. Tragedy occurs when Trevor is killed, though the grief is kept short. This is not as callous as it seems; so many fliers were killed in training accidents that people probably became inured to them after a while. The story only picks up when Basil's plane is struck by a goose. That's when Jack overcomes his own fears so that he can fix the plane and fly Basil to safety.
Overall, Flight of the Tiger Moth is a slow-moving story with a few unresolved plot points. We never learn Sandy's fate, and Flo's few letters are censored (though we're reassured that's she's all right). In the endnotes, the author says she researched war nurses and their experiences, but she doesn't use the information in the story. As for Jack, he's an okay character, but he's mainly an observer, only springing into action in the last two chapters. Since there's 26 chapters, that's a little too late for most readers. At least it ends somewhat happily when Jack gets to keep the dog.