Saturday, January 23, 2016

Jump Into The Sky

Jump Into The Sky

Juvenile fiction
"Within the big stories in history, there are always many
smaller ones--
stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I first heard
about the black paratroopers of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion
from a veteran who had been one of the famed Tuskagee Airman, a group
of black pilots in World War II...He said the men of the 555th were
sometimes known as the "Triple Nickles," and they had once been part
of a secret operation to protect the United States from Japanese
balloon bombs and forest fires during World War II."
Shelley Pearsall, author of the above quote, was intrigued by
this clue to a relatively unknown chapter of American history. In the
course of her research she had the great good fortune to interview
Walter Morris, the first African American paratrooper. That was back
in 1944, a time when, "...few African Americans had ever flown inside
a plane, let alone jumped from one." This experience convinced her of
the importance of writing the story of the 555th. She does this
admirably in Jump Into The Sky.
Having loved ones walk out on him is a big part of Levi's young
life. It's even how he got his name--from a note his singer mother
left beside him when she left his baby self on the passenger seat of
his father's jalopy and departed for parts unknown. His father has
been a mostly distant figure involved in away from home jobs and then
the military. He's spent many years in a small apartment with his
strict Aunt Odella. Then one day she sat him down for a talk. He's
going on a train to North Carolina to live with his father.
His father, however, has not been clued in on his imminent
arrival. Levi arrives to find empty barracks. It turns out that his
dad has been moved by the military powers that be to a location about
as far from North Carolina as one can go and still stay in the United
States: Oregon. As he finds a way to make the journey, he learns a
lot about himself and the world around him.
Jump Into The Sky, however, is more than just a fascinating
coming of age narrative. Although it is set in the 1940's some of its
themes continue to be unfortunately timely.
Levi almost gets killed for not knowing the rules of the Jim Crow
South. African Americans today are a lot more likely than white peers
to be shot by police, suspended or expelled from school, and sent to
Levi's dad is in a black platoon that does not go overseas due to
fears that they will end up in close contact with white soldiers. In
later years similar fears have effected the treatment of women and gays.
Exploring either of the above themes could lead to very fruitful
classroom discussion.
On a personal note, Church of Universal Fellowship has been
transformed into a winterland. At the front of the sanctuary
elaborate paper snowflakes hang from the ceiling. The altar and
pulpit cloths and Pastor Lorna's stole are blue embroidered with
snowflakes. Some diligent beings put snowflakes in each and every
hymnal. Pastor Lorna said that these artisan snowflakes acted as a
snow dance, drawing real flakes down from the skies. I have no reason
to doubt her. We'd been way overdue for the white stuff. We even had
a brown Christmas. But since her church was adorned we've had three
A great big shout out goes out to all the folks who crafted such a
work of beauty and, in doing so, lifted the spirits of their fellow
human beings.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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