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The Boy Who Could Fly Without A Motor
Theodore Taylor
Harcourt, 153 pages

The Boy Who Could Fly Without A Motor
Theodore Taylor
Theodore Taylor was born in North Carolina. He began writing at the age of thirteen, covering high school sports events for the Portsmouth, Virginia, Evening Star. By 19, he was writing radio network sports for NBC, in New York. In 1955, a year after his first book, The Magnificent Mitscher, Taylor joined Paramount Pictures as a press agent; then became a story editor, finally, associate producer. Following the filming of TORA! TORA! TORA!, he turned full-time to novels, non-fiction books and screen plays. The Cay, winner of 11 literary awards, including the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, was a Universal film presentation starring James Earl Jones. He and his family reside in Laguna Beach, California.

Theodore Taylor Website
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A review by Nathan Brazil

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'Was there ever a human on Earth, old or young or skinny or fat, who hadn't thought about this, dreamed of it? Pumping along on an aerial road that wasn't there. Taking a nap on a cloud. Waving to an eagle.'
Splendidly titled, The Boy Who Could Fly Without A Motor, is a novella sized story in the life of Jonathan Jeffers. He's fifty-two pounds, four-feet-two-inches tall and only nine-years-old. Jon lives with his parents, in a small cottage on Clementine Rock, some nineteen miles off the coast of California. Jon's father is the lighthouse keeper. It's a lonely life on the rock, with no other children and only his faithful dog, Smacks, to keep him company. Until, that is, Jon meets a strange figure on the beach. This turns out to be the Great Ling Wu, a Chinese magician who is long dead. Wu knows the secret of levitation, and before too long he's passed on this skill to Jon, who has given his word never to tell a soul.

What follows is a charming, straightforward tale, set in 1935, when the world was a much more innocent place. Theodore Taylor's technique is, in some ways, reminiscent of C.S. Lewis, with all his characters being exactly who they seem to be. No subterfuge or skullduggery to worry about here. No Playstation games or violent TV either, just a boy and his dreams of being able to fly. When those dreams come true, he finds that getting what you wish for is not quite as wonderful as he'd imagined. Especially when Jon accidentally allows some adults to see him when he's out flying, one night.

'Not only was body flying against the laws of gravity, as his mother had said, it was apparently against the laws of the United States, and he could be put in jail for threatening the security of the entire nation.'
Aimed at the 8-12 age range, this is a title which could be read to even younger children, as there is no dubious content to worry anyone sensible. There's also a subtle lesson in what could happen to a child who has a gift which adults might find alarming, and even a pointer toward the self-aggrandising ways of politicians. The secret of Jon's levitation is not so far away from the kind of parapsychology research which some adults treat seriously. Put together, these strands form a fine little book, which entertains and gently stimulates the imagination. It isn't Harry Potter, but then, it's not trying to be. The only areas I found slightly disappointing was the rather short length, and the ending, which although in keeping with the rest of the story, left a number of questions unanswered. However, that's probably just my enquiring adult mind, and nothing that would bother a bona fide kid.

Copyright © 2004 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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