The Avion My Uncle Flew // by Cyrus Fisher (1946)
Newbery Honor Book (1947)
Genre: MG, Fiction/Historical
Rating: 3 Stars
Basic Plot: Johnny Littlehorn injures his leg at his home on a ranch in Wyoming. To help with the healing process, he is sent to live with his uncle in a small village in France. As he helps his uncle build an “avion” on top of a mountain, he discovers a plot that involves a secret cache of gold and Nazis in hiding…
Johnny’s mother is originally from France, but Johnny has no interest in learning the language. So, she makes a deal with him that encourages him to start learning… quickly. The whole book is scattered with French words (like the title of the book) and shows us Johnny’s thought process as he figures out different French phrases. Everything is fairly simple, but I liked how it was done.
One of the funniest parts is when Johnny is trying to get his friend, Charles, to help him with a plan. Except that Charles only speaks French and Johnny’s French is simple at best. Of course, misunderstandings happen and well… I won’t spoil it for you.
I hesitated to put this down as “historical fiction”… Because it was published in 1946, technically it’d be contemporary fiction! I do love how it gives you a real idea of what life was like during those post-war years in France… instead of through the eyes of a historical novelist writing from our own time.
I don’t think it would get a Newbery Honor today. And in some ways, the book hasn’t aged well. It had some good moments though. And I did enjoy it for its historicity.
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Would you give this a Newbery Honor today? Let me know in the comments!
Newbery Verdict Reading Challenge: This is a personal challenge for me to read books that have either won the Newbery Medal, or are a Newbery Honor book. The Newbery is named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. Since 1922, this annual award has given to the author of the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” A Newbery Honor book is given to the runners-up.