Genre: children’s biography
Length: 208 pages
Setting: mostly Africa with a bit in Greece, 1938-1941
Interest: I chose the book for our first American History Club WWII book.
Summary: Dahl, as a young man, worked for the Shell Company in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). He recounts his journey by boat to Dar es Salaam, where he was stationed. There are few Brits in the territory, but many poisonous snakes, which makes for amusing stories. When war breaks out, Dahl is instrumental in rounding up all the Germans in Dar es Salaam. He then volunteers for the Royal Air Force and receives some training in Nairobi. Once he’s proficient on an airplane, Dahl’s sent to join his squadron, but receives an inaccurate location, which results in a nearly deadly crash-landing in the desert. After a long recovery from head trauma, he’s sent to Greece to help fight the Germans, with no training in aerial combat. Amazingly, he survives, even with overwhelming German forces.
Final thoughts: I was a bit worried that Dahl’s biography wouldn’t be enjoyed by or appropriate for kids, but that fear was laid to rest once I started reading. Dahl states right at the beginning of the book that he’s only writing about the highlights of his life, and not the minutiae. Even so, we get a taste of colonial life in Africa before and during the beginning of WWII. Dahl also includes some of his ephemera from that time – photos and letters to home. While we do see some aerial combat and bombing, there’s very little blood and no sense of what Hitler was doing back in Germany. Dahl finds the humor in most of his situations.
Title comes from: A line in the book where Dahl talk about his flight training and going solo for the first time.
Reading challenges fulfilled: 86/100 in my 100 Book Challenge
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