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Under a War-Torn Sky

Under a War-Torn Sky is a young adult war novel about a boy flying a B-24 in World War II. When his plane is shot down by enemies and he is trapped behind enemy lines, he is helped by kind French citizens to escape and get back to his home. Written by American author L. M. Elliott, it was first published in 2001. It won a number of awards on publication.

Elliott drew inspiration for the novel from her father, who had served in World War II.

Plot Details

"Under A War-Torn Sky" follows the fictional story of Henry Forester, a B-24 Bomber copilot from Richmond, Virginia, as he carries out a bombing mission over Nazi controlled Germany, Where he is shot down behind enemy lines. Henry struggles to make it back to the states by linking up with Maquis and french resistance fighters. The story begins with Henry and his pilot Dan MacNamara trying to pull their plane, "Out of the Blue", out of a dive. After repeatedly trying to regain control, a German Messerschmitt circles his plane. Just before the plane hits the ground, Henry wakes up in his bunk in England, realizing that he had been dreaming. After being woken up by the Sergeant, Henry talks to him about a girl that he has a picture of, her name is Patsy. After a short argument between Henry and Billy White (the copilot for "Battling Queen") that is broken up by Dan, everyone heads to "Group Ops" to be briefed on the mission ahead.

After the briefing, they head to the mess hall and Henry and Dan go through the pre-flight checklist. After everything checks out, they launch into the air and join in a diamond formation with other bombers from several bases. The crew of Henry's plane is as follows: Dan MacNamara (pilot), Henry Forester (copilot), Fred and Paul (no last name given, bombardiers), a radio operator, two waist gunners, Jim Wilkinson (tail gunner), a ball turret gunner, and an engineer. After a small flak barrage, the bomber group is attacked by German planes. The planes down several bombers before American fighters come to stop them. Unfortunately, several planes focus on Henry's plane and Billy White's plane. White's plane is downed and Dan is shot by a bullet that began ricocheting around the cockpit. Then, in the next attack, Fred is killed and the plane begins to lose altitude. Dan orders everyone out, but doesn't state that he intends to keep the plane steady for everyone to get out, sacrificing himself. Henry helps him out of the plane, despite protests, and they both bail out. On the way down, Dan is killed by a plane that is strafing the parachuting pilots. The plane turns on Henry and makes him fall the rest of the way down, breaking his ankle. Henry then receives help from a doctor and sneaks into Switzerland. He is then told that he can make his way back to England via the French Resistance, he chooses to, and departs on a train.

Henry is then helped across France by multiple people, the most important of which being a family consisting of a grandfather, a mother, and her child, Pierre. While in their presence, Henry learns more French from the child, and teaches him English. Henry enjoys his stay with them, but it all comes to an end when a German patrol shoots the grandfather, and captures the mother. Henry takes the child to a church, where he gives the child his lucky marble (Later on it is hinted that the child may have died). He then leaves with a young freedom fighter to stay at a Resistance Camp. He finds out that Billy White has also survived, but he has a broken arm. They soon depart with a guide to get to Spain. They are joined along the way by two Russian pilots, and two British RAF pilots. After helping Billy up a muddy hill, Henry learns that their guide is a traitor, as he sees a German officer handing him money, and a group of soldiers holding the other pilots hostage. They are seen after Billy's sling catches on a tree branch and a fight ensues. In the scuffle, Henry and one Russian are captured and an RAF pilot escapes. Billy, the other Russian, other RAF pilot, the traitorous guide, and at least one German soldier are killed. Henry is then tortured and interrogated at an unknown location. After calming a deadly Doberman and trying to escape, Henry is taken by his tormentor by car to another camp. On the way, the car swerves to miss a herd of cows and Henry manages to acquire the German's pistol. He shoots both the tormentor and the driver, and escapes to the countryside. After stealing some clothes and trying to get food, he meets up with Claudette, a woman who is in another resistance group. She has a boyfriend named Andre but he dies. Henry is determined to help her escape from a German patrol, but is captured himself. He travels around with the unit for a while, until a soldier takes him out into a field to shoot him after making him dig his own grave. But, the old soldier hands Henry a paper which the American soldiers gave him to tell Henry that this is a fake soldier. The soldier then fires his rifle once, to tell the other soldiers that he killed Henry, and walks away, leaving Henry to escape.

Soon he finds himself going home on Thanksgiving evening, just in time for dinner. He and his family are happily reunited and are home once again.

L.M. Elliot stated on her website that a sequel will come out soon.

Reception

"Under a War-Torn Sky" received a Borders Books Original Voices Award in Young Adult Literature. It was named a Jefferson Cup Honor Book and a National Council for the Social Studies Notable Trade Book for Young People. It is also listed in Anita Silvey's 500 Great Books for Teens.

Writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Janice Del Negro comments, "The elements of this complex plot are not always gracefully handled, and the exposition is sometimes clumsy. The action scenes keep the pages turning, though, and Henry's travels across war-torn Europe have a momentum that gives the novel a cinematic quality. Some introspection regarding the meaning of life, the horrors of war, and the longing for home adds emotional substrata to the action that keep this from being a gung-ho war story. Bruce Anne Shook in School Library Journal writes, "Readers with an interest in warfare and adventure will find a sure winner here. In Booklist, Connie Fletcher notes, "It's packed with action, intrigue, and suspense, but this novel celebrates acts of kindness and heroism without glorifying war.

Notes

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