About the Book
Just nineteen years old, Henry Forester is the youngest pilot in his Air Force squadron. Still, he’s one of their best fliers, facing Hitler’s Luftwaffe in the war-torn skies above France. But when his plane is shot down on a mission behind enemy lines, Henry finds himself on a whole new battleground. Wounded, hungry, and afraid, he struggles toward freedom on foot, relying on the kindness of ordinary French citizens and the cunning of members of the French Resistance to reach the next town alive. Each day brings him nearer to home and closer to danger. Yet even as Henry struggles for his own survival in a hostile country, he quickly grows to realize the great peril that surrounds all the French people, and to admire the strength and determination of the freedom fighters who risk death to protect him.
For more information about the author, watch our video interview with L.M Elliott.
- During the course of the novel, Henry travels two “odysseys”- one is his physical escape and the other is a journey of personal discovery. How are the two odysseys linked? What does he discover about mankind and himself along the way? How does he change?
- Henry’s father, Clayton, is a harsh, never-ending voice in Henry’s mind. How does this help Henry and how does it hurt him? Why do you think Clayton is the way he is? In the end, Henry realizes that his father had done the “wrong things for the right reasons.” What does he mean by that?
- Sometimes characters personify a theme or idea. What could Pierre symbolize? What could Billy or Madame Gaulloise represent?
- To help a flier escape, the Resistance often needed many people to play-act a variety of roles in a sequence of carefully planned events. These exchanges had to happen quickly and fluidly. In chapter eight, Henry is rescued by a series of strangers. Who are they and what roles do they perform? How do you think Henry felt when he realizes, “He’d been handled, just like a hot potato. He was a package no one wanted to be caught holding.”
- To survive, American fliers had to put their lives into the hands of complete strangers, many of whom spoke no English. Recall a time when you had to count on strangers to help you or your family.
- Why do you think the old German soldier releases Henry?
- Henry has to leave behind those who have helped him, not knowing their fate. What do you think happens to Madame Gaulloise? To Pierre? To Claudette? Outline your own sequel.
- Henry travels hundreds of miles on foot to escape capture by Nazi troops. Using a map of France, trace his route from the scene of his bailing out to his final rescue.
- Imagine that you have been asked to write a description with some commentary for the back cover. Create one paragraph that tells the reader what the story is about and gives him/her a reason to read it. Share your writing with friends, and talk about the book with them.