The Boy Who Could Fly Without a Motor
The Boy Who Could Fly Without a Motor
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Annotation: In 1935, living at a lighthouse near San Francisco, a lonely nine-year-old boy inadvertently summons a magician who teaches him the secret of flying.
Catalog Number: #600015859
Format: Ebook
All Formats: Search
Special Formats: Ebook Ebook Downloadable Downloadable
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition Date: 2004
Pages: 153 p.
Territory: North America
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-547-79214-X
ISBN 13: 978-0-547-79214-9
Dewey: Fic
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
A wry, small fantasy that a grandfather might spin from his own youth. It is 1935, and nine-year-old Jon lives off the coast of California in a red cottage near the lighthouse his father tends. Lonely and deeply imaginative, Jon decides that if he could only fly, he could visit the mainland--and anywhere else--any time he wanted. He practices telepathy and finally succeeds in conjuring up the irascible Great Ling Wu, a green-eyed magician and ghost. Although Ling Wu is annoyed by Jon's telepathic importunings, he teaches the boy to fly, swears him to secrecy, and disappears. Jon works hard at controlling his gift, but soon he's levitating all over the place, attracting the attention not only of his parents but also of the Coast Guard and the FBI. He even meets President and Mrs. Roosevelt! Jon sends out frantic messages to Ling Wu, hoping to free himself from his newfound gift, and Ling Wu grudgingly complies. By turns, amusing, thoughtful, and odd.
Horn Book
Living with his parents in a lighthouse, nine-year-old Jon dreams of flying. The ghost of a Chinese magician teaches Jon how to "body fly," and soon the boy is spotted soaring over a Pacific fishing boat, reported to the government, and taken to meet President Roosevelt. Nothing about the oversweet, underdeveloped story--including the characterizations of Jon and his parents--rings true.
Kirkus Reviews
It's 1935 and Jon Jeffers is terribly lonely. He lives with his mother and father, who is a lighthouse keeper on a tiny island off the coast of San Francisco; his only friend is his dog, Smacks. If only he could fly, he could escape the forsaken pile of rocks and ghosts of shipwrecked sailors said to haunt the place. When a mysterious magician appears on the beach, he consents to teach Jon to fly if he swears to keep the secret of how to concentrate brain cells to levitate. But his flying gets out of control when the crew on a fishing trawler spots Jon and think he's a space alien. That leads to an investigation by the Coast Guard and ultimately sends Jon to the White House, where he proves to President Roosevelt, Eleanor, and the press that he can indeed fly. But he won't reveal how because if he breaks his oath not to tell, he risks being boiled in dragon's bile or having his toes nailed to a shark's back. Using telepathy, Jon desperately summons the magician, who cures him, in more ways than one. Despite the appealing, small page size and the spacious layout and type, the beginning is tedious, the plot needs humor, and the tone smacks of a dime novel. The intriguing title suggests a fascinating story and while the premise has the right elements, the writing lacks flow and dynamics (aero or otherwise). The few touches of cleverness can't rescue the message, "Be careful what you wish for." It doesn't fly. (Fiction. 8-10)
Publishers Weekly

Set in 1935, Taylor's (The Cay) slim yet whimsical tale introduces lonely nine-year-old Jon, the son of the lighthouse keeper on remote Clementine Rock off the California coast. Possessing "an imagination as broad as the sweep of the light," the lad sometimes hears the moaning of ghosts of passengers who died when their ships allegedly crashed on the rock, among them the Clementine, a vessel carrying Chinese laborers to San Francisco in 1850. To combat his loneliness, the boy begins to practice telepathy after reading about it in Popular Science, beseeching anyone listening to send him "advice on how to body fly" so he can escape the tiny island. Ling Wu, the pompous ghost of a magician aboard the Clementine,sent by the Manchu dynasty to entertain the laborers, answers his call. He teaches Jon how to use his brain cells to levitate yet makes him promise he will never reveal the secret "on threat of being boiled in dragon's bile." Though the child initially practices within the confines of his room, one night he flies out over the ocean, where he's spotted by the shocked crew of a fishing trawler. This sighting precipitates a government investigation, culminating in Jon demonstrating his skill to FDR, other officials and the media at the White House. A facile denouement brings the narrative down to earth a bit abruptly. But Taylor's tight writing and flair for the fanciful otherwise keeps this caper agreeably airborne. Ages 8-12. (May)

School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Taylor spins a fantasy about Jon Jeffers, a lonely nine-year-old who lives with his parents in a lighthouse on an island 19 miles off the San Francisco coast. Anxious to break the tedium of his isolated life and fascinated by a parapsychology article in Popular Science, he summons Ling Wu, the ancient ghost of a Chinese magician, who teaches the boy to fly. Jon ignores his warning to levitate only "where no one will see," nearly provoking an international incident involving the Army, the Coast Guard, and the FBI. Finally Jon confesses that he, and not a "scout for Martian invaders," is responsible. He becomes so famous that he is invited to the White House to meet President and Mrs. Roosevelt. However, his joy in flying is short-lived because carrying heavy cans of paint becomes the only way he can stop from levitating and he wearies of the Coast Guard patrolling to ensure that communist Russians don't kidnap him. Jon eventually resummons Ling Wu, who cures him of his special skill, leaving the child earthbound but happy to play with his dog. The many references to world events-Lindbergh, the invention of radio, Communism, and J. Edgar Hoover-firmly ground the book in 1935. Although some of the dialogue strains credulity, the plot, the large-size font, and the many references to the paranormal will appeal to many children.-Ellen Fader, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Horn Book
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Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal
Word Count: 15,942
Reading Level: 5.6
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.6 / points: 2.0 / quiz: 59390 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.4 / points:6.0 / quiz:Q31890
Lexile: 850L
ONE

A MERE FIFTY-TWO POUNDS, FOUR-FEET-two-inches tall, brown eyed and brown haired, nine-year-old Jonathan Jeffers thought he was the loneliest boy on Earth.

He lived with his father, James, and his mother, Mabel, in a red-painted cottage on Clementine Rock, near Three Fathom Shoal and Persiphone Reef, next to an old white-painted brick lighthouse, nineteen miles off the coast of California.

He had a big brown-and-black dog named Smacks, a dog of many breeds. They were constant companions, as Jon desperately needed a friend. Smacks served him as best he could just by being there.

All night and on foggy days, the strong beam of the lighthouse went around and around, warning ships to stay away from the rock, the shoal, and the reef. The light was powered by a big generator, and Jon's father, a boatswain mate first class in the United States Coast Guard-or bosun-was the keeper. On a clear night, the light could be seen from passing ships twenty-two miles away.

When the heavy, cold mists rolled in toward San Francisco, which was to the north of Clementine, the hoarse foghorn also bellowed. Hour after hour. Sometimes day after day. AHHHHHH-RURH-RRRR-AAAA- AAAATS.

It sounded like "Ah, rats" to Jon, who had a strong oval face and an imagination as broad as the sweep of the light.

He hated the fog and the "Ah, rats" horn. And he didn't exactly like the seals that barked most of the day on the outlying rocks, either.

On the nights when the eaves were dripping and the horn was blowing, Jon sometimes thought of the famous Ghosts of Clementine. The rock was named after the sailing ship that had crashed into it in 1850. The ship had been bound for San Francisco, carrying Chinese workers from Canton to build railroads.

All of the 129 men had died, and their ghosts were still around the rock, or so Jon had been told by an older girl, Eunice Jones, the daughter in the Coast Guard family the Jeffers had replaced. Eunice was thirteen, tall for her age, and skinny as spaghetti. She knew the rock's history. She'd said that when the gray fog blanket was thick, the ghosts rose out of the sea and climbed up the steep sides of Clementine, which was shaped like a long high box with coarse grass on top. The sodden ghosts moaned in sorrow as they climbed. Jon had had some horrendous dreams as the result of Eunice's stories and that deep-throated foghorn.

Eunice had said she'd met some of the "living-dead" ghosts herself and that Jon would likely meet a few as well. They were spooky but pitiful and harmless, and they lived under the rock, she'd said. Jon had thought Eunice was a little spooky herself. She had long fingers and lisped.

There also were ghosts of shipwrecked sailors out at Three Fathom Shoal and Persiphone Reef, Eunice had told him. The rusted prow of a steel ship still rode the reef, sticking up like an open shark's jaw, water washing over it. Altogether more than three hundred people had died on the rock, the shoal, and the reef before the government had erected the lighthouse sixty years ago.

Jon's mother and father said that the ghosts were utter nonsense. Ghosts do not exist, they said. Ghosts do not swim, they said. And they do not live under the rock.

Jon tried to believe them, but on some nights, when the horn went silent for its programmed thirty seconds, Jon thought he heard the ghosts moaning and was afraid to peer out his window into the rolls of thick mist. Perhaps a dripping, pitiful Chinese face would be there, staring in at him. Even Smacks seemed nervous on these occasions.

His father said, "Jon, don't let your imagination hear sounds that aren't there."

But Jon's problem was his ears, not his imagination. His hearing was too sharp and the sounds seemed too real, so he wrapped his head with his pillow those nights and shivered, hoping the ghosts wouldn't come in.

Eunice had said he would go crazy out there.

Maybe he would go crazy. His father had to serve three years on the rock. One year had gone by so far.

Jon did have things to keep him occupied. He'd gone through primary school in San Francisco, and now his mother taught him five mornings a week, with textbooks and exams from the mainland. They also had a radio, and after he listened to the many programs, Jon had dreams that carried him around the globe. New York, London, Tokyo, Paris. Anywhere but Clementine. Anywhere!

To amuse himself during his free daylight hours, Jon kept an eye out for big ships passing Clementine Light. He'd run up to the tower, Smacks at his heels, and watch them through his father's powerful telescope. If they came close enough, Jon would wave and record their names in his logbook. Anything to entertain himself. Anything to stay busy.

In good weather, private planes on Sunday joyrides would come out from shore and circle the lighthouse. Jon would again run to the light platform and wave. The pilots would often wave back. The open-cockpit biplanes were his favorite. Jon also built model airplanes, mostly World War I fighters, to pass the time and take his mind off the Clementine ghosts.

Copyright © 2002 by Theodore Taylor
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Excerpted from The Boy Who Could Fly Without a Motor by Theodore Taylor
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Jon Jeffers is the loneliest nine-year-old on earth. It's 1935, and he's stuck on a tiny rocky island off the coast of San Francisco with his mother and his lighthouse-keeper father. Jon longs for something more. If only he had a way to escape this forsaken pile of rocks, he could have some real adventures.

Then one morning the irritable ghost of an ancient magician appears on the beach and offers—amazingly—to teach Jon to fly. Jon agrees, and at first flying seems to be the answer to his wildest dreams. But then he flies into some serious trouble. . . .

From the acclaimed author of The Cay, here is a sweet, funny, and outrageous tale of a boy who gets his dearest wish—and then wishes he hadn't.


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