On the Wings of Heroes

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
On the Wings of Heroes Book Poster Image
Funny, poignant life on home front during WWII.

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Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Families are strong and loving.


An old lady likes to tell stories about gruesome injuries, including a hand cut off in a farm machine; a boy who sleds under a harvester; another who bites off the tip of his tongue. A man is hit in the head with a wrench, resulting in a concussion and stitches. A girl's hand is caught in a rattrap, chickens are slaughtered.


Candy, bicycle, drink brands mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there is some violence: A father is knocked out with a wrench, a girl's hand is caught in a rattrap, and an old lady likes to tell tales of gruesome injuries.

User Reviews

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Kid, 11 years old November 28, 2011

The Big Best Book

This book, ON THE WINGS OF HEROES is really exciting and also maybe sad because, to me it was. It has good details on the main plot and settings and ect... But... Continue reading

What's the story?

Davy's life is pretty normal -- normal, that is, for small town middle America around 1940. There are the evening games of tag involving everyone on the street, Halloween tricks, eccentric neighbors, hopes for a new bike, times helping out at his dad's gas station, and tall tales told by the old lady down the block.

Then WWII intervenes, and Davy's older brother, Bill, joins the Air Force to be a bomber pilot. Now life includes air raid drills, scrap drives, ration cards, postcards from Bill overseas, and stars in the windows of servicemen's families. But even with all that, the war seems pretty far away -- until Bill's plane is shot down and he is missing in action.

Is it any good?

This slice of Americana has all the elements that Richard Peck does better than anyone else. Start with a historical setting that opens up a new world to young readers, and tell the story in the voice of someone who lived it. Add intact families with strong, loving parents and wise, cantankerous elders, infuse it with incisive wit and humor, and spread it all out in some of the sharpest prose available in print today.

This is Mark Twain crossed with Dylan Thomas, and Peck is one of very few authors who could bear that comparison. This delightful little book is not for kids who need lots of action and adventure to keep them reading. But for those who can enjoy a warm and witty portrait of a time and place long gone but not yet forgotten, it's a true gem. And it might just send young readers scurrying for their own grandparents to hear more stories about their childhoods.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the differences between life then and now. What aspects of Davy's life sound similar to your own? Which are completely different? Does it sound like it was fun to grow up then? Is it more fun now? What else have you seen and read about WWII?

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