- Published on Amazon.com
Kak is desperate for a chance to get away from the dark presence of his family and create a brighter future for himself. The one chance for him, Kak decides, is to enlist in the Canadian Air Force. By doing so, he hopes to become a part of the Allied bombers during WWII. He dreams of showing off the honor of being a hero to his hometown of Kakabeka. Kak has one little secret, though --- he's only sixteen.
He is trained as a wireless operator and sent to a squadron in England. It is the spring of 1943 and the war is still going strong. When Kak arrives at an airfield in Yorkshire, his secret is immediately put to the test. His fellow hometown schoolmate, Donny Lee, is stationed at the airfield and is shocked to see Kak walk into the mess hall. Donny threatens to expose Kak's secret in order to save Kak's life, but relents when he sees how desperate his young friend is.
Kak meets his commanding officer, Uncle Joe, and is assigned to B for Buster. B for Buster is an old Halifax Mk 1 that has seen better in its day, but is considered reliable just the same. When his crew is taken to their assigned hut, they realize just what Buster has seen by the scarce number of occupied cots in the hut. The next day, they go on their first test flight in B for Buster, and Kak is chilled by the story of the Halifax's previous crew.
While they are gearing up for their first op, Lofty, the plane's pilot, goes on a "passenger trip" with another plane. The almost twenty-year-old is considered to be an adult by Kak and wants to be a bush pilot after the war. Buzz, the mid-upper gunner for Buster, is a former railway worker whose only goal in life, it seems, is to complete a crossword puzzle he cut out from a newspaper on his first day in England. Will, the navigator, would rather write poetry than study law, and Simon, the loud Australian, is the loudest gardener Kak has ever met. Ratty, the mysterious American, would like to see Berlin, and Pop, the flight engineer, just wants to make it home safely.
Time goes by and Donny Lee takes Kak for a ride out into the surrounding countryside. They take Donny's old black Morris automobile and Kak experiences just how crazy a ride it can be. But that's nothing compared to what it can be when a crew of seven ride in it, as Kak has witnessed before. The two schoolmates bond over stories of their hometown, and Donny tries once again to talk Kak into quitting the air force while he has the chance. Kak is excited about flying, though, and the ride that day seems to foreshadow the many dramatic changes that lie ahead.
Then the day finally comes, and B for Buster is called on for its first op. Kak is excited and feels as though it will be like a comic-book adventure where good beats evil. He is even a little too sure of himself, when he is given the task of watching over the homing pigeon that has been assigned to the op and is rude to the kind dismal pigeoneer named Dirty Bert. Kak is in for a reality check, however, when he experiences his first of many frightening flights and finds the outcast pigeoneer as one of the only friends who seems to understand him and his fears.
B FOR BUSTER is a dramatic adventure set during one of the greatest times in history. I recommend this book to anyone who has studied World War II and would like to read fiction set during that time period, as well as to those who enjoy reading dramatic novels. I thought it captured the importance of animals, specifically homing pigeons, and the various roles they take during wartime very well. Told through the eyes of a sixteen-year-old boy, B FOR BUSTER shows readers the excitement of being a hero and the grim realities they face.
--- Reviewed by Sarah Sawtelle (SdarksideG@aol.com)