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B for Buster [Mass Market Paperback]

Iain Lawrence


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Book Description

Jan. 10 2006
Nicknamed after his hometown of Kakabeka, Canada, Kak dreams of flying with the Allied bombers in World War II. So at 16, underage and desperate to escape his abusive parents, he enlists in the Canadian Air Force. Soon he is trained as a wireless operator and sent to a squadron in England, where he’s unabashedly gung ho about flying his first op. He thinks the night ops over Germany will be like the heroic missions of his favorite comic-book heroes. Good will vanquish evil. But his first time out, in a plane called B for Buster, reveals the ops for what they really are—a harrowing ordeal.

The bombing raids bring searchlights . . . artillery from below . . . and night fighters above hunting to take the bombers down. One hit, Kak knows, and B for Buster, along with him and his six crewmates, could be destroyed.

Kak is terrified.

He can’t confide his feelings to his crew, since he’s already worried that they’ll find out his age. Besides, none of them seem afraid. Only in Bert, the slovenly caretaker of the homing pigeons that go on every op, does Kak find an unlikely friend. Bert seems to understand what the other men don’t talk about—the shame, the sense of duty, and the paralyzing fear. As Kak seeks out Bert’s company, he somehow finds the strength to face his own uncertain future.


From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf; Reprint edition (Jan. 10 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440238102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440238102
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 10.6 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,025,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up–Filled with Buck Rogers-inspired dreams of heroic battles against the forces of evil and partly to escape an abusive, alcoholic father, 16-year-old Kak lies about his age to enlist in the Canadian Air Force in 1943. He becomes a wireless operator, flying night bombing raids over Germany from a base in Yorkshire. His fellow crew members on the antiquated Halifax bomber, B for Buster, have no idea Kak is underage, but his secret is well known to squadron member Donny Lee, another native of tiny Kakabeka. Before his own final flight, Donny urges Kak to reveal his age to their CO and be sent home, but the teen refuses, unable to imagine the overwhelming fear and terrifying dreams he will experience after his first mission. Kak's one solace is his growing friendship with Bert, the caretaker of the homing pigeons that are sent along on every op to carry back news of the fates of any bombers that don't return. One pigeon becomes Kak's good-luck companion. The pigeoneer's own secret past gives him a particularly deep empathy for Kak's fears and efforts to comprehend the nature of bravery and duty. Just as he did so masterfully in Lord of the Nutcracker Men (Delacorte, 2001), Lawrence captures the eagerness and idealism of the new recruit slowly turning to disillusionment and horror as he experiences the grim realities of battle and death. This is a lyrical coming-of-age novel and a fascinating bit of aviation history.–Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 7-12. Set during the spring of 1943, Lawrence's novel is a harrowing account of combat told from the perspective of 16-year-old Kak. Like Jack in Harry Mazer's The Last Mission (1979), Kak lies about his age in order to join the air force. But Jack, a Jewish American, wants to fight Hitler; Kak, nicknamed for his tiny Canadian hometown, just wants to flee his loveless, abusive parents and "like Captain Marvel . . . change [himself] from a boy to a hero." After his first "op," though, Kak is deeply shaken. Bert, who cares for the pigeons, finds a way to comfort the boy by putting a prize pigeon in his care. The dense mechanical specifics of planes and equipment may slow some readers, but the tender lessons of courage that Kak learns from Bert and his bird are captivating. In Kak's young, raw voice, Lawrence writes a gripping, affecting story about the thrill of flying, the terrifying realities of war, and the agony of reconciling personal fears and ideals with duty and bravery. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Boy And His Bird March 17 2005
By Kevin Killian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Young Kak is only sixteen when he runs away from home, pretends he's an orphan, and winds up far away from his native Canada overseas in the wilds of Yorkshire (England) on an air base preparing to train for the flight crew of a Halifax bomber. The first man he runs into is someone from his home town, Donny Lee, the only one in England who might guess his secret--that he is underage.

Thus the novel depends on an amazing coincidence which cripples its credibility right at the start. However, once that nonsense is out of the way, we get a tender and yet exciting war story about the relationship between a flight crew and their pigeon. Yes, you heard me right, apparently before each sortie over occupied Europe a homing pigeon was brought on board and used for all sorts of things, but in Kak's case, little Percy, exquisitely described by teacher Lawrence, becomes his only friend. At first Kak is turned off by Bert, the pigeoneer, dirty and messy, slovenly and fragrant, butb then when he finds out Bert's "back story" he becomes more sympathetic, if horrified. Because there but for the Grace of God went he himself.

All the boys in the flight crew carry a lucky charm of some sort; one carries a handkerchief doused with a woman's perfume somewhere on his body, and young Kak wears a ring with a ray-gun on it. He is a comics fan and loves SUPERMAN and BUCK ROGERS. The epilogue reveals that all of this story was based on reality, and it is Lawtence's tribute to the brave Canadian boys who went to war against the Nazi menace.

I didn't realize this was a book meant for kids, but it did strike me as improbable the ultra clean language of these bombadiers. About the raciest thing any of them says is "Wheezy jeezy,"--oh, and one of the British speakers under extreme provocation exclaims, "What a bloody balls-up." Outside of that, dialogue is not Iain Lawrence's forte, but he is such a good storyteller that you will forgive him such primness.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars B For Buster review Jan. 3 2005
By matt s - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Desperate to escape from a negligent home with an alcholic father, 16 year old Kak lies about his age and enlists in the Canadian Army. He expects it to be like the adventures of his favorite comicbook heroes, where good vanquish's evil and after it's over everything is going to be fine. After his first op in a plane that has had almost every part of it reparied, he realizes that the ops are really terrifing and he finds himself scared to even get back on the plane. He finds himself befriending the pigeoneer and finds comfort in talking to him and spending time with the pigeons. Kak cant keep this up forever and after his friend from his hometown dies he realizies what can hapen to him or his crew at any time. Even though it started out slow, I thought this was very well writen and anyone who enjoys reading books about World War II should pick up "B For Buster".
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting for Adults as Well Dec 14 2013
By Ninja Emery - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
I almost put it down because of all the detail - then the story itself came through. This book may be aimed for youth, but as an adult I was not bored nor did I feel patronized at all. The author has done his research and made it interesting. The reality was not in question - I felt like I was there. The characters are believable and varied, and that can be hard to do. The coming of age and changes and growth are well done.
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting Feb. 4 2013
By Phillip Floreth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
My half brother was in the Canadian Air Force during that war. He flew night flights in black planes over Germany. He didn't share his experiences.
4.0 out of 5 stars A World War II Bomber Plane Story July 4 2012
By Black Plum - Published on Amazon.com
Sixteen year old Kak is underage when he enlists in the Canadian Air Force during World War II. He wants to see action, and finds himself in England. But the world of war that he enters isn't anything like the comic book adventures he loves. Of course not. He realizes that he and his six crewmates on B for Buster, their bomber could be killed at any time. Kak is terrified, naturally. But in Bert, the keeper of the homing pigeons, Kak finds an unlikely friend. Bert seems to understand things that the other men don't talk about. Kak also bonds with the pigeons, one named Percy in particular. This wasn't the greatest book; the writing wasn't that impressive, nor was the plot. But it was okay. I did like the descriptions of the pigeons.

*You can read all of my reviews at my book blog, novareviews.blogspot.com*
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