If your middle grader wants to be entertained, charmed, kept in suspense and to learn some French along the way, give him or her Cyrus Fisher’s The Avion My Uncle Flew. It’s available in many libraries and from Amazon.com, Walker Books for Young Readers, 2004.

The story begins on a ranch in Wyoming. The time is just after World War II. Johnny Littlehorn’s father has been fighting in the war for three years. Johnny’s mother, a native of France, has been operating the family ranch with the help of a foreman. One day in a snowstorm, Johnny tries to help out; but he falls off a pony and breaks his leg.

While Johnny is still recovering, his father returns to the ranch and says he now has a job with the War Department. The family must all return to Paris for a short stay before he and Mrs. Littlehorn begin jobs in England. Johnny will need to live with his uncle, Paul Langres, in St. Chamant, France, where his mother was raised. Johnny does not want to go to France for the summer. His parents promise him that if he learns French, exercises his leg, and proves he can walk two miles, they will buy him a special bicycle.

In Paris, Johnny’s life becomes complicated by the appearance of two men, Albert and Monsieur Simonis. Albert, a hotel worker, takes Johnny out daily in his wheel chair to the park. Each time they encounter Monsieur Simonis who appears to be a friendly newcomer. But Johnny becomes suspicious. Monsieur keeps questioning him about his family. A few times Monsieur Simonis acts strangely and even speaks cruelly to Johnny. Johnny’s parents don’t believe anything is the matter and think his suspicions are all in his mind.

Johnny and his uncle leave for St. Chamant on the train. In St. Chamant Uncle Paul is building an airplane–un avion–without an engine. Johnny enjoys watching him build it, but he is lonely until he meets Charles and Suzanne Meilhac, thirteen-year-old twins. They soon become very close friends.

Albert and Monsieur Simonis turn out to be working secretly with the mayor of St. Chamant. One night, Johnny and Charles discover the three of them plotting evil. The kids have to run for their lives, ending up on the ramp where Uncle Paul is working on his avion. Albert, Monsieur Simonis, and the mayor draw their pistols on Paul and the three children. Suddenly Johnny trips; he lands in the seat of the plane. Suzanne cuts the cord and Johnny finds himself flying the avion, trying to remember what his Uncle has said about how to accomplish this.

In the end, the three children are responsible for the capture of the evil trio. The story appears in the newspapers all over the world. The townspeople throw a huge celebration to honor the kids for revealing the mayor’s corruption. Johnny’s parents arrive in St. Chamant to take him back to Wyoming. He receives the bicycle and plans to someday return to the land of his summer adventure.

The Avion My Uncle Flew is full of excitement and suspense. It is hard to put down. The values it emphasizes are bravery, hard work, honesty and humility. It is guaranteed to entertain. It was also teach its readers some French words. This book is perfect for middle graders.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

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