Perhaps feeling that the Sisters Fate are yanking the kite strings of my destiny as I scribble is due to some odd convergence of my life’s ley lines.
A century ago, when I was an itinerant scholar, I frequently flew from the wilds of Western Labrador en route to St. John’s, Newfoundland. It wasn’t unusual for circumstances — nasty weather, faulty airplane parts — to require the flights I travelled on to pitch, and terminate, in Gander, the erstwhile Crossroads of the World.
Recently, I remarked on the anthropomorphic yarn of a goose from Gander — Commander Gander — visiting New York City.
This weekend Missus is in Gander having a high old time at a Women’s Institute convention …
… and kinda like that young buddy in the Christmas movie, I’m home alone with Errol, the mouse from Beachy Cove Drung. I’ve been reading Errol’s second adventure story and reflecting on the significance of its appearance in my life, because — and get this also — the book’s title is Flying Ace: Errol’s Gander Adventure.
Gander! For frig sake.
Flying Ace [Breakwater Books] takes Errol not only to Gander, but also to the dangerous skies of the Second World War.
Wait a minute. As Granny habitually said, I’m getting before my story.
First things first. Errol gets in touch with a young girl named Natasha who he meets while she is flying her airplane around the garden.
Not a real airplane, of course. Natasha is tearing around with a model Lockheed Hudson bomber stuck up sky high at the end of her arm. The author doesn’t say so, but Natasha is likely making Rooooom-Rooooom motor noises.
Curious as a cat, Errol — “I am very brave” Errol — jumps out of the pile of autumn leaves he’d been hiding in and asks Natasha for a ride in her plane.
In an act no more unbelievable than Ella of the Cinders accepting gourd-ish transportation from Errol’s fairy-tale cousins, Natasha stogs Errol into her model plane and Rooooom-Roooooms him around the yard.
And before you can say Steamboat Willie, Errol is stogged in Natasha’s pocket and driving to Gander (where else?!) with her parents to visit the aviation museum.
It comes to pass that at the museum Errol trips, falls on his noggin and — I s’pose — knocks himself out cold.
The next thing we know, Errol is having a lofty time flying an airplane: “Sailing, sailing, over the trees so high.”
I remind you this is an adventure story so there must be times when the hero is in peril.
Far above “the spiky tops of evergreen trees” Errol hears the worst sound an airplane pilot can hear — “a sputtering noise.”
Immediately after a forced landing in the middle of a storybook, Errol meets Dan, the radio operator of a real (Ya think?) Hudson bomber.
Insert a bit of history here for young readers. Dan’s plane is part of a fleet secretly being ferried to Aldergrove Air Base in Ireland — “To help Britain win the war,” as Dan says.
Dan’s plane has not yet reached Ireland when pilot and crew and mouse see the worst sight possible: “Coming out of the clouds, an enemy plane was headed straight for them.”
After that … well, actually before and after that … pages of adventurous things happen.
For instance, steel wool is used in an attempt at sabotage.
I’m trusting author Sheilah Lukins has done accurate research, because in my experience steel wool is used mostly to scrub burned-on cabbage off the bottoms of boilers.
And the yarn wouldn’t be Errol’s “adventure” if he didn’t save the day at some point …
… like when, as the perfect Mus musculus (Scientific name for mouse. I Googled it!) image of a Second World War flying ace, Errol climbs aboard Natasha’s mechanically-correct model plane and — Rooooom-Rooooom — flies intrepidly into the face of …
So, there’s the cliff-hanger.
While it’s true the narration is more than half the story, we must not forget the importance of supportive illustrations — the pictures that are worth … well, a significant tally of words.
It’s autumn when Elliot meets Natasha, and even though Laurel Keating includes some friggin’ summer-is-over asters in her first illustration, I forgive her.
I forgive her because the gem-dandy illustration at the opening of Chapter 4 proves the proverbial point regarding a picture’s worth.
Listen to the words describing the picture: “The man (Dan) rubbed Errol’s cheek with his finger; it felt nice.”
Look closely at Errol’s face in the illustration. That is not the face of a mouse experiencing “nice.”
That is the rapturous face of sublime Mus musculus ecstasy.
Thank you for reading.
Harold Walters lives in Dunville, Newfoundland, doing his damnedest to live Happily Ever After. Reach him at email@example.com