Sunday, September 26, 2010

Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot"

Candy Bomber
written by Michael O. Tunnell
(Charlesbridge) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

The chocolate was wonderful, but it wasn't the chocolate that was most important. What it meant was that someone in America cared. That parachute was something more important than candy. It represented hope. Hope that someday we would be free. Without hope the soul dies.
 - A child in Berlin

Lt. Gail Halvorsen was a pilot in Germany during the Berlin Airlift. One day he took a tour into Berlin so he could get a closer look at the bombed-out city. While waiting on his ride, he struck up a conversation with a group of German children. The children told him that they would rather make do with little food than succumb to the Soviet threat. This touched the young lieutenant and he gave the children two sticks of gum and was surprised how the large group was able to share the tiny amount of sugar without squabbling. As this scene unfolded, a C-54 roared above and provided Lt. Halvorsen with the inspiration to start the effort to provide the children of Berlin with candy. What transpired was an amazing story that continues to this day.

Candy Bomber is my favorite nonfiction book of 2010. Gail Halvorsen is a real deal hero from the greatest generation. Michael O. Tunnell has crafted an unforgettable tale about how an act of kindness led to a heroic effort by American and British soldiers. The individual accounts of German children and their reactions to the candy drops are incredibly touching. My favorite was Peter Zimmerman and his detailed instructions to Lt. Halvorsen on where to drop the candy. I can't imagine how difficult it was for Tunnell to decide what to include in the book and what to leave out. I think upper elementary and middle school students will enjoy reading Candy Bomber and perhaps be inspired to take on a project of their own.

Here is a link to an activity guide from the publisher.

Other reviews of Candy Bomber:
Classroom Book of the Week
Wrapped in Foil

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