cover image Flying Lessons

Flying Lessons

Nava Semel. Simon & Schuster, $14 (119pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80161-7

The Israeli author of Becoming Gershona weaves dreamlike images and innocent profundity into a coming-of-age tale of great power. In a remote part of Israel, Hadara, the 12-year-old daughter of the ``one and only dead mother in the village,'' decides to learn to fly. While her father works in his citrus grove, Hadara visits Monsieur Maurice Havivel, the village's ``one and only'' shoemaker. After inflaming Hadara's imagination with tales of the magical circus of flying Jews he once belonged to, Monsieur Maurice agrees to help her learn to fly. No matter how much she practices, however, he tells her that she is not yet ready. But as drought threatens the citrus groves and with them the welfare of the village, Hadara thinks, ``If I could fly, I would tie all the clouds to a string and pull them back down with me.'' Her maiden flight, from her father's tallest tree, culminates in a broken leg--and in the life-giving rain--but a saddened Monsieur Maurice tells her, ``You weren't scared enough to fly for real.'' Only after Hadara recovers and Monsieur Maurice goes away is his past revealed--although readers knowledgeable about the Holocaust will have intuited much of it already. Sensitive translation preserves the lyricism of Semel's deeply moving work. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)