cover image Getting Air

Getting Air

Dan Gutman. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $15.99 (232pp) ISBN 978-0-689-87680-6

Gutman's (The Homework Machine) dedication to this loopy tale thanks Gary Paulsen for writing Hatchet, the novel Julia reads as she flies cross-country with her older brother, narrator Jimmy, and his pals Henry and David, all three of whom are fanatical skateboarders. Also on board are a group of elderly women en route to a knitting convention. When terrorists hijack the plane and kill the pilot and copilot, the kids and the knitters spring into action and manage to overcome the hijackers (one of whom Jimmy knocks out with his skateboard). Henry, who once had a flying lesson, takes the controls and crash lands the plane in a forest. The youngsters, a feisty octogenarian and a flight attendant are the only survivors. Julia calls on her Girl Scout skills to orchestrate building a fire, searching for water and foraging for food. Meanwhile, Jimmy's skateboard is used to help ignite a fire, kill a snake and trap a rabbit. Banal banter abounds: when they don clothes they find in the deceased knitters' luggage, the flight attendant jestingly wonders if Henry's dress ""makes him look fat"" and Henry asks if ""Dominoes delivers out here?"" Capping the inanity, the boys fashion a halfpipe from the fuselage and ask the Canadian Mountie who rescues them to wait while they skateboard. Back home, the survivors learn they have prevented the hijackers from flying the jet into the U.S. Capitol and are heralded as heroes. As an adventure, this really never takes off. As a farce, it crashes. Ages 8-12.