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B for Buster by Iain Lawrence
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B for Buster

by Iain Lawrence

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826147,013 (4.29)1
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    Fly Boy by Eric Walters (fountainoverflows)
    fountainoverflows: Both stories are about young boys who lie about their age to go off to World War Two.
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In the spring of 1943, sixteen-year-old Kak, escapes his abusive parents, lies about his age to enlist in the Canadian Air Force and goes to England as part of a crew flying bombing raids over Germany.

Kak is frowned upon as a loner but gains the respect of his crew and Bert, who trains the pigeons, when his pigeon is put to the test of guiding them home in the fog. On his last mission, he is shot down and taken as a prisoner of war in Germany. ( )
  stornelli | May 8, 2010 |
During World War II, 16 year old Kak steals his older brother's identity in order to enlist as an Air Force Bomber.
I loved Iain Lawrence's writing. I have a few of his other books, most notably "The Wreckers" and its sequels, and loved them. Lawrence is great at writing tense action scenes and keeping a book moving.
However, the writing style was the only thing I could enjoy about this story. I strongly disliked all of the characters. They never seemed all that well written or realistic, and the main character, Kak, is extremely annoying. Also, who in the heck has a name like Kak??! ( )
  joririchardson | Jan 20, 2010 |
In the spring of 1943, sixteen-year-old Kak, desperate to escape his abusive parents, lies about his age to enlist in the Canadian Air Force and soon finds himself based in England as part of a crew flying bombing raids over Germany - summary from book ( )
  libq | Oct 29, 2009 |
Richie's Picks: B FOR BUSTER by Iain Lawrence, Random House/Delacorte, June 2004, ISBN: 0-385-73086-1; ISBN Library: 0-385-90108-9

"In an upstairs room in Blackpool
By the side of a northern sea
The army had my father
And my mother was having me
Military madness was killing my country
Solitary sadness comes over me"
--Graham Nash "Military Madness"

As someone who couldn't kill another person for any reason, and who cannot condone governmental-sanctioned killing of any kind, World War II is an extremely complicated topic for me. The ongoing extermination of all those people by Hitler's forces would be something--if I had been alive at the time--I couldn't have just ignored. My response options wouldn't have been as simple as merely running away from the insanity, in the manner that I intended to avoid involvement in the Vietnam War, had it lasted a little longer.

"Is there anybody here who thinks, that
Followin' the orders takes away the blame
Is there anybody here
Who wouldn't mind a murder by another name
Is there anybody here whose pride is on the line
With the honor of the brave, and the courage of the blind
I wanna see him, I wanna wish him luck
I wanna shake his hand, wanna call his name
Put a medal on the man"
--Phil Ochs, "Is There Anybody Here"

Over the years I've gotten to know survivors and relatives of survivors of the Concentration camps, victims and relatives of victims of the Japanese Internment camps, as well as relatives and many family friends who fought for the US in The War.

After the war my father, who was fifteen when they dropped The Bomb, joined the Army, trained to operate heavy machinery, boarded with German families, and helped clean up the massive devastation wrought in defeating Hitler.

Schindler's List is one of my all-time favorite movies. The idea of successfully scamming the Nazis to save all those lives without resorting to violence--as Oskar Schindler is portrayed as having done--is certainly the kind of response to which I can relate.

In my search for great books about WWII, LEFT FOR DEAD, THE DIVINE WIND, THE ART OF KEEPING COOL, and THE LIFE AND DEATH OF ADOLF HITLER top my list of recently published YA literature relating to that period of history.

The latest YA tale set during World War II to intrigue me is Iain Lawrence's B FOR BUSTER, the story of a sixteen-year-old Canadian boy who has snuck away from his mother and abusive father, lied about his age and background, and finds himself in 1943 Yorkshire, England as a wireless operator in a squadron of the Canadian Air Force.

"I set the frequencies on my wireless. I fitted the screwdriver into the slot and turned it back and forth to match the numbers on my flimsy. It was a chore I had done so often, on so many [training] flights, that I found it hard to believe that I was doing it now on the way to Germany, astride a belly full of bombs. Then I grinned inside my mask to think that I was already on the battlefield, fighting in the boundless world of Superman and Buck Rogers, on a fabulous field that stretched in all directions and rose from the earth to the heavens. I imagined the people below turning their faces to the sky, telling each other, 'Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane. It's--the Kakabeka Kid!' "

By the time this first op (mission) is complete, "Kak" and his fellow trainees have a rather different view of what they've gotten themselves into.

"The waiting is the hardest part"
--Tom Petty

"When I was still in school I read a story about a boy who had to choose between two doors. Behind one of them was a beautiful princess who would love him forever. Behind the other was a tiger who would kill him.
"I didn't remember anything else about the story, only those two doors and the boy's terror as he stepped forward to open one of them. But in the morning, at breakfast, I knew exactly how he felt.
"I stared at my plate and waited for the loudspeaker to come on, for that English WAAF to tell me if I would fly or not."

The squadrons are sent out on bombing missions every night the weather is right. For Kak, nightmares follow missions follow nightmares as their patched-up Halifax, "B for Buster" repeatedly makes it to the various target cities and (barely) back while, one by one, other squadrons are blown out of the sky, leaving empty beds in the bunkhouse that are repeatedly refilled.

"And the battle's just begun
There's many lost, but tell me who has won?" --U2

The author is supremely successful in portraying the sights, sounds, smells, and sweat of the plane and the incredible danger Kak's squadron is up against, as well as the destruction for which they are responsible.

But Iain Lawrence's inspiration for writing this book involves the pigeons. Each of the Halifaxes carried homing pigeons who could be sent off to the base with a message, if a plane was fortunate enough to survive an "unexpected" landing, whether due to attack or to malfunction. And it is Kak's relationship with the slovenly, mysterious Burt the Pigeoneer that makes B FOR BUSTER an extraordinary tale. Taking refuge in the pigeon coop between ops, Kak comes to depend on the birds and their enigmatic keeper for his very sanity and survival.

"I stared at the pigeoneer. 'But what if lightning scared him so much that he couldn't fly home?'
" 'Wouldn't 'appen, sir. Not to good birds like 'im and Percy. They want to get 'ome so badly that they keep on going, scared or not. That's courage, sir.'
" 'No,' I said. 'Real courage is not being scared.'
" 'Oh, no, sir. Pardon me.' He tipped his head, as though saluting.
'Real courage is carrying on though you're scared to bits. It's doing what you 'ave to do. Birds are scared of lightning; men are scared of dying. Anything else wouldn't be proper, sir. But we all 'ave to carry on. Every little thing. Men and birds and fish and worms, we all just carry on.' "

Readers won't learn anything about the causes or large-scale troop movements of World War II, for it is Kak's very personal perspective that we are tracking here, from utterly naive boy--who witnesses horrific sights of death, destruction, and ghosts--to a young man whose every future day will be colored by the War.

B FOR BUSTER, is filled with action, and shows what It's really all about. (The reality Army recruiters like those in the Michael Moore movie couldn't begin to duplicate.)

Richie Partington
http://richiespicks.com
BudNotBuddy@aol.com ( )
  richiespicks | May 24, 2009 |
This book tells of a tale of a Canadian farm boy and how he escapes his horrible parents to join the Canadian Air Force. The book follows him through terrifying night raids on cities all across Germany, and his good friends who help him through it. This book runs up to a close second to All Quiet on the Western Front in my book. ( )
  zhesheshubao | Jul 24, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0440238102, Mass Market Paperback)

Nicknamed after his hometown of Kakabeka, Canada, Kak dreams of flying with the Allied bombers in World War II. So at 16, underage and desperate to escape his abusive parents, he enlists in the Canadian Air Force. Soon he is trained as a wireless operator and sent to a squadron in England, where he’s unabashedly gung ho about flying his first op. He thinks the night ops over Germany will be like the heroic missions of his favorite comic-book heroes. Good will vanquish evil. But his first time out, in a plane called B for Buster, reveals the ops for what they really are—a harrowing ordeal.

The bombing raids bring searchlights . . . artillery from below . . . and night fighters above hunting to take the bombers down. One hit, Kak knows, and B for Buster, along with him and his six crewmates, could be destroyed.

Kak is terrified.

He can’t confide his feelings to his crew, since he’s already worried that they’ll find out his age. Besides, none of them seem afraid. Only in Bert, the slovenly caretaker of the homing pigeons that go on every op, does Kak find an unlikely friend. Bert seems to understand what the other men don’t talk about—the shame, the sense of duty, and the paralyzing fear. As Kak seeks out Bert’s company, he somehow finds the strength to face his own uncertain future.


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:19 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In the spring of 1943, sixteen-year-old Kak, desperate to escape his abusive parents, lies about his age to enlist in the Canadian Air Force and soon finds himself based in England as part of a crew flying bombing raids over Germany.

» see all 2 descriptions

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