Emilia and Teo's lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo's mother died immediately, but Em's survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother's wishes-in a place where he won't be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat.
Seeking a home where her children won't be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?
In the tradition of her award-winning and bestselling Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein brings us another thrilling and deeply affecting novel that explores the bonds of friendship, the resilience of young pilots, and the strength of the human spirit.
"*Starred Review* A good piece of historical fiction is a taut balancing act, and Wein walks a high-wire in her latest. Deftly weaving in details about the Italo-Ethiopian War in 1935, she traces the stunning story of Teo and Emilia, not related by blood but as good as brother and sister, who came to live in Ethiopia in 1930, just as tensions begin to build between the free African nation and the Italians occupying neighboring Eritrea and Somaliland. Told through their essays, journal entries, flight logs, and a series of adventure stories they authored together, Em and Teo's story is presented as an entreaty to the emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, in a brazen attempt (helped along by Em's gift of a stolen Italian plane) to guarantee their safe departure from the country after the war escalates to dangerous heights. It's a bit of an understatement to say that Teo and Em had an unconventional childhood. They grew up on the road in the U.S. with their inseparable mothers, African American Delia and white Rhoda, who performed a high-flying daredevil act as Black Dove and White Raven. The barnstorming foursome is mostly content, but Delia and Teo, whose late father was Ethiopian, face prejudice in America and long for life in Ethiopia, where Teo can be treated with respect and even honor. Moving to Africa is a long, complicated process, but it becomes even more complicated when Delia is killed in an accident. Rhoda, utterly heartbroken by her flying partner's death, is left to raise Teo and Em, whose Italian father is stationed in East Africa, on her own, but she still holds tight to Delia's dream, determined to bring Em and Teo to Ethiopia to prove Delia's idea is a good one. And at first, it is. In their new home at Beehive Hill Farm, a cooperative coffee plantation, Teo and Em have a stable community, go to school, and write extensively, from essays recounting their experiences to comics-inspired, high-flying adventure stories starring their fictional personas, Black Dove (Teo), who can render himself invisible, and White Raven (Em), who is a master of disguise and derring-do. But the fantasy of their adventure stories can't hold water forever, and their romantic vision starts to crack. Ethiopia is certainly better for Teo, who is not threatened with violence or prejudice because of the color of his skin, but it's not an easy place for outspoken Em, since it was a lot harder being a girl in Ethiopia than it was in Pennsylvania. And though they find an easy home at Beehive Hill, elsewhere in the country they're ferenji, or foreign. But nothing is as destructive, of course, as the growing threat of Italian invasion and Haile Selassie's conscription of all Ethiopian men, which puts Teo, who is Ethiopian by birth, in real danger. War really comes home to Teo and Em when Rhoda starts teaching the teens to fly on their own. After Delia's death, Rhoda swore that Teo and Em would never pilot planes, but to protect Teo, she changes her tune: Ethiopia's troops, armed with spears and machetes, were hopelessly unprepared for the Italian air force, and a pilot's license means Teo would never face ground combat. As the war builds to a frightening crescendo, Wein truly demonstrates her masterful hand. While subtly remarking on the politics of the conflict and touching on key historical events, she keeps the narrative firmly grounded in Teo and Em's experiences, in particular their growing anger not only over the Italian invasion but the dream their mothers got so wrong. Em and Teo are beautifully well-rounded characters, and the confessional quality of the writing is the perfect vehicle for their complex, changing feelings about Ethiopia and what constitutes a home. Is it family? community? faith? country? heritage? Wein never lands too heavily on any one in particular. Rather, she emphasizes how interweaving complexities create robust but fraught lines of connection that carry tremendous power: Spiderwebs joined together can catch a lion. Like Em and Teo's tangled history, Ethiopia's is an intricate crosshatch of tradition, progress, conflict, and rich heritage, and Wein gracefully pilots both piercing stories, highlighting the unique circumstances of Ethiopia in the 1930s and the ubiquitous experience of two teens trying to find their places in the world.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2015 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Wein returns to Africa, the setting of her Lion Hunters series, with protagonists who share an avocation with those in her award-winning novels Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire. Delia and Rhoda are stunt pilots, barnstorming the American countryside in the 1920s, each with a child in tow. When Delia is killed during an air show, Rhoda commits to fulfilling their dream of raising Teo, whose father was Ethiopian, in a place where he won't be discriminated against because of his skin color. Rhoda resettles Teo and her own daughter, Emilia, at an Ethiopian coffee plantation just as Haile Selassie takes power-and as Mussolini's troops prepare for an invasion. The novel, which opens with the knowledge that Teo is missing, is constructed as a series of letters, school essays, flight logs, and excerpts of fantasy stories written by Teo and Emilia, all of which Emilia is sending to Selassie in a plea for help. While the conceit tests credulity, Wein brings this fascinating period in history to life with several well-engineered plot twists, lots of high-flying, nail-biting tension, and meticulous research. Ages 12-up. Agent: Ginger Clark, Curtis Brown. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
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