22 October 2009
Considering the fact that my father served on the USS Forrestal (CV59), I could not pass up the chance to review this book. My dad was not a pilot (he was a trumpeter in the ship's band,) and he didn't work on the flight deck, but he did sleep beneath it, a fact he was mighty proud of. So this book held immediate appeal for me.
And, sentiment aside, it will hold appeal for young readers, too. "Nugget" is service vernacular for a new aviator on his first tour of duty. In this case the nugget is a boy, standing in for every child who has ever wanted to pilot a fighter plane. He's dressed in his zoombag (flight suit) and ready for his hop (mission). Readers, along with the nugget, are walked through the preparation involved in getting ready for flight, and then the actual flight itself. The book is written in a conversational tone which introduces numerous air and nautical terms and slang, so no glossary is needed; terms are highlighted within the text and then explained in sidebars on each page, sometimes with illustrations.
One thing you realize if you have ever stood near an air craft carrier, is that it is massive (as tall as 24-story building, to be exact.) The picture book format is well suited to emphasize this fact, allowing for double page profiles of the ship (never identified, which is too bad.) In fact, the layout consists of double page spreads throughout. The reader gets a close-up look at on-deck preparation--it takes more than just the pilot and co-pilot to get a bird (in this case a F/A-18F) in the air--a panoramic in-flight refueling operation, a mock dogfight, a return to the carrier, complete with tilting horizon, and the precision involved in landing on the flight deck.
The book's palette is, not surprisingly, sky blue and steel grey. But there is a lot of color , too. As is explained at the end, there is a color-coded system to the uniforms worn by the various crew members on the deck. As in so much of military life, the ability to communicate through code is important on an aircraft carrier, and if a pilot sees purple, green and brown coats on the flight deck, he knows he is in good hands. A selection of Carrier Facts, the Aviator's Alphabet, and rather official looking sources round off this salute to the well-oiled machine that is an aircraft carrier flight crew.