Reviews for Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot : A True Story of the Berlin Airlift and the Candy That Dropped from the Sky


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 July 2002
Gr. 2-5. In 1948, Stalin blockaded Berlin, so for more than a year, British and American planes airlifted tons of food and supplies to the city. An American pilot named Halvorsen also dropped candy and gum in little parachutes to the children of Berlin. They wrote letters to the "Chocolate Pilot." Young Mercedes longs for chocolate, too, but she's worried that the planes overhead are keeping their chickens from laying precious eggs. She gets a reply from the pilot with a package of candy for her very own. A note sets the historical context for this story based on a real-life incident, and an epilogue tells how Mercedes and Halvorsen met many years later. The pictures are handsome and naturalistically rendered; the prose is a bit overwrought, but the story comes through. Although the book is designed as a picture book for older readers, good beginning readers may be able to handle this on their own. ((Reviewed July 2002)) Copyright 2002 Booklist Reviews

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ForeWord Reviews 2002 July
Please let there be eggs, Mercedes wished as she checked the chickens nests. Except for one small egg, there was nothing. Eggs were valued more than gold in West Berlin during the Russian blockade. Perhaps the chickens were frightened by the noise of the planes during the airlift. Mercedes never complained about the Raisinbombers, the great soaring grocery stores that brought relief to the people of West Berlin. One day Mercedes and her mother read a newspaper story about an American pilot, Lieutenant Halvorsen, who dropped chocolate, gum, and candy for the children who waited by the runway at Tempelhof to cheer on the planes. They were small candy-filled parachutes made from handkerchiefs. When Halvorsen s commander read about this in the newspaper (because a candy bar nearly hit a reporter!), he called the pilot to him, yelled a little, and then told Halvorsen to keep dropping and keep him informed. Mercedes went to the airfield one day with her mother in hopes of catching a candy-filled parachute, but a large boy reached up and grabbed the one falling towards her. That night, the girl wrote a letter to the chocolate pilot asking him to drop some candy over her house the one with the garden and white chickens. Mercedes waited in her garden each day, but nothing floated down. One day a box filled with candy arrived in the mail: Halvorsen was worried that he wouldn t have enough time to find Mercedes s home when he did his run, so he mailed her a parcel. Years later, as commander at Tempelhof, Germany, Halvorsen received an invitation to the home of a German family whom he had never met. He was met at the door by Mercedes! The author, a nationally recognized, professional writer, has won several awards, including an IRA Teacher s Choice award. Raven s storytelling manner keeps the reader eagerly turning the pages. The illustrator was Art Director for the Michigan Natural Resources Magazine for seventeen years, and has illustrated many books. His life-like paintings spread across both pages and one can sense the love and hope of the mother and daughter. Both writer and illustrator had the opportunity to meet with Colonel Gail Halvorsen. This inspiring true story of hope and goodwill would be an excellent beginning to a history lesson and should be included in elementary and junior high school libraries. Copyright 2002 ForeWord Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2002 June #1
Inspired by actual events, Raven (Angels in the Dust, 1996) recounts the story of a little girl in war-ravaged Germany and the American pilot who helped preserve her faith in human goodness. Frankenhuyzen's (Adopted by an Owl, not reviewed, etc.) opening portrait reveals the devastation in postwar Berlin. On the next spread, Mercedes scolds her uncooperative chickens ("Tomorrow I want an egg from each of you"). With the constant drone of airplanes up above, Mercedes is sure they're too scared to do what comes naturally; she, on the other hand, loves the planes-they deliver food and clothing to a city strangled by Stalin and the Russian blockade. Back inside her apartment-the exterior of which is punched with holes-Mercedes's mother shares with her a newspaper article about "The Wonderful American Chocolate Pilot, Lt. Gail Halvorsen" and the "candy-filled parachutes" he provides for the local children. When Mercedes fails to catch a chocolate bar of her own, she writes the pilot and asks him to make a special delivery ("When you . . . see the white chickens, please drop some candy there and all will be ok"). Instead, he sends her sweets in the mail-and a letter. An author's note fills in the historical facts; an epilogue tells of the reunion that took place between Mercedes and Mr. Halvorsen 22 years later and their enduring friendship. Lengthy front and back matter nearly outshines the narrative. Still, Raven's uplifting account imparts a positive humanitarian message. (Picture book. 5-10) Copyright Kirkus 2002 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2002 April #3
Van Frankenbuyzen's (L Is for Lincoln) opening spread of a bombed-out West Berlin speaks volumes about the necessity of the 1948-1949 Berlin Airlift, the setting for this somewhat overwritten tale. During this time, the British and American forces flew food and basic supplies into the city after the Russian blockade cut off all access to it. After a historical note, Raven (Angels in the Dust) introduces Mercedes, a likable young West Berliner who tends the white chickens in her yard. One morning, her mother reads her a newspaper article about an American pilot, Lt. Gail Halvorsen, who, when delivering supplies to the city, "rained down sweets" on children waiting by the runway ("They carried flour and clothing and coal too. And something else!" reads the narrative). At the airfield, an older, taller boy snags the chocolate bar headed her way, and Mercedes sends Halvorsen a letter ("When you fly over the garden and see the white chickens, please drop some candy there and all will be ok"). He then mails her a package of treats ("The memory of this day would stay with her for the rest of her life"). Unfortunately, the epilogue is more compelling than the narrative: readers learn that Mercedes met Halvorsen in 1972, and the two remain friends. The close-up portraits may be static, but the artist's lifelike depictions of the devastated city are chilling; bullet and shrapnel holes mar even the girl's garden walls. Despite the cumbersome text, a sketch of an uncommonly giving man and a rare friendship emerges. Ages 5-10. (Apr.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2002 August
Gr 3-5-This outstanding picture book depicts one of the lesser-known aspects of the Berlin Airlift following World War II as seen through the eyes of a seven-year-old girl. Operation Little Vittles was run by Lt. Gail Halvorsen who, out of the goodness of his heart, began dropping candy in parachutes made from handkerchiefs to the children of West Berlin. This heartwarming story provides not only the historical context, but an epilogue as well. Although the text is slightly wordy at times, it shows, in part, how the Cold War impacted children, and how one child struggled to find hope amid the ruins of postwar Germany. It is also a tribute to the thousands of people involved in the effort. With views of devastated buildings and shrapnel holes in concrete, the full-color paintings elicit a real sense of the war's devastation.-Robyn Ryan Vandenbroek, Elgin Court Public School, St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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