Best 1949 Adventures (4)
August 5, 2019
One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1949 adventure novels.
Robert Lawson’s children’s adventure The Fabulous Flight.
At age 7, Peter Pepperell suffers an injury that causes him to begin shrinking; soon enough, he’s pocket-sized… and he can communicate with small animals, too. As Peter grows older, his father, a Washington D.C. honcho and model-building fanatic, teaches him to rig and sail model sailboats — besides the fantastical premise of both books, this is the only similarity between Lawson’s book and E.B. White’s Stuart Little (1945) — and ride a rabbit, using a custom-designed saddle. In addition to mustering and drilling a regiment of backyard rodents, Peter befriends a seagull named Gus, who takes him on thrilling aerial tours of Washington. Lawson’s illustrations are charming and realistic; this could have been a perfectly good children’s fantasy even if it hadn’t turned into an adventure novel. But it does: When Mr. Pepperell’s friends in the State Department learn that a mad scientist has developed a tiny but deadly weapon of mass destruction, and is holed up in an armed fortress in a tiny European country, Peter and Gus volunteer for the dangerous mission of stealing the thingamajig. Peter’s father designs a cabin which straps onto Gus’s back, and as a child I pored over Lawson’s illustrations of this apparatus; it’s great. The duo’s fabulous flight involves a European tour of sorts, adventures over the ocean, gangsters, and a massive explosion!
Fun facts: Lawson illustrated dozens of children’s books by other authors, including such well-known titles as Munro Leaf’s The Story of Ferdinand (1936), Richard and Florence Atwater’s Mr. Popper’s Penguins (1938), and T.H White’s The Sword in the Stone. I’m also a big fan of Lawson’s Ben and Me (1939) and its companion volumes.
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.