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Biggles Vintage Classic British Pilot Childrens Books
Biggles Great Books for Kids who Love Heroes, Pilots and Planes
Who is Biggles?
Awesome Book Series for Boys
is the nickname of Captain James Bigglesworth. Biggles is the hero in a series of books written by the British author William Earl Johns. Biggles is born in 1899 in India but because of an illness he is sent off by his father to a boarding school in England. He learns to fly during the early days of WW I. Biggles is a typical British hero; professional but also always a gentleman. Biggles becomes an excellent pilot who is noticed by his superiors and he is sent on many secret missions for the intelligence services. Biggles
After WW I is over he travels across the globe with a returning cast of characters of Commodore Raymond, the Honourable Algernon Lacey, Ginger Hebblethwaite and Lord Bertram Lissie. With these friends he manages to live a very adventurous life.
His archenemy is Erich von Stalhein. A character he manages to run into from "Biggles flies East" untill the series hits the 50's and the book; "Biggles buries a hatchet" is printed. Although they are enemies Biggles respects him for his skills as a pilot.
During WW II Biggles flies as a pilot in the service of the Royal Air Force (RAF). He fights against the Nazis and their allies from Norway. I remember these books as particularly exciting as his secret base was hidden inside a small Island. From where he defied the powerfull and might forces that were always searching for him.
After this war Biggles becomes a flying detective for Scotland Yard. And is involved in numerous adventures in this capacity.
Biggles Weaknesses - Critics on Biggles
The early Biggles stories were initially aimed at an older audience. As such they are less suitable for young children. Death is a subject that comes up occasionally (It's war) and he even loses some close allies. Alcohol and cigarettes also make an appearance. And although romanticizing these substances in childrens stories is something that should be avoided. I do think there is a counter argument in the fact that erasing them (which happened in later prints) is historically incorrect. Now, it's not like Biggles is never historically incorrect but to erase smoking from stories in the 1920-1950's is falsification of history.
You can make the argument that it isn't important to show people were smoking. Which I agree with! But if we had a consistent policy of removing smoking from all literature Children would be growing up without realising it is a great threat and an addiciton that once dominated the entire Western world. In any case we wouldn't dream of altering adult literature in this way. In my opinion art should be left alone and teaching your kids that smoking isn unhealthy is important but not by falsification of history.
Another very sensitive subject is that of Racism. Although in my personal memories Biggles was a hero who travelled the world extensively and met friends and foes of diverse ethniticity and a quote like "while men are decent to me I try to be decent to them, regardless of race, colour, politics, creed or anything else" Rings true in my ears as a tyical Biggles display of morals. On the wikipedia page of Biggles I noticed the writer was found guilty of demonising non-whites on several occasions. In particular the books "Biggles in Borneo" and "Biggles in Australia" appear to be guilty of this. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biggles for an extensive discussion of Racism in Biggles.
What Did I Learn from Biggles?
When I was looking through my old books again I couldn't help but think back on all my fond memories of the hours I spend reading and rereading the adventures of Captain Biggles. There are many aspects in the stories that are highly attractive to a young boy. The main character is a brave Pilot who fights for his countries and has a strong set of personal values he upholds. The stories contained enough action scenes and anticipation of dangerous missions that they held my unwavering attention for long periods of time. Some books are more gripping them others but overall I have very positive memories of how exciting the books were. So from an entertainment perspective the books are highly valuable. But what about from an educational perspective?
There are really three disciplines that I learned a tremendous amount about from the Biggles books: (If you discount something like values like honesty and bravery which aren't really tested in school) History, Geography and Culture and Technology.
Though Biggles is not entirely historical correct, as a kid i picked up a lot about WW I and WW II. Which countries were on which side during those wars. During what time period did these wars take place? How were they fighting wars in those days? (significantly different from today).
Because Biggles travels so much, you learn a lot about other countries in the world. About their locations and climates but Biggles also meets people in exotic locations, you get a brief insight in some other cultures. Even Biggles being british taught me a lot about the English culture(me being Dutch myself).
since Biggles is constantly flying around in top notch Aircraft for their time as a kid I got to learn all about a lot about different aircraft and how they looked. Remember the double- and tripledeckers from WW I? The legendary Spitfire from WW II? It made me take out a lot of other books about aircraft from the library and study their top speed (even back then they were a lot faster then you are allowed on the highway) and learn about their strong points and weaknesses. It was a new world of books I was discovering.
The Biggles Books - A Small Selection of the Biggles Titles
Over a hundred Biggles Titles were published. I can't list them all so take your time browsing them on Amazon. The first book of the series is Biggles goes to School but it's less suitable for really young boys as explained in the article above. They can easily be read independently though.