Title: Flight of the Fugitives
Author: Dave & Neta Jackson
Series: Trailblazer Books
Major Themes: China, Gladys Aylward, Missionaries
Synopsis: Mei-en’s mother has died, and she’s been sold to a gypsy—what will happen when a strange foreigner named Gladys Aylward buys her?
Somewhere between the ages of seven and nine, Mom introduced me for the first time to the Trailblazer series. I loved the books! They’re written for 8-12 year olds in mind, and while they are a little easier to read than some books, they also tell about real people and real places—something that you don’t always find these days in children’s fiction. Flight of the Fugitives, about Gladys Aylward, is one of the more recent ones I’ve read—and though I’m older than the intended age bracket now, I still enjoyed the story.
Mei-en’s life hasn’t been easy, and now at six years old her mother has just died. To her horror, her grandmother decides not to keep her, and sells her to a gypsy. Worse is to come, though—over the next few weeks and months, she often faces starvation when there isn’t enough food for both her and the gypsy. Then, one day, a woman stops when she sees the dirty, hungry, neglected little girl—and to Mei-en’s horror, she soon realizes she has been sold again—this time to a “foreign devil”! Will life get even worse for the little girl? What happens when this woman, named Miss Gladys, decides to treat her as a decent human being? What will happen when war breaks out around them?
Flight of the Fugitives told the story of Gladys Aylward in a new, interesting perspective. Although I get a little tired sometimes of the same general storyline being portrayed in the Trailblazer Books (that of the main character somehow helping out the person they’re trying to tell about), it does make for a different viewpoint on famous people’s lives. I’ve heard Geoff and Janet Benge’s take on Gladys Aylward’s life in the Christian Heroes: Then and Now series, but there were some things brought out in this retelling that I found particularly interesting.
One thing I found interesting was the relationship between Colonel Linnan and Gladys; I don’t remember hearing before that she had gotten very close to being married, but apparently that is factual. I also enjoyed the suggestion that Gladys may have had help from an ex-prisoner placed in her care as she took the children over the mountain. I don’t know if that was the case or not, but it seemed possible to me. One thing about the history in this book is that it’s all condensed a little to save on time. Thankfully, there is a historical note at the beginning of the book telling about this, which makes it much more acceptable in my opinion. Still, to get a balanced view of her life, I would encourage you to read the Benge’s account—that was a very good biography.
Overall, I enjoyed the book even though it felt a little juvenile to me. I’m sure some of your early readers would enjoy it as well!
WARNING: There are some mentions of fighting, the wounded, and the war in here. Nothing very graphic. Probably the worst would be in Chapter 11, page 112, where it mentions a family being burned alive because the father refused to carry ammunition for some soldiers.
Read Aloud—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 13, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15