Oconee Author Uses Warplane to Spin New Tale for Young Readers
Oconee County resident and former journalist Rick Lavender has published a Georgia-based story of high-flying action for young readers.
In "Flying Tigers: A Boy's Adventure," it's 1974 and 12-year-old Tommy Coleman is looking forward to spending the summer at his grandfather's south Georgia farm. But Tommy's anticipation soon turns to amazement at a not-so-well-kept secret:
His grandfather has a World War II fighter plane in his barn!
"Flying Tigers: A Boy's Adventure" takes off with that discovery and soars into excitement. This new book is page-turning fiction rich in aviation history, villains and tests of courage.
Copies are available at The Carpenter's Shop in Athens and Athens Seed, Lawn and Garden in Watkinsville.
Lavender, a Mercer University graduate with a journalism Master's from the University of Georgia, spent more than 25 years with Georgia newspapers and magazines, including 18 at The Times in Gainesville."Flying Tigers: A Boy's Adventure" is based on his years living in south Georgia, his interest in the military and his desire to write books that young readers and their parents will enjoy.
The idea for his first book came from a freelance assignment in which Lavender and his oldest son visited a hangar where a Douglas, Ga., businessman restores warplanes. One of the planes was a P-40 Warhawk, a fighter made famous by the American Volunteer Group. AVG members defended China and Burma against the Japanese, earning the nickname Flying Tigers.
As a boy, Lavender liked the iconic warbirds known for the shark's mouth design painted on many of them. After seeing the P-40 in Douglas, the story behind "Flying Tigers: A Boy's Adventure" slowly came together. It is, as Lavender begins the book, "a daydream put to print."
His hope is that the book not only entertains children, but that it also helps develop in them a love for reading and learning. While geared for readers in late-elementary to early-middle-school grades, the story can also work as a chapter-by-chapter read-aloud for younger boys and girls.
Lavender lives with his family in Oconee and works in public relations with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, promoting conservation of rare wildlife, from bald eagles to big-eared bats.