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Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite
In The Maple Seed Helicopter by Marco Collina, even from birth, Marco’s life had been a battle. After his mother died when Marco was only 6 months of age, he was abandoned in an Italian orphanage by his father. Tenderness and kindness were alien to the children in the orphanage. At the age of ten, Marco and two of his friends, Dario and George, decided to venture outside for an adventure that would change the course of their lives. They would narrowly escape capture by German soldiers. Luckily, the boys are found by an elderly man called Domenico who offers them work on the farm he shares with his wife, Elisetta. As the years go by, Domenico and Elisetta raise the boys into fine upstanding young men. With World War II in full force and the never-ending presence of the German soldiers, everyone tries to live a normal existence. Marco and George long to travel to America to discover if the country truly is the land of opportunity. With the help of Elisetta's family connections, they are soon on board a ship set for New York. However, an underhand chess game places Marco and George in danger at sea and, for their own safety, they are put to work away from their enemies in third class. Marco becomes enamored by the excitement of life on the ocean. He decides to find work on a ship and explore the world, while George settles into American life. A series of events and encounters at sea pushes Marco’s inner resolve to the limits. He realizes some invaluable life lessons, the pain of unrequited love, the importance of taking every opportunity with both hands, and placing your trust in God. Marco finally grasps the meaning of true happiness. With God’s guidance, every obstacle is a chance to learn, and the innocence of childhood is where true happiness lies, not in the overbearing noise of the mind and ego.
The beautiful life lessons throughout this novel capture the reader's heart and imagination immediately. The characters of Marco, George, and Dario develop wonderfully. Their experiences in the orphanage build such a strong bond with one another. I absolutely adored Captain Alessandro, a truly inspirational mentor for Marco and also the kindness and warmth of Domenico and his wife Elisetta. They were pivotal people in the lives of the three boys. I also feel the presence of the boys gave the elderly couple a new lease on life. The descriptive narrative was exceptional, especially the scenes on board the ship. Life as a third-class passenger was vivid and extremely realistic. There were some really tense scenes especially those involving the German soldiers and the arrest of Domenico on spying charges. I loved Marco’s poetry throughout the story; it encapsulated the emotion of that particular moment in his life perfectly. The entire story moved forward at a steady pace, revealing even more layers to the plot and characters' personalities. There were so many lessons to be learned from Marco's journey. How pivotal people enter your life for a reason, why certain events arise to strengthen your character, and how every day is a blessing and a reason to show gratitude. The Maple Seed Helicopter by Marco Collina is a highly recommended read.