Friday, January 11, 2013

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

Today is Amelia Earhart day!!!!!!
It’s a mystery. What happened to famed pilot Amelia Earhart on her bid to fly around the world? Where did she go wrong? And why is her disappearance still fascinating to us 75 years later? In Amelia Lost, biographer Candace Fleming follows up her acclaimed works on P. T. Barnum, the Lincolns and Eleanor Roosevelt with a fascinating look at aviatrix Amelia Earhart. Fleming’s meticulous research combines with her storytelling expertise to craft an account of Earhart that manages to breathe life into the legendary figure’s mysterious disappearance. Even though the reader knows that Amelia never returned from her fatal flight, the book’s structure and Fleming’s pacing manage to build suspense and create tension. The author intersperses accounts from the viewpoints of the many people concerned about Amelia’s whereabouts with accounts of her early years and her career, allowing the reader to know Amelia as more than a one-dimensional historic figure. Most biographies of Earhart aimed at juvenile audiences focus on her fun-filled Kansas childhood and her desire to be a pilot at a time when women were not encouraged to climb into the cockpit and risk their lives. But Fleming digs a little deeper into Earhart’s youth and discusses not only her tomboy escapades, but also her father’s alcoholism and other family troubles. Amelia’s teen years were marked by the influences of her father’s “sickness” and the effects it had on his career. Amelia’s family moved from Atchison KS to Kansas City, Des Moines, St. Paul and eventually Chicago and each move was a step down on the social ladder. Amelia’s college efforts were scattered and halfhearted. Then she volunteered as a nurse in Canada during World War I and became fascinated by the airplanes on the nearby airfield. But her first urges to fly were stymied by the fact that women were not allowed to fly. As she said “Not even a general’s wife” was allowed to take to the air. By the time Amelia returned to the United States, she had already been bitten by the flying bug. Her fascination was increased after she attended an air show in California in 1920 and she became determined to learn to fly. She worked hard to earn enough money for lessons and found a female pilot willing to take her on as a student. Amelia had finally found her place in the sky. The author expounds on Amelia’s early efforts as a pilot and how she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, and she portrays Amelia’s relationship with George Putnam in an age-appropriate manner. She gives the reader some interesting details about Amelia’s willingness to be a public figure and her efforts to promote women in aviation. But the most compelling stories in the book are the accounts of her last flight and the massive attempts to locate her after all contact was lost with her plane on July 2, 1937. The author searched communication logs and news stories, as well as primary documents submitted to the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery. These documents include diary entries and records of conversations from citizens who claimed to have heard Amelia calling for help in her last hours.

Amelia Lost: My Recommendation

I recommend Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart for ages 10 and up. The book has a lot to offer in terms of engaging young readers’ interest and historical information. By weaving the stories of Amelia’s final hours that we know of with the story of her life, Candace Fleming not only builds interest, but she also engages the reader in the immediacy and importance of Amelia’s disappearance. The 118-page book is filled with photos, news items, and memorabilia ranging from Amelia’s grade card to a note to Amelia from her co-pilot, Fred Noonan. The book includes a bibliography, index and suggestions for more information on the Web. Students looking for information about Amelia Earhart’s life for reports will find a wealth of biographical information in this work. Young readers looking for an interesting non-fiction book about a fascinating subject will be enthralled by this depiction of Amelia’s life and her disappearance.

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