Friday, April 12, 2013

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

The title of this book really says it all: Candace Fleming does a great job of telling not only the story we all already know of Amelia Earhart's disappearance, but also the story of Earhart's life. This is not Fleming's first biographical text either- she's also written on Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, and more. This book illustrates her skill at writing historical accounts of famous figures.

The story switches between the day of Amelia's last flight and her subsequent disappearance, and a biographical picture of her life, beginning with her childhood. I already knew Earhart disappeared during a solo flight around the world, but Fleming provides readers with much more insight into Earhart as a person. Many people know Earhart merely as a pilot who disappeared, but she actuality achieved great things before she disappeared, including being the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and working towards equal rights for women with the National Woman's Party. She also established the first organization for female pilots. Fleming manages to both applaud Earhart's accomplishments as a female pilot while also pointing out that Earhart wasn't shy about promoting her celebrity image. We often think of historical figures in an idyllic way, but Fleming gives us Earhart as a real human being. She also provides well-researched insight into the day of Earhart's disappearance- and why it may have happened.

Without giving too much away, the book was definitely a fresh take on an old story. I also particularly enjoyed the book's structure. Fleming made it easy for readers to understand the switches between stories by using grey pages for accounts of the disappearance and white pages for accounts of Amelia's life. She also includes little off-set boxes for greater information on various topics, such as GPS and aviation.

I believe the book is a good read for students, as it reaches across multiple disciplines. The interesting story covers literature, the reporting of facts on a historical figure incorporates social studies, and the sidebars often brush on science and technology. The book is both interesting and sensational, keeping the readers interest while also teaching them something, which is the goal of non-fiction. The only weakness I see in teaching it in a classroom is that it is a very simple read that might be more fitting for a fourth or fifth grade reader. In fact, on various websites (like National Geographic Kids) it is described as a children's book, not a book for young adults. 


Zak Q said...

Your post got me curious about the book, so I headed to Amazon and looked at the few pages they offer as a preview. It's really well-designed, with art deco layouts and fonts. Besides that, the other reviewers tend to agree with you: this is a well-known story already, but Fleming gets more intrigue out of it than they've seen before.

This reminds me exactly of books I used to read all the time - textbook-like layouts, filled with sidebars and diagrams and pictures - think Dorling-Kindersley books. This seems like the next step up, for a little older reader. A more focused, in-depth story, but delivered in a varied way that keeps young readers' attention by avoiding massive blocks of dense text. Fleming sounds like an excellent writer, as well. I probably would have loved this in middle school.

JessicaGeelen said...

I was so torn on reading this book or the biography I ended up choosing, so I'm really glad you read it and recommend it!

I like the way you said the author bounces back and forth between the day of her disappearance and her life. Like Zak said, I think this is a great way to keep young adults' attention.

baboonfan said...

Nick Petersen: Hooray for female empowerment! This book would be great for a women's literature course, or a feminism unit. Despite how our history books look, women were not absent before the 1960's, and we need to look more at their contributions. We don't just remember Abraham Lincoln by how he died, so we shouldn't remember historical females by their death. We can easily list off a few: Marie Antoinette, Anne Bolin, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Mary Queen of Scots, we know about how they died but not nearly as much as their accomplishments in life.

Does the book also address the recent findings linked to her death? Some people found what they believe to be her bones on an island, but I haven't looked too thoroughly into the subject.