Amelia Earhart’s disappearance continues to fascinate us nearly seventy-five years later because it remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of the 20th century. And Amelia herself continues to intrigue us because she was a woman so clearly ahead of her times. Candace Fleming alternates chapters that recount Earhart’s life story with chapters that recreate the desperate search for her and her plane from July 2-18, 1937, before President Roosevelt finally declared it a lost cause.
From early childhood, Amelia Earhart was a daredevil who refused to play by the rules. She dropped out of college to work as a volunteer nurse’s aide after seeing wounded veterans return home from World War I, and had planned to return to college to attend Medical School, but caught the flying bug instead. The biographical chapters focus on the challenges Earhart faced as a woman in a man’s world, as well as her adventurous spirit. Black-and-white archival photos appear on nearly every page, and the visual design of the book is likely to draw readers in, even those who don’t already have an interest in the aviator.
But the real hook in the book is the frantic search that’s recounted in short two to three-page chapters between the biographical passages. We learn of the efforts of the crew aboard the coast guard cutter, Itasca, who tapped out messages in Morse code and searched their radio frequencies in vain for a response from the plane. And we also learn about ordinary citizens back home who may have heard messages from Earhart through their own ham radios: a housewife in Amarillo, Texas; a sixteen-year-old boy in Rock Springs, Wyoming; and a fifteen-year-old girl in St. Petersburg, Florida. Most tantalizing is the last of these, as the teenage girl, home alone, appears to have heard Earhart’s final cries for help as her plane filled with water: “Help me. Water’s high.” Even though we know how the story ends, Fleming keeps us all on the edge of our seats.
Tips for Parents:
Many kids show a definite preference for nonfiction from an early age and, luckily, there are a lot of great books of information out there to meet their needs and interests. Encourage your son or daughter to pursue special interests by helping them find good nonfiction books on their subjects. And you can encourage your fiction readers to try nonfiction, too. The best nonfiction, such as Amelia Lost, will grab a reader’s attention from the start, just as all great stories do. Many nonfiction books make excellent read-alouds, too, so add some to your family reading selections.
Reviewed by KTH
THEMES: ADVENTURE & ADVENTURERS. BIOGRAPHY. FLIGHT. WOMEN.
Schwartz & Wade, 2011
Suggested Ages: 10 and up