Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
by Candace Fleming
Checked out from the public library
[#9 in my 75 book challenge]
Dear public library — why do you not shelve your YA biographies in the 921’s? It took me at least fifteen minutes to hunt this sucker down, but I wanted to read it because it’s on the Mock Newbery shortlist over at School Library Journal’s Heavy Medal blog. Nina has this in her top three, so I couldn’t pass it over.
This one reminded me of The Watch That Ends The Night because they were very similar in structure. Both take the narrative of the event (the voyage of the Titanic and the life of Amelia Earhart) and frame each chapter with passages about the aftermath of the event. In the case of Amelia Earhart, the story begins with Amelia not showing up for her scheduled refueling stop at tiny Howland Island. The next chapters begin with Amelia’s birth and tell her life story, but each opens with the continued questions and search attempts surrounding her disappearance.
Though the book is short (only 128 pages), it is very thorough. I learned more about Amelia Earhart than I expected. By the end I realized that I didn’t really like her. Sure, she did some interesting things to convince women to pursue their dreams and she was an inspiration to girls for generations. However, I got the sense from the story that she was a bit self-absorbed, reckless, and actively created her own media limelight. I was surprised to learn that she was married, though it appeared that Mr. Putnam loved her a bit more than she loved him. Amelia’s one love was flying, and she died doing what she loved. Before reading this book I don’t think I realized quite how dangerous flying was in the 1920’s and 30’s. If nothing else, Amelia was a very brave woman.
Do not look for this book to answer any questions about what MIGHT have happened to Earhart. This is not a book of speculations — it’s just the facts, ma’am. There is great bibliographical information in the back, as well as an introduction by Fleming that reminds readers, “Sometimes it’s hard to tell fact from fiction.” Amelia’s story is part legend and myth and part truth, but sometimes separating the two is difficult. This same principal applies to her disappearance, as much as I would LOVE to know what actually happened to her.
Final Grade: C It was okay. Non-fiction is sort of hit-or-miss, and it’s highly subjective. In this case, the subject just didn’t interest me — even though it ended up being more interesting than I thought. I will admit that my expertise in non-fiction is limited, so I can’t quite say if it it well-written enough to win the Newbery. Everyone else seems to think it is, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Do look for it to pick up at least an honor medal next week when the results are announced.
My students would possibly pick this up because of the mystery surrounding Earhart (they love stuff like that), but I would probably have to put it on a display or a list. I doubt they’d wander over to the 921’s and just pick it. Our seventh graders are about to start a biography project, so I’m sure they’ll show it some love for that.