Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Review: Amelia Lost

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
By Candace Fleming
Published 2001 by Schwartz & Wade

What really happened to beloved aviatrix Amelia Earhart? Even decades after her disappearance, we still don't have the definitive answer. In this biography, Fleming explores Earhart in depth, as well as the search for clues about her disappearance.

I picked this up on a whim last fall, in the mood for some nonfiction. I definitely picked the right book. This is one of the best examples of nonfiction for young readers that I've read. Fleming chooses to tell Earhart's story in alternating chapters - chronologically through her life and through the search for her and her plane. It's an extremely compelling way to tell the story, one that I think has high appeal for kids and teens. It makes what could be the boring part - the straightforward biography part - all the more captivating because you begin to wonder how it ties into the other, exciting part - that of the all-encompassing search for her after her disappearance.

I, like most people, can admit to a passing interest in Amelia Earhart. What Fleming's book does best, I think, is highlight the parts of her that are often overlooked in other biographies, particularly those for young people. Do most people know how obsessed she was with cultivating a particular image of herself? Do people know that most pilots who knew her would describe her as reckless and, often, ill-prepared for flight? I don't think so. I certainly didn't. I felt like the more I read about her in Fleming's biography, the less I found to admire. It's important for kids to learn that there can be a culture, a particular image, built up around certain people and that they should do their best to find the truth behind that image. Fleming's book provides a nice introduction, whether or not it's intentional or explicit, into the culture of celebrity, something I think is extremely important for kids to learn about.

This is a stunning example of nonfiction for young readers. I highly recommend it.

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