Jan 26, 2012

Amelia Overlooked: Worth the Search

The recent ALA Youth Media Awards were exciting, and highlighted many worthy books. Wednesday's post on I.N.K. Rethink  presented a thorough wrap-up of winning/honored non-fiction. Since the announcements, comments have been popping up about a title missing from that mix: Candace Fleming's 2011 Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

When it released last spring I posted a review at the Carthage College Center for Children's Literature site. I'm including a section of it here in hopes that this remarkable title will not be "lost" in the swirl of attention surrounding the recent awards.

Fleming leads readers on a surprising path to the truth behind Amelia’s winning smile and curly bob despite the iconic cover photo and unsurprising title of her new book. Including the fact that Amelia’s curls were not natural, as she often claimed, we find countless examples of Earhart’s efforts to develop and maintain a public persona as heroine/aviatrix, “otherwise flying opportunities will stop rolling in,” (her own words). Fleming plumbs reliable sources to correct misconceptions and shed new light on one of our brightest stars of the twentieth century while maintaining an objective tone.

Revealed through intriguing specifics, from her birth to her disappearance, Amelia becomes much more than a mythologized cardboard figure. Aspects of self-promotion and some “not very nice” decisions on the part of Amelia and her promoter/husband George Putnam enrich our understanding of her many passions: for flight, breaking barriers, risk-taking, and reaching her full potential. Exploring her many dimensions allows readers a broader perspective of the role Amelia played in the advance of aviation and women in American society. Fatal flaws leading to her disappearance (impulsivity, over-confidence, and tunnel vision among them) serve to humanize Earhart.

Amelia’s experiences as a social worker, advertiser, competitor, and clothing designer will come as a surprise to most readers. Other worthy players in the development and popularizing of aviation are given due credit, their points of view providing insight to Amelia’s choices. The intense efforts to locate her lost plane are revealed with enough suspense to engender a sense of possibility for success despite our knowledge of history.

From the cautionary forward (Don’t believe everything you read- dig for the truth) to the annotated bibliography, source notes by chapter, reliable web sources, and index, Fleming has created a profile built on solid research, primary sources, and a healthy dose of accuracy. Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart is a clear-eyed and compellingly suspenseful presentation of a remarkable American woman. Candace Fleming’s well-earned reputation for meticulous detail, exhaustive research, and superb storytelling continues unblemished in this blend of biography and true-life mystery.  

By Candace Fleming
Schwartz and Wade Books, 2011 (Random House Books)
Readers: age 10 and up.
Starred Reviews in Kirkus Reviews, The Horn Book Magazine, School Library Journal, and The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

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