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Sonderbooks Book Review of

Amelia Lost

The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

by Candace Fleming


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Amelia Lost

The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

by Candace Fleming
Review posted July 4, 2011.
Schwartz & Wade Books (Random House), New York, 2011. 118 pages.
2011 Sonderbooks Standout: #5 Children's Nonfiction

I've been impressed with Candace Fleming's exceptional ability to make biographies come alive ever since I read Ben Franklin's Almanac. Reading The Lincolns only confirmed her brilliance.

Like those others, Amelia Lost makes good use of photographs and other supplementary materials to really give you a taste of what Amelia Earhart must have been like.

In this book, she weaves through the book stories from people in the continental United States who heard Amelia Earhart broadcasting while the search for her was going on. That helps us understand the tragedy behind this paragraph later in the book, as Amelia is preparing for her around-the-world flight attempt:

She needed more practice with her radio equipment, too. Joseph Gurr, who had been hired to install the plane's communication system, was eager for Amelia to learn how to use her radio and direction-finding equipment. He wanted to show her how to tune the receivers and how to operate the transmitters; to teach her correct radio procedures and help her understand what her radio system could and could not do. But every time Gurr begged her to come for a lesson, she put him off. She was too busy, she said. Her schedule was full. Finally -- just weeks before her departure -- she turned up at the airport hangar. Relieved, Gurr assumed he had all day to teach her everything about her radio. But after only an hour, Amelia left for an appointment. Gurr was stunned. "We never covered actual operations such as taking a bearing with the direction finder, [or] even contacting another radio station," he recalled. This very brief lesson was Amelia's only formal instruction in the use of her communication system. And it would be her gravest mistake. Wrote one aviation expert, "The solution to Amelia's future communication problems was right at her fingertips -- if only she had understood how her radio worked."

This book was an interesting contrast to Chris Van Allsburg's Queen of the Falls. Both books were biographies of women who, in the early 20th Century, sought fame and fortune through daredevil acts, and then telling about them on the lecture circuit. Amelia managed to achieve that fame and fortune, partly because she was young and good-looking, partly because she never rested on her laurels, but kept trying to top herself, and partly because she had a savvy publicist who eventually married her. But unfortunately, Amelia's most lasting fame came from the trip where she didn't return.

Another top-notch biography from Candace Fleming. This book is absorbing reading and extremely informative. I will be very happy to find it for the next child needing a biography "over 100 pages." This is not one of those boring books written to help kids write a school report -- but it has all the information they would need for a school report, and is presented in such a way that they are even sure to remember it.