Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming (2011)

Amelia turned to her father, who had come along with her. “Dad, you know, I think I’d like to fly.”

Amelia Lost is a highly readable, middle grade accessible biography that attempts to cut away at the myth surrounding Amelia Earhart.

The story begins on July 2, 1937. Amelia is making her way toward Howland Island - an island situated in the Pacific and just big enough for an airstrip – for a refueling. We know she won’t make it but Fleming builds suspense with this opening.

Backtrack to Amelia’s childhood where she acted a tomboy while her grandmother urged her to be a lady, to her father’s struggles with alcoholism and to her first experience with airplanes. Fleming returns intermittently to 1937 and Amelia’s life unfolds.

During our KidLit group meeting, one of our members called Amelia the “original Kardashian” but wondered, “Why is Amelia relevent today? Why do we care?” She was, after all, just one of many women seeking fame with a plane.

Another member pointed out, “This story, at its heart, is all about communication.” As events unfold on July 2 and teh days following, it becomes clear that Amelia’s failure was due, in large part, to a lack of communication. Amelia didn’t take the time to learn her radio. Her Morris code machine was jettisoned for less important items. But even with the knowledge and with the machines, would Amelia have been successful? Just pop over to Wow! Where’s Howland? to understand just how difficult it would have been for Amelia to find the tiny island in the best of conditions.

Many in my Mock Newbery group agrees that Amelia and her husband come out looking like huge gamblers, but from Amelia’s perspective, it was worth it. Some found the framing didn’t work for them. Others were distracted by the sidebar information while yet others found it provided a sense of the time and gave pertinent information.

In my opinion, while this is an excellent biography (in a time when great biographies are not plentiful), I do not believe it is distinguished.

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Library copy (print) | February 8, 2011 | Schwartz & Wade | 128 pages| ISBN: 978-0375841989 | Ages 9-13 | $18.99

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