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Pilots, Disappearances, and Lady Pioneers: Amelia Earhart Day

On this day in 1935, Amelia Earhart began her historic flight across the Pacific, becoming the first person (man or woman) to do it solo. Teen lit fans were recently treated to two outstanding books about the lady aviator, and there is no better time to add them to your to-read list than today, Amelia Earhart Day.

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart (a nomination for the 2012 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers) once again showcases Candace Fleming’s talent for writing compelling nonfiction. (If you missed her 2010 Best Book for Young Adults title, The Great and Only Barnum, do yourself a favor and check it out as well!) In Amelia, Fleming turns an ordinary biography into a breathtaking mystery by alternating between Amelia’s life story and the search for her plane after her final, fateful flight. Photos, handwritten documents, and primary source material abound.

Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean (a 2011 Great Graphic Novel for Teens), comes from Sarah Stewart Taylor and Ben Towle of the Center for Cartoon Studies. (You may know the Center for their other acclaimed graphic novel bios of Houdini, Satchel Paige, and Thoreau.) Here, aspiring newspaper reporter Grace is a fictional young girl in the tiny Newfoundland town of Trepassey, where many transatlantic hopefuls began their airplane journey–it was as close to Europe as they could get and still be in North America. Grace is instantly captivated by Amelia’s bravado, determination, and free spirit, even in light of ongoing failed attempts to take off, and her own resolve to follow her dream is strengthened by her conversations with Amelia. Towle’s panels tell the story in a simple palette of black, white, and sky blue (surely an intentional color choice). I won’t lie; there was more than one image that got me teary in this one.

This title also introduced me to the idea that part of Amelia’s appeal was her uncanny resemblance to Charles Lindbergh (Fleming, in her book, heightens the intrigue by more closely examining this “Lady Lindy” advertising and other ways Amelia and her publicist “hyped” her image). Neither book featured a side-by-side photo of the two famed flyers, so I made a comparison of my own. What do you think? Hype, or legitimate similarity?

Looking for more? Aviatrix fans will also want to make note of Promise the Night by Michaela Maccoll, an upcoming historical fiction novel about Beryl Markham, the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic in the OTHER direction (via the more difficult east-to-west route). And many readers have spent the Leviathan trilogy cheering for one Deryn Sharp, brilliant airman of the British Air Service … who just happens to be a girl in disguise. Deryn would have loved to meet the thirteen women profiled in Almost Astronauts, who may not have made it into space but soundly shook the stereotypes of their time. In the “mysterious disappearances” category, be sure to check out Mystery on Everest: A Photobiography of George Mallory; Roanaoke: The Mystery of the Lost Colony; and Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper.

Want to add any favorite titles about lady aviators or mysterious disappearances? Comment below! And all speculation aside, today is a good time to ponder the truth of Eleanor Roosevelt’s statement about Amelia Earhart: “She helped the cause of women by giving them a feeling that there was nothing they could not do.”

–Becky O’Neil, currently reading Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman

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Rebecca O'Neil

Rebecca (Becky) is a Collection Development Librarian at the Westerville Public Library in Ohio. Her interests include art, keeping the largest to-read list Goodreads has ever known, and searching for a dash of magical realism in everything.

2 Comments

  1. Michelle Blank Michelle Blank

    Nice post, Becky. I love the quote by Eleanor. We do, indeed, stand on the shoulders of come amazing women.

  2. Tamara Tamara

    I’d recently been feeling like Amelia was too over-hyped, but your post has somehow breathed new life into the subject for me.

    Bonus points for the use of the word “Aviatrix”. :)

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