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Amelia Earhart Comes to Life in Two Books for Young Readers


Share Amelia Earhart, one of the world's best-known aviators, disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 in an attempt to be the first person to fly around the world via an equatorial route. In honor of the anniversary of her birth -- July 24 -- Education World reviews two new children's books that are sure to motivate young readers to learn more.

Amelia Earhart was born July 24, 1897, and is believed to have perished in July 1937, when her plane disappeared while over the Pacific Ocean. This week, Education World examines two books that bring Earhart's life and adventures alive for young readers.

THE MAKING OF A HEROINE

Up, up, up, the little plane climbed. Its nose was pointed above the skyline. Then the plane leveled off. The left wing dropped a little and they turned toward the left.

Amelia noticed the stick moving toward her. Yes the plane was climbing again. She looked down. Everything was toy-sized -- houses, train tracks, and trees seemed small enough for a small doll's playthings.

"I'm free as a bird," she thought happily. "It's what I've always dreamed. I want to fly. I have to learn to fly."

          -- Jane Moore Howe Amelia Earhart:
          Young Air Pioneer

So Jane Moore Howe describes 23-year-old Amelia Earhart's first airplane flight, as a passenger, in Amelia Earhart: Young Air Pioneer (Patria Press, Inc.). In an era in which women's career choices were strictly limited, Earhart would go on to become one of the most publicly recognized female pilots of all time. She would become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and the first pilot to fly solo from Hawaii to California. Her fame would peak in 1937, when she disappeared while attempting to circumnavigate the globe.

Book Cover Image This "storyography" -- as the publisher calls it -- concentrates on Earhart's early years, from her move to her grandparents' house in Atchison, Kansas, at the age of seven to her first solo flight at age 24. Intended for elementary school readers, Howe presents childhood vignettes that help explain and illuminate the development of Earhart's character, personality, and interests. She portrays young Amelia as an appealing tomboy, a kid who wears bloomers instead of dresses for playtime, explores a forbidden cave, and builds her own version of a roller coaster on the roof of her grandfather's shed. Several black-and-white illustrations by Cathy Morrison help evoke images of growing up in an earlier time.

Originally published in 1950, Amelia Earhart: Young Air Pioneer has been recently re-released as the first book in the Patria Press, Inc. Young Patriot Series. Not meant as strict biographies, the books in this series are intended to introduce kids from eight to 12 to the concept of biographical writing. By concentrating on the childhoods of famous Americans, these "storyographies" are designed to appeal to young readers who may identify with youthful heroes.

To aid parents and teachers in using Amelia Earhart: Young Air Pioneer as an introduction to the study of biography, Howe provides a brief description of some of Earhart's accomplishments subsequent to the events described in the book, as well as an explanation of Earhart's mysterious disappearance in 1937. For further teaching suggestions, you should check out Patria Press, Inc.'s Web site (http://www.patriapress.com/earhart.html) and click on Educator Guides for questions and activities for classroom use.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

Amelia and Eleanor were birds of a feather. Eleanor was outspoken and determined. So was Amelia. Amelia was daring and liked to try things other women wouldn't even consider. Eleanor was the very same.

          -- Pam Munoz Ryan
           Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride

When adventure-loving free spirits get together, it is to be expected that they might indulge in some uncommon, unconventional fun. So, when the two friends slip away from a fancy dinner party before the dessert is served to fly in an airplane over the city at night, it shouldn't come as a surprise or a shock -- except that the friends are Amelia Earhart, the world-famous aviator, and Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady of the United States!

Book Cover Image Based on a real, although little-known event, Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride is a delightful look at two extraordinary women. Author Pam Munoz Ryan thoroughly researched the event -- a small private White House dinner on April 20, 1933, for Earhart and her husband, publisher G. P. Putnam -- down to such details as the menu for the dinner and the hostess gift Earhart presented to Roosevelt. During the dinner, hosted by Roosevelt and her brother Hall -- President Franklin Roosevelt was at a meeting that evening -- the topic of nighttime flying arose and the women arranged to fly an Eastern Air Transport plane to Baltimore and back.

As Ryan states in a note at the end of the book, although this event really happened, she does exaggerate somewhat. In the story, Earhart and Roosevelt take the plane up themselves. In reality, reporters, a photographer, and two Eastern Air Transport pilots, who did most of the actual flying, accompanied them. Roosevelt, who had actually obtained a student pilot's license, did take a turn in the cockpit, however!

In the book, after landing the two friends sneak away once more, this time for a ride in Roosevelt's new car. Although there doesn't seem to be any historical proof for that adventure, Ryan writes, "Eleanor loved cars and driving. Some people said she liked to drive fast. Whether or not there was a new car waiting when she and Amelia got back from the airport remains speculative. One research account supports the story, and I loved the idea that they might have really sneaked away together."

The sense of fun is enhanced by the black-and-white drawings of illustrator Brian Selznick. Like Ryan, he meticulously researched the background of the story, down to such details as the china pattern on the plates during the White House dinner scene. The pictures range from detailed scenes of the White House and a night view of the capitol dome as seen from the plane to close ups of the faces of the women.

Whether used as an introduction to the lives of two of this country's most fascinating women or simply as an enjoyable story for young readers, Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride is a delightful tale of two friends who could find the opportunity for an adventure anywhere, even at a formal dinner party.

    The books highlighted this week are available in most bookstores. If you are unable to locate the book, ask your bookseller to order it for you or contact the publisher directly.
  • Amelia Earhart: Young Air Pioneer, written by Jane Moore Howe and illustrated by Cathy Morrison, is published by Patria Press, Inc., 3842 Wolf Creek Circle, Carmel, IN 46033.
  • Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride, written by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Brian Selznik, is published by Scholastic Press. Call 1-800-SCHOLASTIC.

Lauren P. Gattilia
Education World®
Copyright © 2000 Education World

07/21/2000