Nonfiction Friday: Amelia Earhart – The Legend of the Lost Aviator

As you may recall, last week was Amelia Earhart Day, and I wanted to find an age-appropriate book to support our discussions about this famous aviator. Unfortunately, my efforts met with little success, as most of the library books available were way over a preschooler’s head. However, I did find a beautiful picture book targeted for children ages eight and up: Amelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator by Shelley Tanaka (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2008).

While Cooper couldn’t read the whole thing, I did! (Note: I did not want to get into a protracted discussion with a preschooler about death, so I pretty much skipped over the part about Amelia disappearing. We just read about her key aviation accomplishments.)

At 45 pages, the book is lengthy, however it covers Earhart’s life from her childhood through her disappearance and its aftermath. It opens with Earhart’s first view of an airplane at the 1908 Iowa State Fair and recounts in detail her idyllic early childhood with her sister Muriel. From an early age, Amelia was an adventurer who enjoyed trying new things. Her parents instilled in her and her sister that girls could do anything from playing football to climbing trees.

The book also covers Amelia’s first experiences with flying, her record-breaking achievements and her final flight. Sidebars detail other related subjects and provide context: air travel, female fliers, Amelia’s fan mail, navigation techniques and other circumnavigation attempts. The book includes a mix of historical Earhart photos, including childhood pics, and beautiful illustrations by David Craig.

For older children, this provides a complete portrait of Amelia’s courage and dedication to flying. It’s an inspiring tale worthy of upper elementary children who are ready for chapter books.

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Amelia Earhart Day….a day late

Ooops! Yesterday (Jan. 11th) was Amelia Earhart Day. The holiday recognizes the aviator’s 1935 takeoff from Honolulu on a trip to Oakland, Calif. When Earhart landed 18+ hours later on January 12th, she became the first person ever — male or female — to fly from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland. She later commented on her experience flying over the desolate Pacific: “Indeed,” she said, “that was the most interesting cup of chocolate I have ever had, sitting up eight thousand feet over the middle of the Pacific Ocean, quite alone.”

Earhart is perhaps best know for her mysterious disappearance in 1937 during her attempt to become the first woman to fly around the world. Despite her notoriety for her final flight, Earhart’s career was marked by firsts, bests and records. For children, she is a study in courage and determination.

In honor of Amelia Earhart Day, Cooper and I had a little discussion about Earhart. He knew that she was a pilot. We discussed some other things we might like to know about her 2,400-mile journey across the Pacific: What plane did she fly (Lockheed Vega); where did she takeoff and land (Wheeler Field, Honolulu and Oakland); how long did it take (more than 18 hours). We researched these questions using a variety of internet and print resources. Part of our discussion focused on what Earhart might have had to eat and drink on her long journey….and how she might have gone to the bathroom. We never found any evidence as to how she performed the latter, but we brainstormed at least five ways it could have happened.

We also imagined what we would need to pack for an 18-hour journey. According to Cooper, we would need a sandwich, milk, hot chocolate, Winnie the Pooh and a video game. Once I explained to him how long the trip was, he agreed to pack two sandwiches.

There are a lot of great resources out there to learn about Earhart and her contributions:

Enjoy!