The Classroom Bookshelf
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Night Flight and Amelia Lost

This week, The Classroom Bookshelf reviews two new biographies about Amelia Earhart that we felt deserved attention in today’s classrooms. This is our first experiment blogging about two related books concurrently, Night Flight, a picture book, and Amelia Lost, a chapter book. There are two separate reviews; our Teaching Invitations for the primary and intermediate grades focus on Night Flight, and our Teaching Invitations for the middle grades focus on Amelia Lost. Night Flight would also be a great introduction to Amelia Lost.
Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic,
Written by Robert Burleigh, Illustrated by Wendell Minor
All Ages
ISBN 978-1-416-96733-0
Simon and Shuster, 2011

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
Written by Candace Fleming
Grades 6 and Up
ISBN 978-0-375-84198-9
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2011
Book Reviews
Night Flight
“Everything she has ever learned courses through her blood./ Now or Never. All or nothing.” The moment of truth in Amelia Earhart’s history-making flight across the Atlantic is captured by author Robert Burleigh – a heart-stopping moment when Earhart’s ice-coated Vega nose-dives toward the churning waves during a violent thunderstorm. This dramatic picture book biography describes Earhart’s thoughts and emotions on her solo journey from Newfoundland to Northern Ireland in May 1932, allowing the reader to viscerally experience the famous aviator’s determination and perseverance. The narrative of the flight, told in free verse with two-line stanzas, is complemented by back matter that provides an overview of Earhart’s life and accomplishments, a bibliography, and selected “things Amelia said.” Wendell Minor’s watercolor and pencil illustrations are fitting accompaniment to the compelling text. Spectacular double page spreads capture the hope, fear, and subsequent triumph. In one image, the reader finds her/himself in the cockpit with Earhart, watching lightning split the black sky through the windshield of the red Vega. When the plane finally touches down, in a contrasting image set against a backdrop of warm sunrise, the reader looks across the nose of the plane, viewing Earhart’s expression of relief and awe as she gazes outward at the moment of accomplishment.
Amelia Lost
Readers begin Amelia Lost with what they most likely know about Amelia Earhart: she disappeared. We wait at Howland Island, a small dot in the Pacific Ocean, in the early morning hours of July 2nd, 1937. From those first moments of her disappearance, we are taken back into the past, to her early childhood. The book’s chapters contain the narrative of her personal and public self, from childhood to her final flight. But this arc is punctuated with interruptions; the narrative of her disappearance and the various attempts to locate the lost aviator is woven throughout her life story. This meticulously researched text shows us small, personal moments in Earhart’s life, from her early attempts to build a roller coaster in the backyard to the painful struggle with her father’s alcoholism, and the larger-than-life public image she and her husband worked so tirelessly to maintain. Fleming does not canonize Earhart; throughout the book, we see her strength and determination along with her short-sightedness, impulsivity, and careful crafting of her own life story. This honest portrait is combined with stunning archival material, from an early report card to the handwritten notes of fifteen-year-old Betty Klenck, who sat by her radio in St. Petersburg, Florida on July 5th, 1937 and transcribed messages from a woman and a man in trouble, who state, “This is Amelia Earhart. This is Amelia Earhart.” Readers will want to plunge into their own investigations. Back matter includes a very detailed bibliography, a web guide, and source notes by chapter.
Teaching Invitations
Grades K-2
  • Exploring Picture Book Biographies. Read aloud A Picture Book Biography of Amelia Earhart by David Alder (see Further Explorations below for details). Make a list of what students learn about Earhart. Next, read Night Flight. What do they learn about Earhart in this book? What differences do students notice between the two books? Through this discussion, tease out the differences between a cradle-to-grave picture book biography and a narrative picture story book biography that focuses more specifically on a single event.
  • Dramatic Journeys. After reading Night Flight, discuss the ways that Amelia Earhart and other female pilots were pioneers. What are some dramatic journeys that pioneers are taking today in the skies and in our oceans? As a class, research either a recent ocean expedition or a project involving the Space Shuttle or the International Space Station. Or, try to locate a simulated space flight or ocean journey online, and use the information to write a class book that conveys a dramatic journey of today, using Night Flight as a mentor text.
Grades 3-5
  • Verse Nonfiction Mentor Text. Writing traditional cradle-to-grave biographies or book reports after reading only one biography on a subject can be a boring experience for many children. Ask your students to research an important figure in the world of art, science, or politics, using online databases of children’s and young adult magazine articles, primary source materials, and children’s nonfiction picture and chapter books. Have students use the information they have learned about the figure to focus on one moment in his or her life in a picture storybook biography told in verse, using Night Flight as a mentor text.
Grades 6-8
  • Alternating Narrative Mentor Text. Amelia Lost is ideal for nonfiction literature circles or book clubs, within language arts and/or social studies, within an investigation of biography, exploration, pioneers, technology and transportation, or mysteries. Fleming does an exceptional job at layering and scaffolding the mystery of Earhart’s disappearance. By starting with Earhart’s disappearance, and shifting back and forth between the disappearance and Earhart’s life, she both builds dramatic tension and helps to further contextualize how Earhart wound up on the dangerous journey. In response to reading the book, students could research another figure from history, and then use Fleming’s structure as a mentor text, alternating between a cradle-to-grave biography and a significant event for which the figure is known. 


  • Multimodal Explorations. Amelia Lost would make an ideal ebook if the primary source material on each two-page spread contained active links that allowed the reader to experience the book in multiple modalities. Using some of the online links below, have students create their own multimodal Amelia Earthart experiences, from photographs to radio recordings to newsreels, to share with one another. 
Critical Literacy
Grades 3-5
  • Women in Flight. After brainstorming what you know about early female aviators, divide your class into six groups. Each group will read one of the following three picture book biographies: Night Flight, Talkin’ About Bessie, and Soar, Elinor! (see Further Explorations below for details). Have the students make a list of what they learned about each female aviator and what new questions they have. Jigsaw the students together to share information, and then discuss why they think Amelia Earhart gets so much more attention that the others.
Grades 6-8
  • History of Women in Flight. Read aloud the picture book biographies: Night Flight, Soar, Elinor, and Talkin’ About Bessie to provide students with some prior knowledge of early female aviators. Using the online databases available through your local library or some of the online resources listed below, research these pioneers. You might want to have some read Women of the Wind and others read Almost Astronauts (see Further Explorations below for details). Have students debate why Amelia Earhart has gotten so much media attention over the years. Why did she get attention when others did not? Why have some other women like Amelia Earhart, who got media attention in their time, faded from our memories?
  • Women in Flight Today. After reading Amelia Lost, , have students investigate the number of women who are pilots today in the public sphere, such as the military, and private sectors, such as personal and airline pilots. How many women in the space program today started out as airplane pilots? What might be the incentive for women to become pilots? Why disincentives are there? In today’s work climate, how are women pilots treated compared to their male counterparts? Is the current economy impacting female pilots more than male pilots?
Further Explorations
Online Resources
Candace Fleming’s Website
Robert Burleigh’s Website
Wendell Minor’s Website
Wendell Minor Discussing Amelia Earhart’s Flight
Official Amelia Earhart Site
Video from Waitt Institute: Air Footage of Approach to Howland Island
Tighar Institute: International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery
Earhart Collection of Purdue University
George Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers at Purdue
The 99s: International Organization of Women Pilots
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum: Amelia’s Lockheed Vega 5B
ABC News: December 10, 2010 Story on Research on Amelia Earhart’s Possible Bones (Video & Text)
NY Times Article from July 3, 1937
Newsreels of Amelia Earhart from Newsplayer
Adler, D. (1998). A picture book of Amelia Earhart. New York: Holiday House.
  • One of David Adler’s cradle-to-grave picture book biographies.
Brown, T. L. (2010). Soar, Elinor! Ill. by F. Roca. New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux.
  • This new picture book biography brilliantly brings to life Elinor Smith, who, in 1928 at the age of sixteen, was the youngest person in the United States to receive a pilot’s license. In 1930, Smith was voted the best female pilot, over Amelia Earhart. Like Earhart, Smith wrote for magazines, and even hosted her own radio program; she is most famous for illegally flying under the Brooklyn , Manhattan, Williamsburg, and Queensboro bridges in October 1928, at age seventeen. The author spent hours interviewing Smith and her son in order to write this beautiful picture book.
Grimes, N. (2002). Talkin’ about Bessie: The story of aviator Elizabeth Colman. Ill. by E.B. Lewis. New York: Orchard Books.
  • In this hybrid blend of fiction and nonfiction, Grimes’s first-person verse narratives create a collective portrait of Bessie Colman, a “barn stormer” stunt pilot and the first African-American female pilot, who met an untimely death in 1926.
Jerome, K. (2002). Who was Amelia Earhart? Who Was. . . ? series. Ill. by D. Kane. New York: Grosset & Dunlap.
  • As part of the Who Was…? series, this cralde-to-grave biography focuses a great deal on Amelia Earhart’s childhood, and how it shaped her future self.
Lakin, P. (2003). Amelia Earhart: More than a flier. Ready to Read series. Ill. by A. & L. Daniel. New York: Aladdin.
  • This informative beginner reader biography explores Earhart’s life in surprising detail.
Langley, W. (2006). Women of the wind: Early women aviators. Greensboro, NC: Morgan Reynolds Publishing.
  • The collective biography of early women aviators contextualizes Amelia Earhart among other daring women of her time, including those who preceded her into the skies.
Ryan, P. M. (1999). Amelia and Eleanor go for a ride. Ill. by B. Selznick. New York: Scholastic.
  • This fictionalized version of a true event provides a personal snapshot of the friendship between Amelia Earhart and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Stone, T.L. (2009). Almost astronauts. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
  • In this Sibert Award-winning photo essay, Stone articulates the role early women aviators played in creating a new crop of female pilots during and after World War II who trained for the space program in the 1960s and proved themselves equally capable of male astronauts, and in several cases, more so.
Stone, T. L. (2007). Amelia Earhart. New York: DK Publishing.
  • A crade-to-grave biography of Amelia Earhart featuring DK’s signature photographs throughout.
Szabo, C. (2007). Sky pioneer: A photobiography of Amelia Earhart. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.
  • A cradle-to-grave photo essay of Amelia Earhart’s life is presented in typical National Geographic journalistic fashion.
Tanaka, S. (2008). Amelia Earhart: The legend of the lost aviator. Ill. by D. Craig. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers.
  • This Orbis Pictus-winning picture book biography blends beautiful paintings by illustrator David Craig with archival photographs of Earhart and artifacts from her life, focusing on Earhart’s career more than her personal life.

Mary Ann Cappiello About Mary Ann Cappiello

Mary Ann is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former public school language arts and humanities teacher, she is a passionate advocate for and commentator on children’s books. Mary Ann is the co-author of Teaching with Text Sets and Teaching to Complexity.