Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming – Review

Book Jacket:

From the acclaimed author of The Great and Only Barnum—as well as The Lincolns, Our Eleanor, and Ben Franklin’s Almanac—comes the thrilling story of America’s most celebrated flyer, Amelia Earhart. In alternating chapters, Fleming deftly moves readers back and forth between Amelia’s life (from childhood up until her last flight) and the exhaustive search for her and her missing plane. With incredible photos, maps, and handwritten notes from Amelia herself—plus informative sidebars tackling everything from the history of flight to what Amelia liked to eat while flying (tomato soup)—this unique nonfiction title is tailor-made for middle graders.


Amelia Lost is simply a wonderful book. Middle grade non-fiction it may be, but Amelia Lost delivers an intelligent, compelling narrative that brings to life in vivid detail both an era in American history and the woman who was its star. Fleming makes the loss of Amelia Earhart resonate for a whole new generation.

Fleming brilliantly divides her book between the fervent search for Amelia after she went missing, and the story of Amelia’s life, seamlessly switching back and forth between the two. The duality lends a wonderful tension to the story (even though we all know how it ends), as the more we get to know and like Amelia Earhart, the less and less hopeful the search for her becomes.

I came to this book with a general sort of curiosity – being an unabashed history nerd – but with no particular interest in Amelia Earhart or aviation history, and I was honestly riveted. There is such a fantastic historical texture to this book, but it’s so deftly and lightly drawn that you never have the sense of wading through detail. This is not a difficult book to read, and it’s thoroughly appropriate for the Middle Grade range, but there is enough here to be genuinely fascinating, even to adults – from little bits and pieces about the evolution of aviation, how creashes and deaths were the norm at the time Amelia started flying, to how Amelia made a point of constructing her own status as a celebrity, guided by the able hands of publishing magnate George Putnam – Amelia even fudged over details in her own biography to protect her legend. Fleming helps us understand why Amelia was a role model for the women of the time, yet at the same time she shows us the very human flaws of Amelia Earhart, such that we understand how the same traits that brought Amelia her greatest triumphs were very likely the cause of her downfall.

Fleming takes us back to a time in America when flying across the ocean was an amazing feat, when pilots basically had to look out the window to figure out where they were, and when fog could be absolutely deadly, as the instruments to fly through it hasn’t been invented yet. You’ll get a real sense of the sheer nerve it took to fly in an era when GPS did not exist, when you couldn’t call for help on your cell phone, when a radio was your only hope of being found if something did go wrong, and it was certainly no guarantee. Fleming makes us understand how very big the world was back then, and why the mystery of Amelia’s disappearance remains unsolved to this day.

Amelia Lost is a superb portrait of a legend and easily the best middle grade non-fiction I have ever read.

Byrt Grade: A

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Kirkus Review (Editor’s Review) says:

A mysterious disappearance and an unsolved rescue mission is a powerful story on its own. But Fleming digs deeper and shows readers why everyone—from young girls who looked up to her to the First Lady of the United States—cared so much for this daring woman pilot…A stunning look at an equally stunning lady.

Abby The Librarian says:

The thing that made this biography stand out for me was the way that Ms. Fleming alternated the story of Amelia Earhart’s life with the story of her death.  When you crack open the book, the first bit is about Amelia’s scheduled rendezvous with the tiny island in the Pacific where she was supposed to stop and refuel.  Everyone was ready.  Everyone was alert.  And she didn’t show up.  They caught snatches of her voice on the radio, but they were unable to contact her, even though they tried many, many times.  It broke my heart and brought tears to my eyes and from that moment, I was utterly engrossed in Amelia’s story (even though I have read biographies of her before).

School Library Journal says:

Infinitely readable, even for those of the reluctant persuasion, Fleming melds fact and great storytelling together to bring us a tale as compelling as it is devastating. Not all great stories have happy endings and sometimes it’s more interesting when they don’t. Highly recommended.