“Amelia Earhart remembered seeing her first airplane when she was eleven years old.” So begins the story of one of the greatest aviators of all time. The year was 1908 and the airplane was still a primitive method of travel. It was 1920 before she took her first flight–after a stint nursing WWI veterans in Toronto and trying medical school–but after one flight she was hooked. She began flying lessons, bought her own plane and practiced whenever she could–becoming a social worker to support her hobby. In 1928, as the first woman passenger to cross the Atlantic by plane, she became a star.
Her next challenge was to cross the Atlantic flying her own plane. In May, 1932, she touched down in a farmer’s field in Ireland after a tense 13-hour flight. Amelia’s last flight, an attempt to circumnavigate the globe, ended in her mysterious disappearance in 1937. Author Shelley Tanaka includes the latest research–that she and her navigator landed on an island in the South Pacific and lived as castaways for several years, a tragic end to an amazing woman.
Tanaka’s writing is confident and engaging. Amelia comes across as the determined woman she was, allowing no obstacles to get in her way of flying. The story flows seamlessly and with much interesting detail, covering her many accomplishments in five chapters. There are a few informative sidebars but they never interrupt the flow of the narrative. The book is designed as an oversized picture book with photographs as well as attractive colour illustrations by David Craig, who also illustrated First to Fly about the Wright brothers. There is a bibliography and index.
Amelia’s greatest legacy was to inspire young people, especially girls, to follow their dreams -“Think for yourself,” she would say. “Figure out what you love to do. And then go out and do it.”