Sunday, March 27, 2011

Amelia Earhart: The Turbulent Life of an American Icon

Amelia Earhart: The Turbulent Life of an American Icon
written by Kathleen C. Winters
(Palgrave Macmillan) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

I was trying to read a book for pleasure without blogging about it, so I found an Amelia Earhart biography on the new adult nonfiction shelf of my local library. Unfortunately, I liked Amelia Earhart so much, I couldn't resist sharing. This may truly be a sickness.

If you are interested in Earhart's life, you should read this book. Kathleen Winters was a pilot so she had a unique perspective as an Earhart biographer. What struck me about this biography were the shortcomings I didn't know about. Winters reveals, through careful research, that Earhart was not the outstanding pilot portrayed in earlier literature. There were many female pilots who were much more skilled. To be fair, Earhart faced a lot of external pressures although many of these were brought on by herself and eventual husband George Putnam. According to the book, Earhart failed to spend the hours needed to become a more skilled pilot. That doesn't mean she didn't have great accomplishments as an aviator, but she didn't command the respect from fellow pilots a novice learner like myself would have expected. Her family history is also another interesting aspect of this biography. Amelia dealt with many family struggles as a youth and as an adult which influenced many of the major decisions in her life. The author presents a fascinating and revealing look at a complex American icon.

How is this useful in teaching elementary school? I think it helps to have background knowledge about famous figures in history that your students will encounter in their reading. The difficulty that I face is what facets of their lives to reveal about these historical giants. Do you want to tell young students about the complexities of the life of an Abraham Lincoln or an Amelia Earhart, or do you stick with the safe and basic picture? How much do you share about the history of Thanksgiving? This is indeed a tricky question.

A sad sidelight to this book is the passing of the author, Kathleen Winters. She died after a brief illness a couple of months before Amelia Earhart was published. I look forward to reading her first book which is a biography of Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

Other reviews of Amelia Earhart:
Winged Victory
Washington Times

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