Thursday, March 24, 2011

Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic--A Book by Robert Burleigh & Wendell Minor

If you’re looking for an excellent nonfiction picture book about one of America’s most daring and courageous women to share with children during Women in History month, I highly recommend Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic. The book was written by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Wendell Minor. It is an outstanding package of text and art that provides a gripping account of Earhart’s historic transatlantic flight from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, to a pasture in Northern Ireland in May 1932.

Burleigh’s text is lively and lyrical. Here is how he describes the takeoff of Earhart’s Vega—her Little Red Bus:

The plane swoops like a swallow
Over dark puddles and patches of tundra.

The shore gleams in waning light.
The waves are curls of cream-colored froth.

As the pilot flies east into the darkness, Burleigh describes how the sky appears to her:

The moon peeks between wisps of shimmering clouds.
Distant stars flicker and fade. Her mind soars.

Earhart’s flight appears to be off to an auspicious start—but around midnight it becomes an adventure fraught with danger. That’s when her plane is pummeled by rain during a thunderstorm. About an hour later, her altimeter breaks. Earhart tries to climb above the storm. Her plane becomes sluggish because ice has formed on its wings. It begins to pitch and spin. Then the plane starts to nose-dive downward. Earhart finally gains control of it after it bursts through the lowest clouds. She manages to level her Vega just ten feet above the surface of the Atlantic Ocean!

Earhart isn’t out of danger yet. She still has many miles to go before she’ll reach land. Alone in the cockpit, she sniffs salts and sips juice from a can. Around three o’clock, flames stream out of the cracked exhaust pipe. By 6:00 a.m., Amelia’s eyes burn and her stomach “churns from the smell of leaking gas.”


Black turns to a watery silt. The gloomy sky pales.

Splinters of sunlight stab down through cloud slits
And brace themselves on the vault of the open sea.

Earhart looks out of her cockpit and sees: a boat…a drifting gull…an emerging coastline...train tracks. She finds a smooth pasture where she lands her plane safely.

Two thousand and twenty-six miles. Fourteen
Hours and fifty-six minutes.

A great peace wells up.
She knows she has crossed something more than an ocean.

Amelia Earhart had crossed over an ocean and entered into the halls of history. She was the second person to fly solo across the Atlantic—and the very first woman. She was indeed a true American heroine--a brave woman who broke down barriers and pushed the envelope.

Night Flight would be an excellent book to read aloud to children. Burleigh’s text is a concise and dramatic account of Amelia Earhart’s compelling and historic adventure. Wendell Minor’s paintings add to the tension and excitement of the story. He uses two-page spreads with no borders, changing perspectives, close-ups of the Vega and of Amelia in her cockpit, and a dark and foreboding color palette in a number of the illustrations. Minor draw us up into the wide-open sky with Amelia…into the ominous gloom of that stormy and eventful night. He takes us along with a fearless protagonist on her treacherous--and successful--fifteen-hour solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

The back matter of Night Flight includes the following:
- An afterword by the author
- A technical note by the illustrator
- A bibliography
- A list of Internet resources
- A selection of Amelia Earhart quotes.

Book Trailer

Amelia Earhart Last flight video

Amelia Earhart Audio Slideshow: Part 1

Amelia Earhart Audio Slideshow: Part 2

Amelia Earhart Tribute

Amelia Earhart Rare Interview

Amelia Earhart & Her Lockheed Vega (Smithsonian)

Learn More About Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart's Biography

Amelia Earhart's Achievements

Amelia Earhart Quotes

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