Book Review: Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming

When kids come to the library looking for a biography, there are a few usual suspects, and Amelia Earhart is one of them. There is a lot of information about Earhart floating around out there, some of it more legend than truth, as Fleming notes at the opening of this attractive biography. I enjoyed Fleming’s biography of P.T. Barnum, and she brings much the same approach to the famous “aviatrix”.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“We believed we were about to see history in the making — the first woman to fly around the world, but she didn’t come, and she didn’t come.”

Fleming begins her biography of Earhart near the end of the story, joining the crew waiting for her arrival at Howland Island as they realize that the famous pilot is lost. She then jumps back to the beginning, and the chapters of the book move chronologically from Amelia’s birth to her final flight. In between the chapters, though, are brief two- or three-page sections about the progress of the search. This dual narrative maintains a feeling of suspense throughout the book, even though the reader knows the search is ultimately unsuccessful.

Beautifully designed, full of photographs and sidebar notes, with a striking red, black, and gray cover, this biography has plenty of visual appeal for children and adults. Fleming dug through mounds of research (many sources are noted in the back matter) to tease out the truth of Earhart’s life from the legends. She portrays an Amelia Earhart who is daring and inspiring, yes, but also a very real human being. A truly outstanding biography.

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Book Review: Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider by Jean Fritz

History was never my strongest subject. Much to my American History teacher spouse’s chagrin, I know next to nothing about an awful lot of people and events. It just doesn’t stick. But I do know that to learn something new, the best place to go is a children’s book. So, I was excited to see that Jean Fritz had a new biography coming out about Alexander Hamilton. I knew so little about Hamilton! I knew he was on the $10 bill, of course, and that he had, um, something to do with banking, and, well, I knew about Aaron Burr. So, thank you to Jean Fritz for pulling Hamilton out of obscurity for at least one reader!

Alexander Hamilton: The OutsiderAlexander Hamilton: The Outsider by Jean Fritz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book Source: Checked out from my public library

Noted autor Jean Fritz turns her keen eye for historical detail to the life of Alexander Hamilton. From his early years in the West Indies to that fateful day in Weehawken, NJ, Fritz puts Hamilton’s story center stage while also setting it in the context of the birth of the United States. The tone of the narrative is conversational and should appeal to middle grade readers. Historical images are reproduced throughout the book; while lovely and certainly helpful in setting the mood and tone in certain passages, the lack of captions may leave some readers a bit puzzled. The image credits are squeezed into a text-dense single page in the back matter. The back matter also includes several notes on particular points, but there is no indication in the text itself that the notes exist. (This is entirely reasonable, since children’s books do not generally use footnotes, but it is a little odd to reach the end and discover the notes.) The included bibliography indicates her research sources and points to further reading. An impeccably researched, fresh look at a figure who frequently fades into the background for kids studying American history.

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Book Review: Sweater Quest

I’ve been waiting for this book to come out since Martini was interviewed on Cast-On last year. I enjoyed her first memoir – actually, since it was about her experience with Postpartum Depression, maybe enjoyed isn’t the word I want to use.  But it was a great book.  So, I had high hopes for this second outing, and I was not disappointed.

I pre-ordered through Amazon and received my copy today. Since Lil Miss was napping and K was watching something that appeared to be a movie involving World War II, I headed out to the Sky Chair on the deck.  And there I stayed until I finished the book.

Here’s my review as it appears on Amazon, GoodReads, and LibraryThing:

It seems like such a silly idea: A memoir about knitting a sweater? But like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (who makes an appearance), Martini isn’t really writing about knitting. She’s writing about knitters. Mostly, just one knitter.

Over the course a year, Martini sets out to complete a sweater known as “Mary Tudor”. As she tackles the challenges of acquiring an out-of-print pattern and substituting for out-of-production yarns (no small feat for a project in which color is key) as well as stranded colorwork and steeking, she gathers together details about the designer, Alice Starmore. She explores why knitters are so attracted to Starmore’s famously difficult-to-obtain and difficult-to-knit patterns, and how far they can stray from the designer’s vision yet still remain faithful to the project.

Martini travels to Rhinebeck, Nashville, and Toronto to interview bloggers well-known to knitters around the world. The history of Tudor Roses and the Alice Starmore brand intertwine with the history of knitting in the Shetland Isles and North America and the life one particular American woman in the early twenty-first century. Witty and self-deprecating, Martini doesn’t hesitate to share her liberal leanings or drop the occasional curse word. Her writing style is clean and sharp, a pleasure to read. She’s clearly aware of the absurdity of her “quest”, which just makes it all the more enjoyable.

I gave it 5 stars out of 5.