Thursday, July 15, 2010

Amelia Earhart: The Broad Ocean

Amelia Earhart is famous for being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and also for disappearing into thin air during her attempt to circumnavigate the globe. She rode a crest of celebrity, along with other air pioneers such as Charles Lindbergh, in the early days of the 20th century. At the time air travel required brave, lucky, and expert pilots and mechanics to operate and maintain the machinery. Because she was a woman Earhart's lifestyle and exploits were looked at as scandalous by some at the time, but she was also regarded a groundbreaking heroine.

Those aspects are some of the main foci of Amelia Earhart: The Broad Ocean, which deals with the preparations for her transatlantic trip from a small town of Trapassey, Newfoundland. While there waiting for the right weather conditions, the setting and details of the situation are delineated as part of a news story gathered by Grace Goodland, a young local reporter. The story does a great job of being compelling while giving us lots of great facts and information about the race among women aviatrixes (Earhart had some stiff competition) to make the long trip across the Atlantic.

Sarah Stewart Taylor, the author, is better known as a mystery writer whose series of Sweeney St. George novels have earned her an Agatha Award nomination. Here is an interview with Taylor where she explains what went into creating this graphic novel. The art was provided by Ben Towle, 2004 nominee for an Eisner Award for New Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition. His spare style conveys great emotion and atmosphere, and the black, white, and blue palette really pops on the page. These interviews with Comic Book Resources and Good Comics for Kids lend more insight into his work on the book.

A product of The Center of Cartoon Studies, this graphic novel is well composed. It has a great introduction from Eileen Collins, the first woman to pilot a space shuttle, and detailed endnotes about the historical figures and events. Accordingly, this book has been well reviewed. Booklist named it to their Top 10 List of Biographies for Youth. In a New York Times book review Tanya Lee Stone wrote that "kids are going to eat this book up," but took some issue with the mix of fictional elements with the historical facts. Brigid Alverson called it "a rich resource for school and library use." Librarian blogger Stacy Dillon called it "stunning and interesting."

Publisher Disney/Hyperion provides a discussion guide and some other information about the book here. Some preview pages are available here from Deep Glamour.

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