Five facts you didn't know about the young Amelia Earhart

Jay Busbee
January 15, 2014
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You probably know the story of Amelia Earhart: female pilot, first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, lost at sea in 1937 while flying across the Pacific. We know her at her most famous, but before she was an internationally famous pilot, she was a young girl in Kansas. And it's here that writer Brad Meltzer and artist Chris Eliopoulos have chosen to present their take on her story for a new children's book entitled "I Am Amelia Earhart."

"When I told my daughter the story of Amelia Earhart as a child, my daughter said, 'She's just like me,'" Meltzer said. "We're so focused on the feats of heroes that we forget that they're people like us. We're all capable of being heroes on our best day."

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Certainly, taking to the skies for solo flights might be beyond the abilities of most of us. But as Meltzer notes, there were five key points from Earhart's early life that shaped the hero she would become.

1. She wasn't a natural flyer. "This was her greatest secret," Meltzer says. "She wasn't a natural. She just worked harder than anyone else. It wasn't talent that made her who she was, it was hard work."

2. People told her not to pursue "unladylike adventures." "Girls of her day were supposed to wear dresses and play with dolls," Meltzer said. "She did not agree."

3. She made her own rollercoaster. "When she was seven years old, Amelia built her own rollercoaster in her back yard," Meltzer says. "She was a daredevil. She used a wooden packing box and roller skate wheels, then leaned two planks of wood against a tool shed. She greased them with lard, and went down the slide. That was her first flight."

4. She took her first flight at age 23. "Amelia's first flight was just 10 minutes out over the Pacific," Meltzer said. "By the time she was 200 feet off the ground, she knew she had to fly." Earhart would work as a photographer, stenographer, and truck driver just to pay for flight lessons.

5. Her first flight instructor was a woman. Earhart's first instructor was a woman named Neta Snook. It was further proof that no matter what society thought at the time, women were breaking out of traditional roles.

"I am Amelia Earhart" is one of a series of "Ordinary People Change The World" children's books by Meltzer and Eliopoulos. Other volumes include "I Am Abraham Lincoln," "I Am Rosa Parks," and "I Am Albert Einstein."

“Kids always search for heroes," Meltzer says, "so we might as well have a say in it.”