We’re just finishing up a delight-directed unit study on the history of flight and famous early aviators. The kids’ interest in this topic was sparked by watching a PBS/Nova video on Netflix streaming about the Wright Brothers. Miss M wanted to focus primarily on the lives of famous pilots (rather than learning about the planes themselves), so most of our book choices were biographies. I’ll highlight three we particularly enjoyed — two about Amelia Earhart and one about Louis Berliot.
You Can’t Do that Amelia is an easy picture book biography that I read aloud to the boys (several times, at their request!), and Miss M read alone. This book gives brief snapshots of Amelia at various points in her life — from a young girl who wanted to build her very own “roller coaster” to a woman who wanted to fly alone across the Atlantic. Many people said, “You can’t do that, Amelia!”. But she always proved them wrong. This book stops short of her famous last flight, and doesn’t mention her mysterious disappearance, so it’s a good choice for a younger or more sensitive audiences.
Amelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator is also a picture book biography told in story format, but in much greater depth than You Can’t Do That Amelia. I read this aloud to Miss M, and the boys listened in at some points. Legend of the Lost Aviator goes into more detail about Amelia’s life in an engaging way. I felt like it treated the instabilities in her family life (including her parent’s divorce) in a tactful way. This biography covers many of the major events in Amelia Earhart’s life, all the way through her disappearance and efforts.
The Glorious Flight is another picture book biography that all three kids enjoyed. This was my first introduction to Louis Berliot, the first person to fly across the English Channel. Berliot had many unsuccessful attempts before finally creating a plane capable of flying the channel. The Glorious Flight has beautiful illustrations (It won a Caldecott Medal) to show his various aircraft. This book is a Five in a Row book selection, and I borrowed the appropriate volume of Five in a Row from a friend with the idea of using it as a jumping off point for more in-depth study of this book with the boys. It didn’t work out that way, but I did appreciate reading the ideas in the Five in a Row handbook for discussion and observation points as I read the book to the kids. I am happy that I bought a copy of this book for our permanent collection!
Here are a few more titles we read as a part of our study:
- How Airplanes Work – an easy to understand intro to the subject. The boys liked it!
- DK Flight – Lots of pictures and details on planes through the years. We used it for browsing.
- Charles Lindbergh (Compass Point Books) – A straightforward, factual-style biography that Miss M read on her own. I think with a bit of searching we could have found a more interesting yet age appropriate book on Lindbergh.
- Brave Harriet – An easy, picture book style biography of Harriet Quimby, the first American woman to hold a pilot’s license and the first woman to fly the English Channel.
- Fly High — Picture book style biography of Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman pilot.
- To Fly: The Story of the Wright Brothers – Fairly in-depth picture book style biography of the Wright Brothers
- The Wright Brothers: A Flying Start – an even more in depth, factual style biography of the Wright Brothers. Miss M skimmed portions of this one but didn’t read the whole thing.
I got into the spirit of learning about early aviators with a book selection of my own. While browsing for books for the kids, I noticed that The Big Jump: Lindbergh and the Great Atlantic Air Race was available for library checkout in Kindle format. I learned so much in reading this very interesting book. I previously had the vague impression that Lindbergh was the first person to fly the Atlantic. He was actually the first person to fly the Atlantic solo and the first person to fly from New York to Paris. Other daring aviators made the jump on shorter routes before he made his Big Jump. The Big Jump chronicles the daring early aviators (many of whom lost their lives) who made it their quest to fly the Atlantic as well as discussing Lindbergh’s flight in-depth.
The kids have let me know that they are feeling “done” with learning about this topic at least for the moment. I was a bit bummed — so many more interesting books we never had time to read or even look for at the library! The timing works out well though since we are changing gears with our schedule after this week and taking a six week break from most of our studies. Our library basket and shelves are full of other topics now…but I may have sneaked in a book about Zeppelins in our library bag anyhow. 😉
I’m linking up with Read Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!