AMELIA EARHART: THIS BROAD OCEAN (Hyperion Books, 2010)
Written by Sarah Stewart Taylor and illustrated by Ben Towle
AMELIA EARHART: THIS BROAD OCEAN, by Sarah Stewart Taylor and Ben Towle, is a work of historical fiction in a graphic novel format. The story centers on Earhart’s time in Trepassey, Newfoundland , as she prepares for her attempt to be the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 1928.
The narrator is Grace, a young girl from the island of Trepassey with a nose for news. Grace writes THE TREPASSEY HERALD and is familiar with much of the opposition faced by Earhart as Grace, too, is trying to make it in a field that is dominated by men and not seen as a place for women. Earhart’s time in Trepassey is one of the highlights of Grace’s young life, especially when she has the opportunity to talk to Earhart directly.
The story continues into Grace’s future and shows her living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, still pursuing her dream to be a serious journalist. Grace has kept up with Earhart’s exploits and is devastated to learn of her disappearance. The parallel stories of Grace and Earhart serve to highlight the struggles faced by women as they attempt to break into male-dominated careers.
The images of this graphic novel are rendered in black, white, and turquoise. While this color combination may seem odd, the black and white provides detail, while the turquoise captures the feeling of both the sky and the ocean. Towle masterfully uses a variety of panel shapes and sizes to illustrate how time is passing in the story, as well as to emphasize the emotions in important moments.
The introduction by Eileen Collins provides another highlight of this historical fiction graphic novel. Collins was the first female pilot of a space shuttle and considers Earhart to be one of her inspirations and heroes. Without Earhart’s actions, Collins would not have had the opportunity to pilot a space shuttle. Cross-curricular Connections
: history/social studies, visual literacy, math, science, language arts/English Ideas for Classroom Use: How Much is too Much? (Grades 8-9)
In addition to the weather, the weight of Earhart’s airplane was cited as one of the reasons that the crew was having difficulty getting it into the air. Many calculations were done on the weight of the gas and the distance that had to be traveled. Students could complete these same calculations by determining the weight of a gallon of gas, the distance traveled, how many miles per gallon and how much fuel the plane could safely carry.
Students could also complete an experiment on the weight of gallons of different liquids, such as water, milk, soda, etc. Older, or more advanced students, could also include an exploration of the physics of flight and the impact that weight has on lift. Panel Discussions (Grades 5-9)
The authors provide “panel discussions” in the back of the book that either expand upon information found in a panel, provide background to events in the panel, or give additional bibliographic information. Students can research and write their own panel discussions or add to the authors’ panel discussions.
A variation on this activity could be the creation of additional panels for the graphic novel with the research to support the panel. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words (Grades 7-9)
The purpose of this activity is to develop and hone students’ visual literacy skills. Many theorists in the field of comics and graphic novels, including Scott McCloud (UNDERSTANDING COMICS), discuss the importance of “reading” and understanding visual images.
Towle is a master of using the elements of the graphic novel to capture a feeling. The image on page 51 is one such example. The lower left corner of the page features Grace’s back with her arms raised to the sky. The rest of the page is white except for a small black rendition of the profile of an airplane in the upper right hand corner. The open space and the subdued colors allow readers a window into Grace’s longing for both freedom and equality.
Ask students to analyze this image (or others) for the feelings and meanings that it conveys. Encourage students to find additional examples of pages where the images carry the weight of the meaning. Pioneering Women Journalists (Grades 5-9)
Grace, the narrator of AMELIA EARHART: THIS BROAD OCEAN, wants to be a journalist, but in the 1930s this was not considered “women’s work.” However, just like Earhart, there were pioneering women in the field of journalism. Have students complete research on these early women journalists. Students could present their findings in a wide variety of fashions; in keeping with the journalism theme, students could write a newspaper story about a pioneering woman journalist or conduct a mock television interview. Classroom News/Herald (Grades 5-7)
Grace authored her small town’s newspaper, THE TRESPASSEY HERALD, and tried to report on all the important local events. Using this as inspiration, have students write a classroom newsletter. Ask them to consider some of the following questions:
- What format will the newsletter take (digital or print)?
- How often will the newsletter be published?
- What will you call the newsletter?
- What are considered important events worth covering?
In addition to this being a fun and educational experience for students, it may also provide an interesting way to keep parents informed of class happenings. Additional Resources and Activities: Random House Teacher’s Guide to AMELIA LOST: THE LIFE AND DISAPPEARANCE OF AMELIA EARHART by Candace Fleming
Fleming’s 2012 Orbis Pictus Honor Book is targeted towards middle grade readers, and as such, presents the story of Amelia Earhart’s life and disappearance in interesting and understandable ways. The link is to a PDF version of the educator’s guide to the text. George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers (Purdue University Libraries)
In 1934, Earhart was invited to lecture at Purdue University by Purdue’s then-president Edward C. Elliott. In fact, Earhart was on a leave of absence from Purdue when she disappeared in 1937, during her attempt to fly across the world along the equator. This archival collection of pictures, documents, correspondence and more is maintained by the Purdue University Libraries. More than 3,500 materials from this collection are available online, including some of the maps used by Earhart and her marriage license. The site also includes an extensive biography of Earhart and links to additional resources. American Experience: Amelia Earhar
PBS’s American Experience series is well-known for its depth of coverage on the events and people that have contributed to the American experience. This is a link to the almost hour-long exploration of Amelia Earhart’s life, achievements, and historical impact. This video could serve as great way to build background knowledge or to serve as a supplement after reading AMELIA EARHART: THIS BROAD OCEAN. The Official Website of Amelia Earhart
While the “official” nature of this website is difficult to determine, it does provide a great deal of information and links to additional web sources. Visitors to this website can read an extensive biography of Earhart and view several images of Earhart. One of the most interesting resources on this site is its collection of recent news stories related to Earhart. Aimee Rogers is a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota studying children’s and adolescent literature. Prior to her return to school, Aimee taught high school students with special needs, in a wide variety of settings, for ten years. She misses working with adolescents but is developing a passion for working with undergraduate pre-service teachers. She has a growing interest in graphic novels for children and young adults and is hoping to make them the topic of her dissertation. WANT TO WRITE FOR ENGAGE? Send your name, the grade level(s) you teach, the title of book that you put to work, and a line or two about how you use it in your classroom to email@example.com.
© 2012 Aimee Rogers. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise. Putting Books to Work: Joseph Lambert’s ANNIE SULLIVAN AND THE TRIALS OF HELEN KELLER Putting Books to Work: Jacobson and Colon's ANNE FRANK: THE ANNE FRANK HOUSE AUTHORIZED GRAPHIC BIOGRAPHY