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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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Hero, Celebrity, and Nazi Supporter: The Newbery Medal Prospects of a Lindbergh Biography

Candace Fleming’s latest biography explores the complex and controversial life of Charles Lindbergh. Guest Blogger Olivia Tompkins explores the Newbery prospects of this thought-provoking nonfiction book for older readers:

The opening pages of THE RISE AND FALL OF CHARLES LINDBERGH strike a chord: something about this feels familiar. Almost too much so. And as I finished this biography in the final days of 2020 election season, the parallels were hard to avoid. This opening prologue depicts a wild crowd, a condemnation of the media, and the perspective of Lindbergh’s wife Anne, realizing that the crowd is only there for the man and not for what he has to say. It is perhaps a heavy handed way to open this biography of Charles Lindbergh, but I say that with the perspective of an adult and not as a younger reader.

In light of recent conversations on this very blog, I was also on the lookout for any didactic moments from Fleming; this is, after all, a biography of a beloved celebrity who believed in eugenics and became an avid Nazi supporter. On all counts, we know that Lindbergh is not a good person.

But THE RISE AND FALL doesn’t hit us over the head with it. That is where Fleming’s success comes from, because she lets the content speak for itself.

And boy is that content damning. Whether it’s that Lindbergh wanted to find a wife who “[came] from superior stock, genetically,” (110) or the section header to Part Seven, the first part of The Fall, quoting Anne Morrow Lindbergh on Hitler as “a visionary who really wants the best for his country” (207), Fleming lets us draw our own conclusions.

She accomplishes this by writing Lindbergh’s life as a narrative, starting from his early life as a boy who “developed what became a lifetime practice of asking himself unusual questions” (17).  Young readers can grow up alongside young Charles and then begin to see where his childlike wonder turns into something darker, into what leads him down a path to becoming a controlling, pompous anti-Semite. We live through Lindbergh learning to fly, through his historical flight across the Atlantic, see how celebrity affected all aspects of his life, witness the kidnapping and death of his first child, and his descent into eugenics and White nationalism.

There is a lot of information packed into THE RISE AND FALL—a 6-page bibliography’s worth of information, with 28 pages of source notes. I don’t think I came across one page without a primary source quote. Yet it isn’t dense or unreadable. It was, after all, written for the younger audience. It does not speak down to the readers by oversimplifying or even shying away from the heavier aspects of Lindbergh’s life.

I will admit that it took me a while to get into THE RISE AND FALL because it has been a while since I read a biography (versus a memoir) catered toward a younger audience. The beginning chapters felt purposely naive in how lighthearted his childhood was portrayed. As I kept going, I realized that was the most intelligent part of how Fleming wrote this: it is a slow descent into the darkness of Lindbergh’s legacy.

But—is this a Newbery? I’m not sure. It’s one of the only ones out of the preliminary list that could, and probably should, be shelved as YA. It certainly doesn’t pull punches on dark elements (there were eugenics and animal cruelty sections I had to skip for myself), but it is something I wouldn’t hesitate to give to some of my stronger middle schoolers. I’m not confident that it would work for younger grades, though.

Olivia Tompkins (she/her) is a middle & high school librarian at a K-12 independent school in Connecticut, who switched to the LIS field after realizing the corporate life was not for her. She loves to read YA fiction, memoirs, historical fiction, or any book with strong, badass female protagonists. When not building LibGuides or teaching media literacy, Olivia is often trying to read and write while her cats demand lap space or reorganizing the tower of books that she cannot fit on her bookshelves.

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Steven Engelfried About Steven Engelfried

Steven Engelfried is the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at sengelfried@yahoo.com.

Comments

  1. Olivia, thank you for your careful analysis of a difficult book. I would agree that LINDBERGH presents a great deal of important information, most of it accurate, about a crucial time in American history. I would not be concerned about didacticism; this is a book about a person who committed evil acts and the author needs to explain that fact. Surely the Newbery criteria do not demand that authors refrain from exposing genocide, slavery, or other atrocities of history.
    I had serious issues with this book, even as I acknowledge that Fleming sheds light on important events with which many readers may be sadly unfamiliar. (If anyone is interested in reading my objections at greater length, please find my blog post here: https://imaginaryelevators.blog/2020/08/16/more-than-occasional-ugliness-the-unmistakably-unheroic-life-of-charles-lindbergh/)
    Fleming’s attitude sometimes undercuts her own evidence. She refers to the documents which she consulted as showing her subjects’ words (Charles’ and Anne’s) “in all their beauty and their occasional ugliness.” This is the crux of the problem. Lindbergh remains, to Fleming, a “flawed hero,” someone whom she ultimately has trouble judging definitively. She reveals his horrible beliefs and deeds, but still suggests that somewhere, somehow, he could have been different. I found her description of his final illness to be particularly manipulative, turning him into a somewhat sympathetic figure at the end of his life, although he was an unrepentant Nazi sympathizer. She is also unable to judge Anne Morrow Lindbergh as the lifelong enabler which she was. A separate issue I had was the sensationalist tone. Perhaps it was intentional, an allusion to the press coverage of the era, but I found her descriptions of the Lindbergh child’s murder to be exploitative. I know it is important to separate the author’s interviews and publicity from the book itself. However, I believe that Fleming’s comments just support my impression of her ambivalence about Lindbergh within the book. She has compared him to Benjamin Franklin, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Dr. Seuss, all people, as she sees them, with both heroic and negative aspects to their lives. I find the moral equivalency in those parallels to be deeply disturbing and historically inaccurate. You mention that there were eugenics and animal cruelty sections which you found too disturbing to read. I think I know which parts of the narrative you mean; they shared the tone which I noted in the kidnapping and murder sections. Maybe if Fleming had included comparably graphic descriptions of what happened to the Jews whom Lindbergh detested, the tangible effects of his support for Hitler would have resolved her inability to judge the subject of her book.

    • Olivia Tompkins says:

      Hi Emily, thanks for your thoughtful and important comment! The ambivalence of Fleming’s position on Lindbergh was something I struggled with as well, despite not addressing it in my original post. I took great issue with the description of Lindbergh as the “flawed hero,” because he should no longer be considered a hero. He was once a celebrity and hero, which we can’t deny, but the heroism should be more than cancelled out by everything else that he did. I agree with you that the way she portrayed the end of his life was a manipulative way to gain sympathy, which was a tactic she used to portray Anne for the majority of the book. She bookends the atrocities with elements to soften him, his boyhood and his illness.

      My comment on didacticism was more in relation to drawing parallels to today’s political climate. Which isn’t to say Fleming should not have done so (even though she doesn’t), but I went into my reading biased from the marketing of its importance. Random House’s description of the biography ends on this line: “In this time where values Lindbergh held, like white Nationalism and America First, are once again on the rise, The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh is essential reading for teens and history fanatics alike.” You are more than right in your point about the criteria “demand[ing]that authors refrain from exposing genocide, slavery, or other atrocities of history.” I merely expected Fleming to be more heavy handed in its relevance today. Which is interesting, obviously, in light of her inability to fully condemn Lindbergh or his wife.

    • Leonard Kim says:

      Emily, I read your blog post and am now a little confused. Do you think Fleming is misreading Lindbergh (which is the impression I get from your comments here) or that readers are misreading Fleming (which is more the sense I got from your blog post)? My own personal experience with RISE AND FALL throughout was the feeling that there was *nothing* admirable about Lindbergh, so if you are coming more from the latter perspective, that Fleming is not presenting him as a hero, but the opposite actually, but readers aren’t fully grasping that, then I agree with you. And maybe that does suggest Fleming isn’t as successful as she could be in her “interpretation of theme and concept” and “excellence of presentation.” My own reading of Lindbergh’s character, based on Fleming’s portrayal, is that Lindbergh had one notable quality, basically a kind of monomania, and it is a repellant quality, but one which brought him the success which made him famous. As I suggest below, I think a very good, relevant book could be written around this concept (and other figures could be added – I am thinking particularly of Bobby Fischer), but Fleming’s is too much a conventional biography to be that book.

      Also, a brief defence of anonymous — I think the definition of “hero” invoked, one which does not imply the figure should be admired or taken as a role model, is a fairly standard one – I certainly encountered it as a young student when teachers discussed mythological “heroes” like Oedipus and Hercules.

      • Leonard, I think there is a specific understanding of “hero” when we talk about ancient Greek literature; there it is more a question of strengths and weaknesses than of morality in a modern sense. Today, the word “hero” does carry the connotation that the person may be imperfect, but that he or she has accomplishments which benefit people. Obviously, there is a subjective line between imperfect, and definitely negative, but I would argue that Lindbergh crosses that line without any ambiguity. That is why the framework of considering him as a “flawed hero” disturbs me so much. To answer your question, I don’t know think that readers are necessarily misreading Fleming, although some of them may be, but rather that she gives two different messages in her biography. She provides plenty of information about his vile qualities, but at the same time she humanizes him, including by her generosity towards Anne.

  2. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    Thanks Olivia and Emily for the insightful discussion about this book. This was one of the first books I read from this year, so it’s been a while. I’m trying to reconcile my initial reading with the astute comments you have both made. I originally felt that Fleming was not trying to condemn or defend Lindbergh, but meant to explore who he was and how he became that person. The combination of Lindbergh’s celebrity status coupled with his admiration of Hitler is a jarring reality, especially given current political topics. And also likely puzzling to a young reader today, which seems very much worth exploring.

    Though we shouldn’t consider him a “hero” today, as Olivia notes, he certainly was regarded as one in his time, and I felt like Fleming did a good job of explaining how that happened, including the personal qualities that led to his success. She showed how some of those qualities, including ambition, pride, and scientific curiosity, were also part of the harmful, hateful directions he later took. Pretty fascinating, I thought.

    A book that lauded Lindbergh throughout and ignored or explained away his “horrible beliefs and deeds” would be inaccurate. So would the opposite approach, which might disregards his accomplishments, most notably the Atlantic flight and the qualities that led him to that. I felt that Fleming walked that line between the two pretty well, and relied on her readers to recognize that a heroic flight does not cancel out the awfulness.

    Reading these comments, though, I’m wondering if maybe she should have highlighted the bad stuff more. Emily notes that Lindbergh’s support for Hitler might have come through stronger “if Fleming had included comparably graphic descriptions of what happened to the Jews whom Lindbergh detested.” Yes, that’s a good point. The author chooses how much to share about a topic, and weighs the effect of that on the child audience. She has a sense of what she wants her readers to think about her subject when they’ve finished the book. Did Fleming go too easy on Lindbergh? Or did she present a balanced portrayal and leave readers to judge? I think most adult readers can be counted on to be shocked about his dealing in eugenics and Nazism…I hope middle schoolers and teens will too, but I’m not so sure.

    I’d like to re-read this one with Olivia’s and Emily’s analysis in mind, and also hear from others…

    • Steven, I would certainly agree that we need to understand why Lindbergh was considered a hero by many in his own time, and I consider a biography of him for young readers to be absolutely important and relevant. To me, his flight, based partly on his own hubris and lifelong obsession with immortality, was not enough to qualify him as a hero. I would also question the idea that he had scientific curiosity. It’s true that aviation and the mechanics of planes were important to him, but he actually was totally opposed to the scientific method, clinging to irrational race science. Eugenics was an extremely popular pseudoscience, but the extent to which he involved himself in bogus “experiments” was notable. An adult book I highly recommend is Daniel Okrent’s THE GUARDED GATE:BIGOTRY, EUGENICS, AND THE LAW THAT KEPT TWO GENERATIONS OF JEWS, ITALIANS, AND OTHER EUROPEAN IMMIGRANTS OUT OF AMERICA. I hope that readers of Fleming’s book learn enough about Lindbergh to understand who he really was and what he represented, but i have very grave reservations about the framing of his life as a story of flawed, or ambiguous, heroism.

  3. It seems to me that we sometimes think of “hero” and “role model” as synonymous. To the Ancient Greeks, a hero was someone who did astonishing things; he wasn’t necessarily admirable in other ways. Lindbergh’s heroism seems to me to be of that kind; he would certainly make a rotten role model.

    It also seems to me that Fleming’s character is being judged here, rather than the book: a trend I’ve noticed in the past few years, when readers are right to be worried about the state of the world. A book is seen increasingly not as a work of art, but as a coded “message” that will have a didactic impact on the child who reads it. Books are closely vetted to see if the author’s political opinions mirror the sentiments of the gatekeeper. If the the didactic content shows any taint of ambiguity, or is insufficiently explicit, the writer is dishonored as well as the book.

    It seems to me that a biography should discuss the life of its subject with some degree of objectivity, and to show the historical context of the subject’s behavior. Fleming doesn’t put Lindbergh on a pedestal, but it’s important that the reader should understand why many Americans did. A biographer should show her subject at his best as well as at his worst, and leave the reader to judge.

    Young people aren’t stupid. We can trust them.

    • The distinction which you make between “hero” and “role model” is tenuous. Most people do think of a hero as a role model. No one is attacking Fleming’s character. She is responsible for her statements and she is perfectly free to make them. Olivia’s post and my comment both considered the literary qualities of the book. Revealing Lindbergh to have been an ardent Nazi supporter throughout his life, even after much of the American public had turned against the eugenics movement, is not didactic. There is little ambiguity in the life of this man, other than his Atlantic flight. I agree that readers will judge the books on its merits, but we are evaluating it as adults.

  4. Leonard Kim says:

    Thanks Olivia!

    My take is that the book is too much just a biography of Lindbergh. Were Lindbergh still the most famous person in the world today, no further justification would be needed. But he’s not, so I think there has to be purpose (a theme or concept even!) in writing a new biography, however excellent, for a readership who might not otherwise know him. I am not saying Fleming doesn’t make connections with modern concerns – of course she does, as others have noted – but to me that felt secondary to biography. Another of the book’s “points” is to give prominence to Anne, and I can imagine a relevant book about her. This isn’t quite that book though. That comes through most clearly when the book just stops with Charles’ death.

    I’ve nominated Davis’ STRONGMAN, which portrays much more horrible people than Lindbergh, but the why is never in doubt. I’ve mentioned Hopkinson’s WE HAD TO BE BRAVE, an altogether different kind of book that also covers some of the same ground. Again I never doubted that children should read it, and that’s arguably the truest measure of “excellence of presentation for children.” I admired RISE AND FALL – it is a very good biography – but I never had that “children should read this” feeling. Put another way, Davis’ and Hopkinson’s books make a strong case that their historical subject matter should not be forgotten. I am not sure Fleming makes that case for Lindbergh – indeed having read her book, I sort of think we should just forget about him.

    I don’t think this is falling into the trap that anonymous is describing above. I don’t think I am judging Fleming. But I may well be disagreeing with the statement “it’s important that the reader should understand why many Americans did [put LIndbergh on a pedestal].” I did have the thought that a good book for children could be written about why people become famous, but I don’t think Fleming’s book is really the best interpretation of that theme or concept either.

  5. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    It seems like there’s some concern with the way Fleming chose to approach this book, with some wishes that she’d done it a different way. I’m trying to look at what she was trying to achieve (at least as I understand it), and figure out how well it works.

    Leonard suggests that there should be “purpose…in writing a new a new biography…for a readership who might not otherwise know him.” That purpose seems clear and highly relevant. It seems to me that Fleming’s goal was to describe the life of a person who lived in the past, was immensely popular, and also held beliefs that were abhorrent to many. That’s a highly relevant question today. Something similar is happening now, and many people are struggling to understand how it’s happening. Examining a similar situation from the past at a level that middle school age readers can understand seems like a worthy goal.

    Emily states that “there is little ambiguity in the life of this man.” Which may be true from today’s perspective, but not during his time. Fleming chooses to describe the life as it unfolded, and much of it was observed and embraced by millions of admirers. Including the praise, admiration, and fame that Lindbergh received in his time, rather than condemning him throughout, makes perfect sense if her goal is to explore how a bad person can be seen as a hero.

    Leonard suggests that we “should just forget about” Lindbergh. I believe Fleming thinks we absolutely need to remember him. If she didn’t succeed in portraying him as memorable, that’s a concern, but her attempt to do so seems valid to me.

    Emily notes Fleming’s “inability to judge the subject of her book” and says “this is a book about a person who committed evil acts and the author needs to explain that fact.” I believe Fleming understands her subject very well; she makes an author’s choice to not explain that fact directly, but to show it through a biography of his life, from the perspective of his time. His evil acts are important, but I think the concept that she’s more concerned with is: He was famous and admired and he was a bad person. How did that happen? It’s fine to suggest that her choices of what to include didn’t present an accurate enough picture, but her decision to write the book the way she did seems acceptable, and highly respectful of her readers.

    Anonymous commented that “a biographer should show her subject at his best as well as his worst, and leave the reader to judge.” That’s an excellent description of what Fleming is attempting, as far as I can see, and I find it hard to fault her for not choosing to write a different kind of book.

    • Steven, I want to reiterate that I think the book has value. I hope that readers will learn about Lindbergh and his ideology of hatred. My concern, again, is that Fleming undercuts her message about this ideology and Lindbergh’s role in promoting murderous antisemitism by her tentative evaluation of his life. The transatlantic flight is virtually meaningless in the light of his overall legacy. In fact, even had he not been enthralled by Nazism, I would have evaluated the accolades he received as a pilot as more rooted in celebrity than in heroism. Of course, we do need to understand why Americans considered him a hero. Without attacking Fleming as a person, which I certainly do not want to do, I think it is fair to discuss her reluctance to judge Lindbergh. When she states, even in publicity interviews, that she “couldn’t quite get a handle on Lindbergh,” and compares his mixed legacy to that of Benjamin Franklin, she is inviting scrutiny of the book. (I continue to be baffled by the Franklin comparison, given the long list of Founding Fathers who supported slavery throughout their careers.) I realize that it is not valid to consider these statements when judging the book. Perhaps, having read them, they did raise flags for me in reading the biography, but even the book itself was not free of evidence that Fleming could not bring herself to judge her subject. Finally, as I wrote in my blog post, I wonder if the reception would be this generous to a book about, for example, Robert E. Lee. In the past, Lee was portrayed as a flawed hero, someone who allegedly hated slavery (completely untrue!) and was torn between loyalty to his state and his country. I doubt that such an interpretation in a children’s book today would be considered a possible Newbery winner, although it might well find a receptive regional audience. As a thought exercise, what about a biography of Hitler for young readers? (Yes, I think that would actually be important.) Would he be considered a flawed hero because he fought for his country and was wounded in World War I? If readers find this an exaggerated comparison, they might remember Lindbergh’s acceptance of a medal from Goering, his wife’s book overtly praising Hitler, his speeches for America First in which he threatened American Jews, and the rest of his miserable record as a traitor.

      • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

        I also thought about Hitler when reading this book, specifically about James Cross Giblin’s LIFE AND DEATH OF ADOLPH HITLER, which won the Sibert Medal in 2003. Giblin also wrote CHARLES LINDBERGH, A HUMAN HERO in 1997. I remember thinking the Hitler was excellent, but don’t remember if I read the Lindbergh. It would be interesting to see a different writer’s approach to the same historical figure…though not really relevant as a direct comparison in a Newbery discussion.

    • Leonard Kim says:

      Steven, I agree with “it seems to me that Fleming’s goal was to describe the life of a person who lived in the past, was immensely popular, and also held beliefs that were abhorrent to many. That’s a highly relevant question today.” My concern when I wrote RISE AND FALL is “too much just a biography” is that there is too much “describe the life” and that dilutes the presentation of themes like “popular-people-can-have abhorrent-beliefs.”

      I would also separately argue that Lindbergh was not a typical celebrity, so that if Fleming’s *primary* goal was to help children draw parallels to modern celebrities with feet of clay, then I think Lindbergh wasn’t the best choice for biographical subject. Someone like Lillian Gish or Henry Ford might’ve been better. But I didn’t get the feeling that was Fleming’s primary goal. I did not get the feeling the lesson was primary and Lindbergh the illustration. To me, RISE AND FALL felt primarily about Lindbergh and the lessons that could be drawn from his life secondary. And though you write, “I believe Fleming thinks we absolutely need to remember him,” she didn’t convince me, and that is, as you say, “a concern.”

      Emily, I had the exact same thought experiment about both Robert E. Lee and Hitler! I am sorry to keep mentioning STRONGMAN, but it really does help me clarify what I think is lacking in RISE AND FALL’s “interpretation of theme and concept.” (I am not saying STRONGMAN is “better” than RISE AND FALL, which I keep feeling obliged to say is a really good biography.) Davis does describe Hitler’s World War I service, his wounding, his medal for bravery, etc. He states it was a “hallowed experience” for Hitler and other German veterans. But Davis does not say any of this because he is writing “about” Hitler. After telling “what” Davis immediately gives the “why” he is telling us this, quoting Kershaw “The First World War made Hitler possible. . . Without the experience of war, the humiliation of defeat. . . [Hitler] would not have discovered what to do with his life by entering politics. . . And without the trauma of war, defeat. . . the demagogue would have been without an audience for his hate-filled message.” Or later, in his section on Mao, Davis gives what may seem like standard childhood biography stuff, “Mocked and bullied for his peasant background, [Mao] was also ridiculed by wealthier students for his ragged clothes and different dialect.” It is the following sentences that I find notable and distinctive about Davis’ approach: “it would be simple to read too much into such treatment. Taunting and bullying are all too common in every culture. Mean kids are everywhere. They do not explain the murderous lengths Mao Zedong would go to in creating a rigid Communist police state that permitted no dissent.” Too explicit? Should we trust our readers not to have to be told this stuff? Maybe, but I also know every time I came across stuff like this in STRONGMAN, but gut reaction was, “yes, this is how you teach history to children. This is the purpose of biography.”

  6. Steven, I’m really glad that you brought up that there were other YA Lindbergh bios. I have to go back to them. As a point of reference, the PW review of James Cross Giblin’s book refers to “controversial aspects” of this “hero’s” life, including “accusations of being pro-Nazi,” as if the accusations may have been untrue. (fake news!) He was unequivocally pro-Nazi. Then there was Barry Denenberg’s AN AMERICAN HERO:THE TRUE STORY OF CHARLES LINDBERGH. PW describes the author’s approach with the following words: “He lays out the most disturbing evidence…then respectfully leaves it to the reader to judge.” Any author of a biography aspires to do that; the question is how. The reviewer also refers to one of Lindbergh’s sins as “indifference to Kristallnacht.” The word “indifference” is not a mere understatement, it completely distorts Lindbergh’s enthusiasm for Nazism. I also found the review in the NY Times of Giblin’s book. Granted, this was 1998. It’s still appalling. We learn that Lindbergh’s views, although they may seem surprising, “were far more common then, and deemed far more respectable.” Yes, by other antisemites and racists. Here’s the worst part: “After Pearl Harbor Lindbergh served his country nobly but very quietly.” I will have to read the books to judge if the fault is with the reviewers or with the books themselves. Apparently, there is something about Lindbergh in the American consciousness which makes it difficult for authors, or reviewers, to confront the truth about him. He became a celebrity because of his solo flight, but he was a traitor, an antisemite, and a racist. There is some reluctance to let go of the view of him as a lone, brave individualist who somehow held distasteful ideas. I know that Fleming has gone beyond that caricature in her book, but the traces remain, enough to compromise, for me, her treatment of his life.

  7. Olivia Tompkins says:

    I seem to have missed great conversations over the weekend – my fault for not subscribing to the comment updates!

    Leonard, I especially appreciate your follow up comment: “My concern when I wrote RISE AND FALL is “too much just a biography” is that there is too much “describe the life” and that dilutes the presentation of themes like “popular-people-can-have abhorrent-beliefs.”” This is a far more articulate way to express the issue I had with the “Rise” section of the book, which I say in my original blog that I found to be naive representation of his childhood and early fame. His “Rise” is very much the “describe the life” style of biography, but I think that may be an issue we are having as adult readers, whereas it likely is a more digestible way for young(er) readers to get into a biography that ultimately ends on “popular-people-can-have abhorrent-beliefs” (even if, as some of us are saying, the way Fleming writes the end of Lindbergh’s life is too sympathetic).

    Which gets to my ultimate point, and my appreciation for anonymous’s comment of “Young people aren’t stupid. We can trust them.” I think we’ve strayed from the purpose of my post: Where do we all fall on this biography’s fulfillment, or lack thereof, of Newbery criteria? We may all have our respective issues with the book, but if we are trusting young people, as anonymous rightfully suggests we should, does this contradict my original assessment that this biography might be too “mature” to qualify as excellent children’s literature? I am torn simply by the age group. I think RISE AND FALL fits squarely in YA. We can certainly accept children as not stupid and trustworthy to handle the material and make the necessary conclusions. But is this text too much?

    • Thank you, Olivia. I would just like to add a caveat to the statement that we all want to trust young people. Yes, we do. But young people do not live in a vacuum. They develop their ideas to a large extent from adults, a group which has recently shown itself to be not particularly trustworthy in imparting reasonable information. Many experienced YA readers will be able to critically judge the sources of the author’s information as well as her personal perspectives on the material which she presents. Others will not. Many rely on social media for “information.” For many, many years, young people read that the Founding Fathers were perfect, that Robert E. Lee was a great man, and, as recently as 1998 in the NY Times review which I cited, that Lindbergh was basically a great guy with a few problems.

  8. Also anonymous says:

    I mean this in the kindest way possible, but I am really concerned about the animus that Emily Schneider has about this book, and seemingly with Candace Fleming for writing it. In countless posts on the Heavy Medal blog, Emily Schneider has made it clear that this book is her target, and it’s come to the point that I have become seriously disturbed that one person has used their voice over and over again to disparage the same title. Thank you, administrators, for your work on the Heavy Medal blog, and for considering what to do in this situation.

    • I have expressed my opinion about the book, and offered supporting with evidence. If other readers disagree, that’s fine. I want to be clear that I am not recommending “canceling” the book, withdrawing it, or urging readers not to buy or read it. I do not advocate that . I have repeatedly stated that the book contains valuable information, in spite of the fact that it has issues which compromise its overall message for me. Others are free to disagree and have already done so on this blog. I have also provided background information about the overall American response to Lindbergh to shed light on the ongoing issue of his legacy for Americans. If you want to characterize as “animus” my strong disagreement with some content in the book, as well as with the author’s statements in publicity interviews, I’m not sure why. I did not invent those statements, and I understand that other readers may not be offended by them. This is a book about a difficult and contentious subject. I thought that Olivia’s post introduced several valuable points which opened up an appropriate discussion.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

      Thanks for the comment, Also anonymous. Emily has definitely shared strong opinions about THE RISE AND FALL OF CHARLES LINDBERGH, and we haven’t really had a discussion quite like this so far this year. But I think (and hope) it’s okay.

      We try to match the real Committee process where we can…it’s one of the goals of this blog. A discussion like this kind of fits that process, and kind of doesn’t. The Committee’s discussions will certainly involve some members using all of their persuasive powers to point out flaws in books that they think are not deserving, and that should happen here too. One big difference, though, is that their time is limited, and with fifteen people around a table, there needs to be opportunities for several to weigh in. So members can and will argue strongly against a book, but kind of have to choose their moments and their arguments very strategically to make their points in limited time.

      But here on HM, we don’t really have that kind of limit, so yes, one person can really say just about everything she wants to. And along with our follow-the-Newbery-process goal, we also have the goal of facilitating thoughtful, in-depth book discussion, and with that in mind we do veer away from complete adherence to the real process. I’ve found the discussion of TRAFOCL pretty thought-provoking, and I hope others have as well.

      Though I don’t see everything the way Emily does, I do appreciate her passion for the subject, her knowledge of the content, and the points of view she’s expressed. Her posts have made me reflect on my initial response to the book…I don’t know that I’ve changed my view significantly, but thinking about the different ways other people respond to books is always worthwhile. Though her feelings are strong, Emily has not made personal attacks and has backed up opinions with logical arguments.

      At a certain point, it becomes clear that further discussion won’t be productive. For my part, I don’t think I have anything left to say that would affect Emily’s view about TRAFOCL, and that’s okay. I’ve had books that I felt that strongly about as well. So I’m sort of moving on to whatever’s next, and I hope that can work for other HM readers as well.

      I know it can be frustrating, though. Before I began blogging for HM, I was an avid reader of the blog, but I do remember at least one discussion from several years ago where I was frustrated enough with the direction of the comments that I had to just force myself to take a Heavy Medal Break until everyone was done with that book. (Oh, no….just typing this has got me all worked up about that book again…It was just one word, people! But I’m okay. It’s over. Although…I could go into the archives and re-read it all. But no. That’s a bad idea. I won’t.)

  9. My blood was chilled when I read THE RISE AND FALL OF CHARLES LINDBERGH. I didn’t know about the nasty parts of his history prior to reading reviews of this book – I only knew about The Spirit of St. Louis and about the kidnapping of his eldest child. When I learned there were darker parts of the story, I knew I had to read this book, and at no point did I feel like the author made any kind of hero out of Lindbergh. She explained him, warts and all, human and all, but also made it clear that he was a proponent of eugenics until he died, and that he never stopped believing in white supremacy.

    As for the argument that we must have a reason for writing a biography of a famous person that young people might not know about anymore, a reason to bring them back into the spotlight – I’ve had children ask me for biographies about Lindbergh within the last year or so, so he’s not as forgotten as one might think, at least in my neck of the woods (SE Ohio). Also, the main lesson that struck me from this book was how a relatively intelligent but almost completely uneducated (outside of his immediate fields of interest) individual could be lead astray by strong personalities, propaganda, and theories that fit preconceived biases. I read this as a cautionary tale, and thought it was really well done.

    I appreciate that my reading experience is my own, and doesn’t erase anyone else’s relationship or reaction to this book. I also get that I’m reading this as an adult, not a kid. But this made my blood run cold. I thought it was very well written, highly relevant, extremely well researched and portrays Lindbergh as a celebrity and a human, but not a hero. I wouldn’t be surprised if it won something come awards season.

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