Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist: THE RISE AND FALL OF CHARLES LINDBERGH by Candace Fleming
Introduced by Heavy Medal Award Committee member Emily Mroczek (Bayci)
THE RISE AND RALL OF CHARLES LINDBERGH studies the life and evolution of a controversial American figure.
THE RISE AND FALL has already been heavily discussed on Heavy Medal and the comments are definitely worth taking into consideration.
Candace Fleming thoroughly uses primary sources and analyzes situations in depth to explore a difficult and complex individual … did she delve deep enough to win the Newbery Medal?
Definitely enough to merit consideration.
The title “rise and fall” blatantly conveys the theme along with the sections. Part I conveys his upbringing how Lindbergh’s heroic flight propelled him to celebrity status. While Part II relays his plunge from glory with his admiration of Hitler, support of America First beliefs of white supremacy and threats against American Jews.
I appreciated the foreshadowing, specifically descriptions of Lindbergh’s grandfather and father’s sense of entitlement, anti-war sentiments and unconventional marriage: all elements that shaped Charles.
It’s also important to acknowledge the parallels to current events: how the prologue’s America First rally mirrors a MAGA rally and how Charles’ views could change quickly or not make sense; for example his strong belief that the US would lose the war, while he still desired to fight.
To quote the previous introduction by Olivia Thomas, “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.”
This meticulous research and the extensive use of Charles and Anne’s journals makes their story very readable, although it is still difficult to stomach their words and actions.
Fleming’s use of their voices can seem overly generous to their characters. Should there be more descriptions from friends and families to provide a more balanced approach to the characters?
I was particularly struck by the contrast of Charles to Anne’s mother’s reaction to reading Anne’s controversial and racist book. Also by watching how several of Charles’ relationships became strained as his character evolved. To me these were some of the strongest moments in the book.
A final strong aspect of Fleming’s writing is the delineation of setting. Easily overshadowed by the character and their actions, I think setting is what truly propels the book along and makes it such a rich narrative. You can truly picture every home Charles lived in- from the first house that burned down to living with his mother in college, to all the places Charles rented and moved to over the years. Anne discusses how some homes fit their personality while others seemed like more of a joke.
It is details like these that truly propel this narrative to greatness. Is it enough for a nonfiction biography to win Newbery status? Is this complex character developed deeply enough to warrant a significant contribution to American literature? Let’s discuss.
About Steven Engelfried
Steven Engelfried was the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon until he retired after 35 years as a full-time librarian. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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