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“A cozy whodunit that cheerfully affirms girls’ and women’s contributions to aerospace.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Comparisons with Nancy Drew and Sammy Keyes come to mind, but this satisfying mystery seems more like the works of Ellen Raskin, E.L. Konigsburg, and Gennifer Choldenko.” —School Library Connection
“A wonderful tribute to [Amelia Earhart] who herself came to embody mystery.” —Booklist

Amelia Earhart’s famous aviator goggles go missing and eleven-year-old Millie has to find them before the night is over in this girl-powered middle grade whodunit.

Eleven-year-old Amelia Ashford—Millie to her friends (if she had any, that is)—doesn’t realize just how much adventure awaits her when she’s given the opportunity of a lifetime: to spend the night in Amelia Earhart’s childhood home with five other girls. Make that five strangers. But Millie’s mom is a pilot like the famous Amelia, and Millie would love to have something to write to her about…if only she had her address.

Once at Amelia’s house in Atchison, Kansas, Millie stumbles upon a display of Amelia’s famous flight goggles. She can’t believe her good luck, since they’re about to be relocated to a fancy museum in Washington, DC. But her luck changes quickly when the goggles disappear, and Millie was the last to see them. Soon, fingers are pointing in all directions, and someone falls strangely ill. Suddenly, a fun night of scavenger hunts and sweets takes a nosedive and the girls aren’t sure who to trust. With a blizzard raging outside and a house full of suspects, the girls have no choice but to band together. It’s up to the Amelia Six to find the culprit and return the goggles to their rightful place. Or the next body to collapse could be one of theirs.

Chapter One CHAPTER ONE
Imagine the worst smell you can think of, multiply it by rotten fish, and I promise you a turkey truck stinks worse. I’d know because I was riding in the front seat of one, sandwiched between Kate, the cheerful driver, and Danni the Body.

At least it was winter. That had to curb the stench.

And by stench, I meant the turkeys’ foul odor, not the Body’s. That’s the thing about Danni—he didn’t stink.

If anything, he smelled like the faintest hint of vanilla. That’s because he’s 100 percent polyethylene. Plastic. But more about him in a bit.

Because, hallelujah, we were rolling. Unlike Dad’s Chevy, which had fishtailed off the highway twenty miles back. Thank heavens Kate from New Horizons Poultry had spotted us. Otherwise Dad (who was pressed against the passenger window), Danni, and I would be Popsicles in no time flat. Winter Storm Bea had flown in completely unannounced—like Mom used to do—and caught western Missouri off guard, exhausting the area’s tow trucks.

“How much farther?” Dad asked. Dad was what Mom called a “chronic worrier.” Back when they still spoke.

“Oh, not long,” Kate answered, her voice chipper and her brown eyes shining beneath her Kansas City Royals cap. “Say, eight to ten miles. Hopefully, you can spot the Missouri River through the snow.”

“Hopefully.” Dad pulled his beanie down around his ears and frowned. “Thanks again for picking us up.”

Dad was bummed about his car. He’d had it for, well, forever. Since before I was born, and I’m eleven years, three months, two days, and—I checked my watch—twelve hours old. Now Dad’s Chevy perfectly embodied Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion: An object at rest stays at rest. There would be no moving his car out of that ditch until this weather passed.

Dad was stranded and stressed. The opposite of Kate from New Horizons.

“Happy to help,” Kate said, smiling. “Every day is an adventure. I like that.”

“Not me.” Dad blew into his hands to warm them up. “I don’t like surprises.”

“Yet you travel with a manikin.” Kate’s eyes sparkled, and my cheeks grew hot, despite the cold temps.

“You got me there,” Dad said with a sheepish smile. “I’m a CPR instructor, and Danni’s my training dummy.”

“Oh,” Kate said, putting it all together. “So, do you take Danni everywhere?”

“You wouldn’t believe,” I said, thinking back to one of my Rubik’s Cube competitions when the police showed up and smashed our car window to rescue the “unresponsive individual” buckled inside.

As owner of Lifeline CPR, Dad’s entire career revolved around training others to effectively and efficiently respond to a crisis. Or, better yet, to prevent crises from happening in the first place. This was why Danni the Body traveled with us everywhere, though he usually rode in the trunk of the car now, not up front. He’d also cost six hundred bucks, which Dad fretted about for a good three months. No way would Dad leave Danni stranded on the side of the road for someone to steal.

Shoot—thanks to Danni, our neighbor’s cat Cleo was on her tenth life. Cleo survived what we call the “Dryer Incident.” She was trapped inside for “only” twelve seconds, but the whole ordeal singed the hair off her tail and stopped her heart cold. But Mr. Wilkins got her blood circulating again using the improvised chest compressions he learned in Dad’s class. So, as weird as it was that my dad traveled with a manikin, Danni the Body’s all right.

Dad’s okay too. When he’s not worrying over my every move.

“So, tell me about starting your own business. I’ve always dreamed of having my own floral shop.” Kate sighed. “Seems impossible at times.”

I smiled. Even though I’d known Kate for only fifteen minutes, I liked her. And not just because she saved my tush. Kate would make a perfect florist. She’d probably give each flower a pep talk as she placed it in its vase.

While she and Dad talked shop, I reached into the duffel bag at my feet and found my Rubik’s Cube. I wouldn’t think about how late we’d be, or how weird it would look to show up in a turkey truck. I was going to take this in stride, like Mom would have. If she were here, which she wasn’t.

Her good luck pin poked me through my shirt, reminding me she was probably someplace warm and sunny, like Bermuda. If only she’d opened a floral shop instead.

I did a quick checkerboard solve, and Kate clicked her tongue in amazement.

“You can actually solve one of those?”

I nodded, bracing myself for what I knew would come next.

“The only way I could solve that puzzle when I was your age was to remove all of the stickers first.” Kate chuckled. Her laugh sounded like wind chimes. The perfect laugh for a florist.

I laughed along to be polite, even though everyone over the age of thirty said the same thing about the stickers. They didn’t grow up with YouTube and Google like I did, so they didn’t have access to the hundreds of online tutorials on how to solve the original three-by-three. Still, it took hours of practice to get good. And I was pretty sure my cubing expertise had helped me win this overnight spot at the Earhart house. Not many girls cube. Even fewer compete. That’s why my first-place finish on the classic three-by-three at Regionals made quite the splash.

“Isn’t she something?” Kate asked, and motioned out the window. “The famous Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge and the Mighty Mo.”

“Whoa.” I looked up from my cube. Steel beams stretched in an arch across the muddy Missouri River. Bluffs bordered the water, which divided Kansas to the west and Missouri to the east. My skin prickled with excitement. “So, the other side is Atchison?” I asked.

Atchison, Kansas, was where the real Amelia grew up. Amelia Earhart. The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and who, years later, mysteriously disappeared with her plane while attempting an around-the-world flight.

“Sure is, kid.” Kate waited for a car to turn in front of us. “Good news. The bridge is prepped and open.”

Dad grunted, and Kate gripped the steering wheel as her rig inched across the bridge.

“Welcome to Kansas! You guys haven’t told me where to drop you,” said Kate.

“The Earhart house, please,” said Dad. “Millie has a special invitation.”

Kate smiled. “Oh! You’re one of the lucky ones. It’s been all over the radio today.”

“The contest was on the radio?” I looked at Dad, amazed.

Kate laughed. “No, the news about the flight goggles. That is why you’re going, right?”

I must have looked confused, because Kate babbled on: “Docents from the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum are here to collect Amelia’s goggles for a permanent exhibit, and a big shot at Purdue University believes they should be the ones to house the goggles—which are valued at one hundred twenty thousand dollars, by the way. Can you imagine? Anyway, this is the last weekend the goggles will be on display here in Atchison. And no one knows where they’re headed next.”

“Wow. Really?” My eyes grew wide, and my fingers stilled.

“Really.” Kate laughed again. Definitely wind chimes. “Get excited, Millie. You’re about to see a piece of history before it’s—poof—gone.”

I glanced at Dad to see if he’d heard this exchange, and I noticed the worry lines across his forehead had vanished like Amelia’s plane. He was listening, really listening, to Kate talk.

The truck rumbled over some railroad tracks. I lifted my feet to ward off additional bad luck. I mean, sliding off the road was pretty horrible, but then we met Kate, which turned out good. Maybe if I thought of today’s events like a math problem, they’d cancel each other out.

We took a right, and then another. Kate shifted gears as her truck climbed a narrow tree-lined street. I struggled to read the road sign through the blowing snow. Santa Fe Street. I clutched my cube tighter. We had one more street to go.

Kate cleared her throat. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to make the next turn. So, I may need to let you out—”

“There!” I gasped. A majestic, two-story white home loomed ahead on a corner lot, blanketed in fat, falling flakes.

Kate whistled. “She’s pretty as a postcard.”

The truck lurched, and Kate steered its massive frame up the hill, as far as the stop sign. Low-lying branches scratched the top of the cab, and an angry cardinal chirped.

I leaned across Danni the Body for a better look. The home’s windows arched like those on a church. The front porch boasted eight columns, four rocking chairs—all painted white—and an American flag, which popped against the ivory house and snow. Snow-topped statues of greyhounds flanked the shoveled front walk. The whole scene looked more magical than menacing, like someone had given a snow globe a good, hard shake.

Dad reached over Danni and squeezed my knee. I knew we were thinking the same thing.

Mom would be so proud to know that I was here, at her idol’s house. I wished I could send her a postcard to let her know. Maybe then she’d come flying back. To me. To us. Of course, I’d have to know her newest mailing address to make that happen. So instead, I clutched my Rubik’s Cube and whispered so low only Danni could hear:

“Mom, it’s me, Millie. You’ll never believe this, but I’m at Amelia Earhart’s house.”
Brooke Robinson Photography

Kristin L. Gray is the author of Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge, which Publishers Weekly called a “sensitive and uplifting coming-of-age journey.” Booklist called her latest, The Amelia Six, “a wonderful tribute to [Amelia Earhart] who herself came to embody mystery.” Kristin is also the author of two picture books: Koala Is Not a Bear (illustrated by Rachel McAlister) and Rover Throws a Party (illustrated by Scott Magoon). She lives in northwest Arkansas. Visit her online at KristinLGray.com.

Six girls spend the night at Amelia Earhart’s childhood home and end up in the middle of a robbery. When 11-year-old Amelia, nicknamed Millie, gets to the home of the eponymous aviator, she stumbles upon an incredible artifact: the goggles Earhart wore on her solo flight across the Atlantic. Not long afterward, however, the goggles go missing. Millie’s determination both to find them and to reach out to her absent pilot mother is endearing; even more so is the friendship that develops among Millie and the other five girls as they work to solve the mystery. Though shy, anxious Millie narrates, by the time she comes into her sarcastic own all six girls cohere into a charming ensemble cast. From Thea, the girl who builds and rides motorcycles with her auntie, to the generous turkey-truck driver who rescues Millie and her dad, the novel presents a suite of characters who, as Thea would say, “are like cake. [They] have layers.” . . . Due honor is given to trailblazing Deaf pilot Nellie Zabel Willhite and black and Native pilot Bessie Coleman. An author’s note adds fascinating context on Earhart’s real story. A cozy whodunit that cheerfully affirms girls’ and women’s contributions to aerospace.

– Kirkus Reviews

When introverted Amelia “Millie” Ashford is selected to join five other inventive, science-minded girls in an overnight stay at the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, she is thrilled to tour her namesake’s museum, get up close with historical artifacts, and sleep in the actual family quarters. After a delicious dinner, cozy chats, and a frantic scavenger hunt, the electricity goes out and a pair of Amelia’s favorite goggles go missing. The newly formed gang of six realizes that it’s up to them to discover the culprit and retain a priceless piece of aviation history. Young readers will likely identify with one, if not more, of the intrepid girls, whether it’s bookish, clever Millie or risk-taker Wren, and the (real) home-turned-museum is an inspired setting, full of dusty nooks and crannies, secret passageways, and endless hallways to explore. Gray weaves Amelia Earhart tidbits seamlessly into the larger plot and, for those who need to know more, includes additional information and further reading. A wonderful tribute to a woman who herself came to embody mystery.

– Booklist, May 1, 2020

It's hard to resist mysteries, even more so when they are real. Such is the case with the famous mystery surrounding aviatrix Amelia Earhart. Combine that with six middle grade school girls—strangers specially invited to spend a night at Earhart's historic Gothic Revival home in Atchison, Kansas during a Midwestern plains blizzard—and you have the makings of a closed-circle mystery. Each of the six girls arrive with a set of high expectations, plenty of attitude, plus the standard middle grade angst and insecurities. After their parents leave, the six girls are shepherded into the house to choose bedrooms for the night and to look around (this is where site managers and caretakers of historical sites will cringe). Comprising the strange mix of adults in the house is gruff housekeeper Edna, who doesn't seem to know anything about housekeeping, tattooed gourmet chef Perry, who does know how to cook, and frail-looking Birdy, who is a resident of the house. Excitement mounts until the girls are told they are here to find out what happened to Earhart's flying goggles, an important artifact and significant visitor draw. The story is characterized by clever plot twists, chapter cliff hangers, and camaraderie between the girls, who, mere strangers just a few hours ago, must now rely on one another and buoy each other up when courage flags. The last few chapters give details on the girls' role in apprehending the thief as well as what is in store for them next. A winner on all counts, this title features a vivid setting, interesting characters, great descriptions, vocabulary, and pacing, and realistic adult characters who are encouraging yet sufficiently relegated to the background to allow the girls to work out the mystery on their own. Comparisons with Nancy Drew and Sammy Keyes come to mind, but this satisfying mystery seems more like the works of Ellen Raskin, E.L. Konigsburg, and Gennifer Choldenko wherein readers have to really think and keep track of all the people, events, and clues before arriving at the solution. Leslie Greaves Radloff, Library Media Specialist, The Heights Community School, St. Paul (Minnesota) Public Schools

Highly Recommended

– School Library Connection, May / June 2020

This lighthearted mystery using a classic whodunit setup shines light on women in aviation. When six science-minded girls are invited to a slumber party and scavenger hunt at Amelia Earhart’s Birthplace Museum, the disappearance of the icon’s flight goggles transforms them into detectives as a raging winter storm shuts down all travel and the phone lines. Gray (Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge) effectively portrays the transformation of shy 11-year-old narrator Amelia (“Millie”), a Rubik’s Cube whiz and collector of vintage Nancy Drew novels, who befriends the other girls and assumes a leadership role. Alongside details about Earhart, the narrative features female flight pioneers such as African-American and Native American pilot Bessie Colman, and deaf pilot Nelle Zabel Willhite, who “could sense engine trouble by a change in vibrations.” Millie takes the lead in this romp; the supporting five girls can feel indistinct, leaving adult characters more roundly sketched. A thread about Millie’s absent pilot mom proves poignant, and a thorough reading list and author’s note offer resources for readers eager to discover more. Ages 8–12. Agent: Caryn Wiseman, Andrea Brown Literary. (June)

– Publishers Weekly, May 4, 2020

Eleven-year-old Millie is traveling to Atchison, KS, to spend the night in the historic home of acclaimed aviator Amelia Earhart. Upon her arrival, she meets five other girls who will also stay in the house overnight. However, by nightfall, Amelia’s famed goggles go missing. Millie teams up with her new friends to solve the mystery of their disappearance. The “Amelia Six” must investigate every clue, from a suspicious herbal tea to a Christmas tree stored in a closet. This fast-paced whodunit reaches a satisfying and surprising finale, with each heroine’s unique set of skills on full display. This novel shines with its brilliant cast of diverse, smart, and spunky characters. Gray also makes full use of the mystery genre to illustrate problem-solving, critical thinking, and deduction and reasoning skills. The ­pacing of the plot and short chapters make this a strong choice for a classroom read-aloud, or a bedtime story for families. VERDICT This is a delightful and clever middle grade novel that will appeal to readers of historical fiction and mystery. Fans of Ben Guterson’s “Winterhouse” series and Kristin O’Donnell Tubb’s “Story Collector” will find a kindred spirit in ­Millie.

– School Library Journal, June 2020

In The Amelia Six, Kristin L. Gray's entertaining middle-grade novel, a group of STEM-loving girls earn a trip to the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum. What's in store for them recalls what happens to the five young candy freaks in Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: the protagonists are steadily assailed with rapturous wonders and nerve-jangling surprises.

The Amelia Six is narrated by Amelia "Millie" Ashford of Kansas City, one of the six middle-school girls selected for an overnight at Amelia Earhart's childhood home in Atchison, Kansas. The insecure Millie, whose "friends are either online or characters in books," has a challenge beyond the promised Earhart-themed scavenger hunt: fitting in.

The showpiece of the Earhart museum is the goggles that the aviator wore when she made her solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932; valued at $120,000, the specs are ultimately destined for the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. When the goggles disappear from their display case, Millie--who had been caught ogling them by the housekeeper--becomes a suspect.

While The Amelia Six can read like a plug for STEM, Gray (Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge) never loses sight of the fact that her book is primarily a caper. Amelia delivers a mystery that will please readers who, like Millie, are into "vintage Nancy Drews" and their ilk. The haunted house-like museum has it all: a secret passageway, ghostly murmurs, an old painting of a sourpuss--all under cover of the requisite dark and stormy night. From this Millie emerges with something even more valuable than Earhart's goggles or Willie Wonka's chocolate factory: a sense of belonging. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Discover: In this sure-to-please middle-grade novel, a Nancy Drew-style mystery confronts six girls who win an overnight at the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchison, Kansas.

– Shelf Awareness For Readers, June 30, 2020

More books from this author: Kristin L. Gray