The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
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Riveting bio reveals the dark side of an American hero.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about the early days of aviation in America, from Wright Brothers and barnstormers (stunt pilots who put on aerial shows for the public during the 1920s) to the dangerous job of flying the mail across the country.

Positive Messages

Even celebrity heroes can have a dark side. There's more to being a true hero than being brave, daring, and accomplished. Moral character counts. Admirers may turn on you when they learn you have racist views.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While Lindbergh was a man of great accomplishment and courage, readers may find his admirable qualities totally overshadowed by his bigotry and his embrace of Hitler and the Nazi Party.


A man's arm is cut off in a sawmill accident. A child is kidnapped, and searchers discover his body. Pilots die in plane crashes. Brief but harrowing descriptions of animal research may be disturbing to some readers.


The book notes that in 2005, three decades after Lindbergh's death in 1974, the public learned that he had fathered seven children by three German women with whom he had longstanding affairs.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh, by Candace Fleming (The Family Romanov), traces the aviator's life, begining with his rootless childhood and his days as a barnstorming stunt pilot to his rise to international fame as the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic. It follows him through the kidnapping and murder of his son, his very public embrace of Facism and eventual service in World War II, to his last days as an environmentalist. Using quotes from the diaries of Lindbergh and his wife, his speeches, and contemporary newspaper accounts, Fleming paints a vivid portrait of a deeply flawed man who was an advocate for racial "purity," a vocal and unrepentant anti-Semite, an enthusiastic admirer of Hitler and the Nazi Party, and a serial adulterer. Brief descriptions of animal research in the book may be disturbing to some readers. An engrossing read both for students who know little about Lindbergh and for parents who know him only as the heroic "Lucky Lindy" of their history textbooks.

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What's the story?

In the prologue to THE RISE AND FALL OF CHARLES LINDBERGH, author Candace Fleming wastes no time introducing readers to the man behind the legend. The America First Committee (an organization opposed to America's intervention in World War II) is holding a huge rally, and Charles Lindbergh is the featured speaker. The crowd, some raising Nazi salutes, has come to hear him talk about building walls to keep "alien blood" from the United States and preserving the American way of life. Lindbergh is their hero. The child of a businessman turned congressman, Lindbergh had a rootless childhood and was a lackluster student, expelled from college for poor grades. He found his calling as a pilot. He became a barnstormer (one of the stunt pilots who put on aerial shows for the public during the 1920s) and then took on the dangerous job of flying the mail from St. Louis to Chicago. In 1927, he flew 33.5 hours across the Atlantic to land near Paris and claim a $25,000 prize as the first person make a solo flight from New York to Paris. Only 25, he had become the most famous and celebrated man in the world. At the height of his fame, he married an ambassador's daughter, but only after making sure her ancestors met his exacting standards. Tragedy struck the couple in 1932, when their young son was kidnapped. A ransom was paid, but to no avail. The trial of a German immigrant for the child's murder became known as the Trial of the Century. After moving his family to England to escape a relentless American tabloid press, Lindbergh began visiting Germany. Hosted by the Nazi elite, he came to believe that the Nazis were "the only hope for restoring moral world order." Returning to the United States with his family, Lindbergh became one of the most prominent voices against American involvement in World War II. But his pro-Nazi sympathies and anti-Semitic rhetoric led to newspapers writing editorials condemning him and the public turning against him. When Lindbergh offered his services to the War Department after Pearl Harbor, he was rejected. But he eventually served in the South Pacific, flying 50 combat missions. After the war, he published a bestselling memoir about his flight over the Atlantic and worked on environmental issues. In 2005, three decades after his death in 1974, the public would learn that he fathered seven children by three German women with whom he had longstanding affairs.

Is it any good?

This is a compelling, thought-provoking, and sometimes tragic look at the life of a deeply flawed American hero who was both admired and reviled. For readers of The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh who want to learn more about his life, the author includes a detailed bibliography of books, articles, and speeches as well as extensive source notes for each chapter. Several dozen archival photographs offer glimpses into Lindbergh's family life, his childhood, his flight across the Atlantic, the trial of his son's kidnapper, and trips to Germany.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the issues that divided America in The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh are still dividing us today. Why do you think so many Americans disagree (often violently) about immigration, race, and religion?

  • Have television and movies given us unrealistic ideas about what qualities make a hero? What do you think makes someone heroic?

  • Have you ever admired someone and then learned something about them that disappointed or shocked you? How did you deal with that revelation?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and biography

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