Voices from disaster preserved in Titanic book


Imagine going on the cruise of a lifetime.

It would be so exciting! Imagine -- you'd have a whole ship to explore. You could swim and play games, watch dolphins in the ocean, snack all day and mess around without worrying your parents. Maybe you could even get a tour of the ship's inner workings. How cool is that?

Just imagine -- you wouldn't have to make your bed. You wouldn't have to clean up after yourself. You wouldn't have a bedtime to think about.

You would want to count lifeboats, however, once you've read "Titanic: Voices from the Disaster" by Deborah Hopkinson.

One hundred years ago, before airplanes made trans-Atlantic flight possible for everybody, the most common way to travel between Europe and North America was by ship. It usually took several days for those big ocean liners to make the trip from coast to coast and since there were no cell phones, there were very few ways to tell everyone back home that you were having a great time.

Of all the great ships, three of them were owned by White Star Lines: The Olympic, the Brittanic and, the largest and most luxurious of all, the Titanic.

The Titanic was massive: bigger than two full football fields, the ship weighed nearly 47,000 tons and could carry more than 3,500 passengers with three levels of travel. There were several dining rooms, a gymnasium, a swimming pool (which was unique at the time) and a post office. The Titanic was almost like a small town.

On April 10, 1912, amid much celebration, the Titanic set out on its very first trip. Bankers, financiers and the Titanic's director and its designer were aboard, as well as many people from all walks of life. Sailing on the Titanic was a treat for some and a new beginning for others.

For all, though, it would be a life-changing event.

Just before midnight on April 14, while most passengers were asleep, an iceberg was spotted, and icebergs were dangerous. The captain, unworried, gave word to move slowly ahead; after all, the Titanic was thought to be unsinkable!

His orders were a big mistake.

With all the recent newses on cruises lately, it's easy for a kid to figure that high-seas accidents are a modern thing. "Titanic: Voices from the Disaster" will prove otherwise, and in a way that's relevant.

Using documents, letters, and telegrams from people who survived, as well as authentic accounts of passengers who disembarked early, Hopkinson tells the story of what happened that night almost 100 years ago and how it changed both lives and laws. I found those first-person accounts fascinating, and I was also particularly pleased to see a treasure-trove of pictures, all of which put a sobering face to the tragedy and its aftermath.

While a Titanic-obsessed adult will find a lot to like here, "Titanic: Voices from the Disaster" is really meant for kids 10 and up. For them, for enjoyment, vacation, or for school, this mesmerizing book may be a lifesaver.

View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer's children's book reviews weekly.

 

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