Monday, September 24, 2012

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

Here are the numbers:
  • 2,208 people were on board the RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage
  • of these, 891 were crew members and 1,317 were passengers
  • yet she carried just 20 lifeboats that could have held a total of 1,178 people
  • she sank, after hitting an iceberg, on April 15, 1912
  • only 712 people survived
But numbers can only tell us so much. They don't convey the excitement surrounding the largest and most luxurious ocean liner ever built at the time, the confusion and fear on board when disaster struck, the bravery of many crew members and passengers, or the heartbreak of realizing a loved one did not survive.

As the subtitle of Deborah Hopkinson’s Titanic: Voices from the Disaster implies, this is a human history of the Titanic. After describing the building of the ship and giving readers a sense of its massive scale, Hopkinson introduces some of the crew and passengers (from several countries, and different social backgrounds) who were on board. Their memories add depth and intimacy to events, engaging Titanic buffs as well as readers less familiar with the disaster. Hopkinson does an excellent job weaving multiple voices together—first describing, well, "normal" life on the Titanic for passengers and crew, then the chaos after the iceberg was spotted—with contextual information regarding different aspects of the Titanic (both in terms of what was known or custom at the time, and based on what we know now) into an organically flowing narrative.

Numerous images (photos, reproductions of telegrams, and more) spread throughout the book provide additional atmosphere; it's one thing to read about some of the amenities on board, but seeing photographs of the gymnasium and a life preserver made of cork give the details even more impact.

The back matter is another thing to rave about here. Seriously, it is awesome, especially if you love back matter as much as I do. It's comprehensive (comprising about a quarter of the book!), including a glossary, timeline, selected bibliography, source notes, additional biographical information about some of the passengers, and an excerpt from the British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry Report.

Book details: middle grade nonfiction, published 2012 by Scholastic, ISBN 9780545116749

Book source: public library.

Cross-posted at The YA YA YAs.


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1 comment:

Man of la Book said...

History is always more interesting when told from a personal perspective. It is much more interesting to read about a person (son, daughter, husband, sister...) in the midst of a epochal event than the bigger picture (the boat sank).
That is what, I believe, is the great strength behind historical fiction.

Great review.

http://www.ManOfLaBook.com