Yesterday the American Library Association announced the 2013 Youth Media Award winners. The entire list looks fantastic, and I was happy to see I owned a few of the winners, although I hadn't yet read them all.
Inspired, I picked up Deborah Hopkinson's Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, which was an honored book in two categories: The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children and the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.
It didn't take me very long to understand why Hopkinson was honored twice this year. Although writing with a young audience in mind, Hopkinson did not simplify the language and concepts, nor did she gloss over the terrifying experiences.
As the subtitle indicates, Titanic presents the familiar story of the sinking from firsthand accounts. We learn about the ship and the tragic night from a well-rounded range of viewpoints, including a nine-year-old boy, a ship's maid, and crew members. We also hear from adult passengers of both sexes and from people of all social classes.
For example, a teenager tells us what it was like to explore the ship and meet other young travelers. A thirty-something American socialite recalls the elegant dresses and jewels she saw in the first-class dining room and how happy everyone was. Later, a twenty-three-old third-class passenger, who barely made it to a lifeboat, remembered:
We could hear the popping and cracking, and the deck raised up and got so steep that the people could not stand on their feet on the deck. So they fell down and slid on the deck into the water right on the ship. (p. 137)One of the things that makes this book so special is the supplemental material. Titanic is amply illustrated with photographs of the ship (some of which I'd never seen before), and pictures of an original ticket, telegrams, ship's records, and the like. We read postcards written before the disaster and letters written after. We see a transcript of some of the hearings held to investigate what went wrong, and we discover the fate of the survivors in the decades that followed. At the back of the book, Hopkinson provides a glossary, a timeline, charts, further resources, and a bibliography.
Teachers, homeschoolers, and young historians will particularly appreciate the extras, which add period details and offer paths for further research. Others may want simply to read the stories of what it was like to have survived the Titanic. And still others may want to spend an afternoon pouring over the unforgettable images in the many illustrations.
Titanic: Voices of the Disaster is a personal and very readable account of the sinking that should appeal to everyone from middle graders on up to their grandparents. Deborah Hopkinson is well deserving of her Youth Media Award nods and I'm only sorry I waited so long to read this fascinating and moving book.
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Scholastic/ Scholastic Press, 2012
Source: Bought (see review policy)
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