29 January 2013

Review: Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

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.

This post will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.

Buy Titanic: Voices from the Disaster at an Indie or at bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Scholastic/ Scholastic Press, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780545116749
Rating: B+

Source: Bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


Peppermint Ph.D. 1/29/13, 6:46 AM  

My youngest daughter is a non-fiction fiend. She is particularly interested in books about sharks and chapter books similar to the old "We were there" series. The sinking of the Titanic is one of the historical events that really captures her curiosity, so I know she would love this! Thanks for the recommendation!

Unknown 1/29/13, 6:48 AM  

I believe I heard this author speak at the UCF book festival last year very interesting. I'm a nerd, I love history.

rhapsodyinbooks 1/29/13, 6:50 AM  

I, like many people, love Titanic stories (although my all time favorite is still A Night to Remember, both the book and the movie). I'm happy to see one for kids that isn't all about a love triangle! :--) I was following all the awards yesterday and it was exciting to see so many good books get recognized!

Julie P. 1/29/13, 7:35 AM  

Kathy enjoyed this one too. I need to share it with Booking Son.

Zibilee 1/29/13, 10:58 AM  

Anita is right, we did hear the author speak, and he was remarkably well spoken and read aloud. He did an excellent job with the voice and the narration. This is a book that I have been meaning to pick up and get to, but your review, and the fact that it was recognized in this way has me eager to try it.

Melissa Wiebe 1/29/13, 12:13 PM  

Sounds like a good read and like something I might request from the library.

Daryl 1/30/13, 8:33 AM  

thanks, another good read ahead

Jenners 1/30/13, 9:29 PM  

Heck, I want to read this. Thanks!

Laura at Library of Clean Reads 2/2/13, 11:42 AM  

I love anything Titanic so this one really appeals to me.

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