Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Titanic: Voices From the Disaster

Titanic: Voices From the Disaster

Deborah Hopkinson
Nonfiction
For ages 8 and up
Scholastic Press, 2012   ISBN: 978-0545116749

More than one hundred years ago, on April 10, 1912 the biggest, heaviest, and most luxurious ship in the world, the RMS Titanic, set off on her maiden voyage. The designer who had worked for months to make sure that the Titanic’s passengers would have a wonderful experience, Thomas Andrews, was on board, as was the chairman and director of the White Star Line, J. Bruce Ismay

   The Titanic was a lot like her sister ship, the Olympic, but she had new or upgraded features. There was a French-style “sidewalk café,” a swimming pool, a gym, and the stewards and stewardesses had better accommodations. Indeed, the ship was like a floating hotel and the passengers who boarded her in Southampton were thrilled to be a part of her story.

   Young Frankie Goldsmith was traveling in third class with his parents. They were going to build a new life for themselves in Detroit, Michigan. Frankie and some other boys had a grand time exploring the great ship. They watched men in the “black gang” working in the boiler rooms. With faces blacked with coal dust, these men made sure that the ship’s boilers and moving parts worked at optimum efficiency. Though many of the other passengers were more used to voyages and glamorous ships than Frankie was, people such as the Astors for example, they too were swept up by the feeling of excitement and anticipation that seemed to fill the ship.

   When the Titanic left Ireland behind heading out across the Atlantic, the weather was perfect, though the temperature did start to drop. The ocean was extremely calm and the passengers often commented on the fact that they felt very little motion at all. It was easy to forget that one was at sea on a ship. The passengers relaxed, napped, ate excellent meals, and enjoyed the entertainments that were on offer. When they went to bed on the evening of April 14th, all was well. It was very cold and clear outside and many of the passengers had never seen stars that looked so bright. None of them had any idea that the great “unsinkable” Titanic was headed for disaster.

   People have been fascinated by the story of the Titanic for decades, and many books have been written and films have been made about the famous ship. In this remarkable book Deborah Hopkinson tells the story of the Titanic in such a way that we get a sense of what it was like to be on the great ship. She conveys the feeling of excitement that the passengers felt as they marveled at the comforts and amenities at their disposal. She also captures the feelings of disbelief that they experienced when it dawned on them that the Titanic was sinking. The author tells the story in part using the accounts of people who were there. We hear the anguish in a women’s voice as she describes what it was like to leave her husband behind on the doomed ship. We are moved by the pride and regret in the voice of Harold Bride, the junior wireless operator on board. He watched as his comrade and friend, Jack Phillips, stayed at his post, sending out distress messages as the ship went down.

   This powerful account is accompanied by period photographs, diagrams, photos of letters and telegrams, and other written items that help to tell the story of the Titanic. At the back of the book there is further information about the people who are mentioned in the book, letters from survivors, a timeline, charts of statistics and more.

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