Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Titanic Trinity

Intermediate to YA historical nonfiction
It's engraved in our imaginations a century later: the doomed
liner, the ice berg, the frigid star lit night, the half filled life
boats, the faithful musicians playing to the end... A ship built to
be unsinkable met its tragic end in a collision with a creation of
nature. It was a defining moment for even generations yet unborn like
mine. Why? I have no idea. But there's been a spate of fine new
books including some terrific juvenile offerings.
Barry Denenberg's Titanic Sinks! blends fact and fiction in a
unique and striking format. It is written as a memorial edition of
Modern Times Magazine. The first pages provide a wealth of background
information. The middle section, made to look like water logged
pages, is the voyage journal of a fictitious reporter. It is followed
by accounts of real survivors and an interview with the captain of the
Carpathia, the ship that sped to the rescue of survivors. This book
is a visual masterpiece, perfect for the youngster who has some
previous knowledge.
Stephanie Sammartino McPherson's Iceberg Right Ahead! The
Tragedy of the Titanic makes a great introductory volume. The cover
with its black and green picture of the great ship plunging into the
ocean lures the adventure seeking reader into giving it a try. The
book opens with a vivid description of the fateful night. The
following chapters go into detail and include background and
consequences. There is a good balance between individual narrative
and larger picture. The illustrations nicely compliment the text.
Deborah Hopkinson's Titanic: Voices from the Disaster is a
treat for true affeccianados. Although it is rich with background
information, the focus is on the individual passengers and crew
members. You meet Frank, a teacher about to be ordained to the
Catholic priesthood, Violet, a stewardess devoted to the well being of
her charges, Charlotte, heading with her husband and young daughter to
start a new life in America, nine-year-
old Frankie, and many others. Basically Hopkinson nicely achieves the
purpose set out in her forward, "I hope their stories and voices
remind you, as they do me, that our lives are fragile and precious.
And I hope they make you wonder, as I do, what it would have been like
to be on the Titanic that night so long ago..."
These fine volumes are (sorry--can't resist this) the tip of the
iceberg when it comes to Titanic literature. Between the older gems
and the bumper crop inspired by this year's 100th anniversary there's
more than enough to enjoy and learn from. So head on down to your
book store or library and be prepared to be swept away!
On a personal note, under the leadership of John and Shelley Jemmison,
the Orono Community Garden is thriving. Again we have a wonderful
crew. It's such a joy to be involved.
A great big shout out goes out to all the authors who create so many
fine Titanic books.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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