Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, by Deborah Hopkinson

Last week we had the privilege of meeting Deborah Hopkinson on our way north to visit Mom for spring break. She signed many copies of A Boy Called Dickens and Apples to Oregon for the bookstore (as well as some for personal use). Deborah also was kind enough to give us an early copy of Titanic: Voices from the Disaster,  just out on April 1. (For those who haven’t noticed, April 15 is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.)

Hopkinson’s Titanic appears to be written for upper-level grade school and middle school readers. It tells the story of the Titanic’s demise by closely following the first-person accounts of twenty-seven passengers of varying ages and social positions. The book is narrated in the third person, and includes direct quotes. It is complete with vintage photographs and illustrations, sidebars, and memorabilia such as a diagram of the ship, a menu, and a copy of a telegram sent by a survivor. The exhaustive end matter includes a glossary, a timeline, Titanic facts and figures, sources of further information, and an excerpt from the British Wreck Commissioner’s final report, tips on gathering research, a selected bibliography, and sources for direct quotes, just to name a few of the appendices.

The Titanic holds a timeless fascination for young people, and Titanic: Voices from the Disaster is an accessible piece of nonfiction for curious readers. It not only presents the human side of the disaster, but it gives a glimpse of the background work that goes on in the course of researching history.  (Hopkinson seems to have a knack for that. In Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek, she provides younger audiences with an entertaining taste of the process a historian might go through in reconstructing an event through oral history and other sources.) I look forward to reading Titanic with my daughter in another three or four years.

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