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Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by D. Hopkinson

Hopkinson, Deborah. Titanic: Voices from the Disaster. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2012. Print.

Almost 100 years after the disastrous sinking of the Titanic, the story of the ship's demise continues to create a fresh sense of horror. In this riveting exploration of the tragedy, acclaimed historical non-fiction author, Deborah Hopkinson, brings history alive by following the stories of several of the Titanic's passengers from setting sail to shipwreck.

I quickly discovered that an impressive amount of research went into this book, as revealed by the comprehensive appendices. If it wasn't for this extensive documentation, it would have been easy to forget that I was reading non-fiction because of the way Hopkinson weaves several spell-binding narratives of select passengers. Chapter One begins by introducing an amateur photographer, Frank Browne, who is thrilled to find himself aboard the Titanic for a two day cruise at the outset of the doomed ship's passage. This initial chapter also introduces famed figures such as J. Bruce Ismay, the managing director of the ship's company, as well as Captain Edward Smith, and stewardess Violet Jessop. Frank Browne fortuitously disembarked in Cork, Ireland. The others were not so lucky.

What stands out about this book is how Hopkinson puts a human face to the tragedy that claimed the lives of 1,496 people so long ago. In place of the 1997 blockbuster film with Leonardo Di Caprio, I now have a more chilling understanding of the human arrogance that caused the disaster, as well as the dreams and families that were lost on that cold, calm, starry night. Rather than imagining fictitious characters, I now imagine the real heroism of Second Officer Charles Lightoller who loaded lifeboats until he literally sank into the Atlantic (and miraculously survived), and the shocking decision of J. Bruce Ismay who chose to save himself while his passengers drowned.

This book is a history of loss and survival, as well as courage and cowardice. Both intermediate and senior students will be hooked, especially reluctant readers who will likely already know something about the sinking of the Titanic and who often find more meaning in real life contexts. This book undoubtedly deserves a place on your library's bookshelves.

Highly recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Jennifer Lunny

Jennifer Lunny is a new teacher-librarian at Ballenas Secondary School on Vancouver Island.  A former English and social studies teacher, she is excited to promote literacy in her new position.  Finding that special book to connect with a student is one of the highlights of her job.  She has spent the fall semester building the collection at her school with many of the titles that were proposed in this project