Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Titanic: Voices From the Disaster

Titanic:  Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson
Read:  2013 

This book was part of the Battle of the Kids' Books over at the School Library Journal's blog and website. It was also a finalist for the 2013 YALSA award for excellence in nonfiction.  You can read an interview with the author at The Hub, the YALSA blog.

I did enjoy this book. There were so many great photos and Hopkinson did a wonderful job fitting her narrative around the interviews, reports and quotes of the victims and survivors.  I think the only thing that I had a problem with was the added drama. If ever there was a story that didn't need drama enhancement, it's the story of the Titanic.  With its built in irony and all of the 'what could have beens' and 'almost weres', on top of the sheer horror of the number of people lost in this tragedy, I can't imagine why anyone would feel the need to insert any extra.  The book is filled with first hand accounts of what happened on board the Titanic and these are wonderfully cultivated for and shared with the reader.  But, on top of a survivor's story in his own words about losing his father after being forced into a life boat, she'll include her vision with an "and that was the last time he ever saw his father."  Really?  We got that when he said it, it's just overkill when the author does it too.  The book definitely didn't need it.  

Okay, maybe I'm nit picking, but it really did feel so very manipulative to me.  There is way too much built in, naturally occurring pathos and tragedy in this story.  If you didn't have the actual statements of people who lived through it (or didn't, as the case may be), it would make sense that you would feel the need to impress upon your audience just how tragic it all way.  But not here.  Especially since, I can't imagine there is a child in Hopkinson's intended audience age range that doesn't know all about it.

For example, my niece and nephew watched the James Cameron movie endlessly when they were little. My nephew was fascinated by ships, and even though he was just learning to read, he pored over everything we could find in his age range.  My niece was born the year the movie came out.  When she and my nephew got into it, they were 7 and 4, respectively. They watched constantly. He got really interested in ships and she decided to recreate it all artistically.  I wound up with this:
This is her recreation of Jack's drawing of the nude Rose just before the ship sank.

But, back to my review.  Hopkinson gives the reader the full story and does it using real photos and reports and telegrams, and best of all, the words of Titanic's crew and passengers.  I don't think a kid could find a more interesting and satisfying way to learn about the HMS Titanic and her very sad fate.

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