Monday, April 2, 2012

April 14th, 2012 – Looming out of the fog

With the 100th year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic looming, this week’s postings will look at a few titles that have recently been published about the colossal ship.  As today is Monday, and Nonfiction Monday to boot, that’s where I’ll start.

Titanic: disaster at sea by Philip Wilkinson (910.9163 WiT 2012) is oversized and packed with photos and illustrations pertaining to the Titanic. It covers everything from the building the ship, stocking it with supplies, her crew, the luxuries afforded to first-class passengers, accommodations for second and third class passengers, various aspects of the ‘event’ (from clashing with the iceberg to sinking) and includes a precise timeline of what happened and who was doing what, the rescue and the aftermath.  There are also sections dedicated to the ‘popular culture’ aspect of the disaster, from premonitions prior to the Titanic’s sailing, to movies, memorials, and the eventual discovery of her final resting place.

Loads of information is organized into side bars, timelines, inset pictures, one fold-out set of pages, and newspaper clippings.  The table of contents, index and glossary will also be useful for report writing.

Titanic Sinks! by Barry Denenberg (910.9163 DeT 2011) I found a little more engaging because of the interesting ‘twist’ the author threw into this book.  All the facts are wrapped up in a fictional Modern Times magazine special edition, written by a staff reporter.  Again, this oversized book covers the Titanic, from beginning to end, with lots more narrative and way fewer side bars.  Many of the photographs I had not seen before (but I’m not a Titanic aficionado) and the author notes that he used only photographs that were of the Titanic and not of her sister ship the Olympia to preserve authenticity. There were not many photographs of the Titanic because of her newness.

One of the best bits of this book are the excerpts from the journal of S.F. Vanni, fictional chief correspondent sailing on the Titanic’s maiden voyage.  He records who he sees and speaks with and the activities that occupy the time of different passengers, as well as providing a very immediate and taut description of what took place on the decks of the ship as her passengers evacuated and she broke apart and sank. (The journal survived because the journalist wrapped it in a tarp, strapped it to his chest, dove off the ship, floated on debris until he was rescued by one of the lifeboats but died just before the arrival of the rescue ship Carpathia.)

An hour-by-hour timeline of April 14th and 15th is included, in addition to statements collected from survivors. There is an ‘exclusive’ interview with the captain of the Carpathia that gives his side of the rescue and a closing note from the Modern Times publisher that tells us about the fallout from this event.  Barry Denenberg provides the reader with insight as to why he decided to tell the story in this way, a mix of fact and fiction.  He includes source notes and a two page bibliography.

Out of the two books, I preferred the second because of the drama and immediacy created by the fictional journalist.  (I didn’t know he was fictional until the end of the book.)  The narrative held my attention and drew me in a way that the more informational book did not. 

Both books are written for the middle grade crowd (grades 5-9).

 Today's Nonfiction Monday event is at Rasco from Rif.  Stop by for an interesting roundup of blogs writing about children's literature.


Jeanette W. Stickel said...

What timely reviews! I’ll be sure to track down "Titanic Sinks". It sounds like a good fit for a couple of my students.

NatalieSap said...

I'm excited to read Titanic Sinks! once I get it back in the library. I love poring over old photographs and such, and this book certainly has that old photo album feel.

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