Monday, December 10, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

Nonfiction Monday is a weekly meme in the Kidlitosphere that invites bloggers to read and review a nonfiction book on Monday as a way to promote high-quality nonfiction titles.  Each week, a different blogger "hosts" Nonfiction Monday and provides a roundup of all the posts.  This week Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Wrapped in Foil.

Titanic: Voices From the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

April 14, 2012 was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  In remembrance of this, a whole slew of books about the Titanic were released in late 2011 and early 2012 (including the unique nonfiction/fiction Titanic Sinks! and the verse novel The Watch That Ends the Night).  One of the best of those books was this one, which provides a comprehensive look at the ship itself and many of the individuals aboard, including all levels of the crew and passengers.

Thanks to Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio (with some help from the vocal stylings of Celine Dion), pretty much everyone alive knows the basic story of the Titanic: proclaimed "unsinkable," it was a passenger ship whose size was only to be outdone by its lavish decor and accommodations that, on its maiden voyage from the UK to New York City, struck an iceberg and sank in the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean, taking the lives of over 1,500 crew and passengers.  In Titanic: Voice from the Disaster, Hopkinson takes the story that everybody knows (or thinks they do, anyway) and creates a riveting tale that keeps the reader glued to the page, eagerly turning pages, introduces the reader to the personal stories of those aboard, and makes you hope against all rational hope that somehow, it will end differently.  What makes this book stand out in a field of Titanic books are the personal stories.  Hopkinson clearly devoted an immense amount of time into the research for this book, and it shows on every page.  If the information held within the narrative wasn't enough, the back matter is some of the most impressive I've seen: links to websites to learn more, recaps of each of the individuals whose stories are shared, archival photographs, a timeline.  But it's not just about the content.  It's also about style.  The masterful way that each of the stories is woven together keeps the reader in moment.  While there was the potential for so many threads to cause confusion, Hopkinson handles the transition from ship's captain to stewardess to wealthy passenger so handily, that it felt almost like you were watching the ship from above and zooming in and out on different areas in real-time, piecing together the hows and the whys of what brought everyone to the ship, how they weathered the crisis of the sinking and where their individual stories ended.  So, so good.  It reads like fiction, but it's so chock full of history and context that you just can't make this stuff up.

Oh!  And YALSA agrees!  Titanic: Voices from the Disaster is one of five finalists for the 2012 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award.

Recommended for: middle and high schoolers, male or female, nonfiction readers and fiction lovers alike.

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