As a young child, my older sister taught me a version of a song about the doomed ship Titanic that was so jolly in tone, it belied the sober meaning of the lyrics. I merrily sang/yelled, "Husbands and wives, little children lost their lives, it was sad when the great ship went down...to the bottom of the sea! Glug glug glug glug!" having no idea I was singing about a true tragedy.
Author Barry Denenberg, using the conceit of a fictional newspaper and reporter, brings the historical event roaring back to life in Titanic Sinks! Since we are just weeks away from the 100th anniversary of the sinking on April 15, 1912, I immersed myself (sorry!) in the make-believe correspondent's excited dispatches to his newspaper.
The sheer scale of the Titanic and the millions of details that went into its design, construction, fitting, provisioning, and launching amazed the public, and several hundred people signed on as passengers and crew on the maiden voyage. The ship was touted as being unsinkable, and reports of icebergs were not taken as seriously as they merited until disaster struck. Then, due to a decrease in the planned number of lifeboats (why take up space when they'd never be needed?) and confusion as to who to load in the boats, and how, many more lives were lost than necessary. Class discrimination reared its ugly head, leaving the poorer passengers locked behind a barrier, patiently awaiting permission to head to the lifeboats - permission that never came. By using, as the book cover says, a "unique presentation of fact and fiction," along with photos, Denenberg manages to re-animate the events as if they were happening in 2012 instead of 1912. Highly recommended for grades 5-8. For teens and adults, pair it with the excellent and evocative novel told in verse, The Watch that Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic, by Allan Wolf.