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Book Reviews, Early/Young Readers, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade Readers, Read-Aloud Suggestions, Teacher & Parent Recommendations

I SURVIVED: THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC, 1912 by Lauren Tarshis

The I Survived series is a collection of historical fiction novels written from the perspective of children involved in a well-known historical events.  I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 is the first in the series.

The main character is 10-year-old George.  He is traveling from London to the U.S. with his 8-year-old sister, Phoebe, and their Aunt Daisy (“Sometimes George couldn’t believe she [Daisy] was so old:  twenty two!”) after visiting with her in London.  The story is told in flashback from the moment George loses his grip on the Titanic’s rail.

George is wonderfully imaginative and adventurous.  These qualities also tend to get him into trouble on a daily basis.  Sliding down the bannister of the grand staircase in the first class lobby had seemed like a great idea–before he smashed into a diamond-wearing female passenger at the bottom.

The reader gets to tag along with George and Mr. Andrews, the designer of the Titanic.  We hear about the blueprints detailing the secret escape ladders for the crew and the phenomenal dimensions of the ship, itself.  George explores the entire ship, meeting many of the other passengers, including little Enzo and his father, Marco, moving to New York from Italy.  Enzo’s mother has died and we learn that George has also lost his mother.  This shared loss seems to draw George to the little boy–that and Enzo’s bubbly personality.

Hearing a rumor that there is a mummy on board, George decides he must see it for himself and on the very night the Titanic hits the iceberg that will cause it to sink, George sneaks into the first class baggage hold.  From the moment he begins to pry open the crate he believes holds the mummy events begin to accelerate.  A scar-faced man is in the baggage hold as well!  HIs motives are not as innocent as George’s.  The crash of the Titanic hitting the iceberg gives George a chance to escape.  When he returns to their suite, however, he finds Phoebe is missing.  She has gone to look for him, afraid he will get into trouble again.

As George and Aunt Daisy search for Phoebe they realize that the poorer passengers have been locked belowdecks to allow the wealthier passengers to go up on the deck to the lifeboats.  There were only 16 boats for 2,229 people.  George and his family encounter Marco and Enzo and using George’s knowledge of the crew’s escape ladders they make it to the deck of the ship.  Only Daisy, Phoebe and Enzo, however, are allowed on the lifeboat.  (Although the fate of the Titanic is already known I will not ruin the ending of this story for you by telling you how George’s tale ends.)

George’s story is a perfect read-aloud choice for any classroom.  It is rife with excitement, suspense, a few chuckles and some important, well-delivered information about the Titanic and the way it sank.  It is also a great independent reading choice for anyone interested in the Titanic, or in a short adventure story based on real events.

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