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Book Reviews, Early/Young Readers, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade Readers, Teacher & Parent Recommendations

THE TITANIC TRILOGY by Gordon Korman

The Titanic Trilogy consists of three books:  (1) Book One:  Unsinkable; (2) Book Two:  Collision Course; and (3) Book Three:  S.O.S.  Written by one of my absolute favorite authors–Gordon Korman–these books weave a heart-stopping adventure based on the historical “unsinkable” ship, the Titanic in 1912.  Book One details the final arrangements for the Titanic’s maiden voyage and its initial departure from England.  Book Two covers the actual event of the Titanic’s fatal crash with the iceberg.  Book Three finishes the tale with the actions taken by passengers and crew in the face of certain death as the Titanic literally sinks into the ocean beneath them.  Each book is able to stand on its own as a complete story but I think the reader loses a fraction of Korman’s entire work by not reading them in order as one story.

Korman has created four young people who have all ended up as passengers on the ill-fated Titanic when it begins its first and only trip from England to New York.  Paddy is a homeless boy living by his wits and his pickpocketing skills in Ireland pursued by gangster from whom he unwittingly stole money; Sophie is the daughter of the well-known and extremely outspoken American Suffragist Amelia Bronson who is being expelled from England by the British authorities; Julianna is the daughter of the seventeenth Earl of Glamm, raised as English nobility; and Alfie has been abandoned by his mother and gotten himself hired as a steward aboard the Titanic to be close to his father who stokes the furnaces.

Their four young lives intertwine and mix with those of Thomas Andrews, the engineer who designed the Titanic, two dangerous Irish gangsters, the famed murderer Jack the Ripper as well as the wealthiest in English and American society and the hard-working emigrants seeking a new life in America.

Korman has a remarkable ability as a storyteller to leave the reader breathless from page to page as our young heroes first clash in their beliefs and actions, then gradually find friendship through their growing awareness and insight into themselves and those around them.  Each of them discover a cache of wisdom within themselves that allows new understanding of who they are as individuals and why those closest to them are so important.

And amidst these engaging storylines and profound discoveries, Korman also tells the tragic true story of the sinking of the Titanic.  This historical event becomes real to the reader in a way he or she could never have imagined.  If you are a history buff, have a special interest in the Titanic or enjoy a heart-pounding adventure story, these books are for you!

With a historical tragedy of the proportions of the sinking of the Titanic Korman wisely does not try to tie everything up in a ‘happily-ever-after’ package at the end.  He does, however, completely fulfill the promise of each storyline and subplot.  The reader is left with the sorrow of so many lost lives and the renewed spirit that so often arises when we witness the courage and strength of others in such a desperate situation.

This is a fantastic read for ages 2nd grade-middle school.  It may be a possible read-aloud selection for an older elementary or middle school class.  I would not use it as a read-aloud for younger elementary ages due to some of the menace toward children in the storyline with the gangsters.  None of it is inappropriate, but I know I would want to make sure each individual child was able to handle the content in a safe and healthy way; this is, of course, a decision based on individuals, age and classroom dynamics.  I do, however, recommend it as a bedtime reading option for families.

 

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