With the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic April 15, the number of books dedicated to the ship’s ill-fated voyage is impressive. Books of all categories—nonfiction and fiction for both children and adults—include historical narrative, scientific data, fully illustrated pop-ups.
These books continue to tell the story of the sinking of the great unsinkable ship, the people who survived, and the 1,500 men, women, and children who perished on that fateful evening.
In his third book on the Titanic, scientist Charles Pellegrino presents Farewell Titanic: Her Final Legacy (Wiley, Mar.). Pellegrino, who worked with director James Cameron on his movie Titanic (which is being re-released in 3D in April, along with the reissue of James Cameron’s Titanic, from Harper Design), argues that the Titanic itself, submerged below 2.5 miles of water, will implode in its watery grave in a few years. In one of the last books to have been written while Titanic survivors were still alive, Pellegrino brings decades of research and interviews together to recreate the ship’s last hours. Also included are color photographs of the sunken ship.
Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic, Her Passengers and Their World by historian, editor, and writer Hugh Brewster (Crown, Apr.) focuses on the people who inhabited the ship’s first-class cabins, such as artist and writer Frank Millet, White House aide Archie Butt, and railroad president Charles Hays. Brewster focuses on these passengers because, as he explains in the prologue, “Within their lives and those of others on board can be found a remarkable convergence of events, issues, and personalities of the age.” Charlie Conrad, executive editor for Crown, elaborates: “The new research [Brewster] has done on everything from the daily betting pool to the fashions worn on the grand staircase gives readers the most intimate picture yet of life onboard. Instead of stuffing the text with potted bios, he highlights remarkable characters who form a fascinating microcosm of life a century ago.”
Another title that focuses on passengers of the ship is A Rare Titanic Family: The Caldwells’ Story of Survival (NewSouth Books, Feb.). Written by Julie Hedgepeth Williams, the great-niece of Albert Caldwell, who survived the Titanic along with his wife and 10-month-old son, it tells the complex story of the Caldwell family, missionaries on the run from Siam (now Thailand). Suzanne La Rosa, NewSouth publisher, believes this story stands out because the author “gives voice to the drama such that the human dimensions of tragedy emerge.”
Originally published in 1998, Daniel Allen Butler’s Unsinkable: The Full Story of the RMS Titanic is being reissued (DaCapo, Mar.) in honor of the centenary of the sinking. It has been updated to include a new postscript, foreword, and revised theories on what caused the ship to sink. Editor Jonathan Crowe comments, “What’s truly exciting about this new edition is that it signifies how the story of the Titanic is far from finished—just as our fascination lingers on, so is continued research and discovery ongoing.”
Two books give readers a visual experience to the Titanic. Large and glossy, Titanic Remembered, 1912–2012 by Beau Riffenburgh (Carlton Books, Jan.) comes in its own decorative box in this new edition of the 2008 book. Memorabilia such as reproductions of first-class tickets and blueprints of the ship accompany photographs and historical information. Also included: a DVD with firsthand accounts. Due out in March from Life is Titanic: The Tragedy That Shook the World One Century Later, a coffee-table book that begins with the ship’s construction and ends with images of the remains at the bottom of the Atlantic.
Titanic in Fiction and Poetry
On the fiction front, The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott, which Doubleday published last month, combines history, romance, and politics as it follows a young maid and aspiring seamstress, Tess Collins, who survives the sinking of the Titanic, but must then deal with the dramatic aftermath. In The House of Velvet and Glass (Hyperion, Apr.), Katherine Howe tells the story of a prominent Boston family that lost two of its family members on the Titanic, and that family’s involvement with mediums in an attempt to communicate with the dead in the years leading up to WWI. Also being reissued is the Whitbread Award–winning historical novel Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge (Europa, Apr.), in which she reimagines the Titanic’s journey.
Billeh Nickerson tells the Titanic story in verse in Impact: The Titanic Poems (Arsenal Pulp, Mar.) and arranges his book into sections such as Construction, Maiden Voyage, and Discovery.
A Titanic Introduction for Children
The sinking of the Titanic has remained fascinating to generations of children, and it is no surprise that there is a wide range of Titanic titles offered to kids—picture books, middle grade, YA.
The Titanic Notebook by Claire Hancock (Insight Editions, Mar.) is an interactive book with paper pop-ups, foldouts, and a Titanic model for kids to assemble. Also interactive is the clever Titanic Sinks! by Barry Denenberg (Viking, Nov.), which mixes fact and fiction, using tabloid-style pages of a fictitious magazine to tell its character-driven story. T Is for Titanic: A Titanic Alphabet by husband-and-wife writing team Michael and Debbie Shoulders, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen (Sleeping Bear, Jan.), combines rhyming poetry, illustrations, and descriptive sidebar text.
Titanic: Voices from the Disaster (Scholastic Press, Mar.) by Deborah Hopkinson focuses on the narratives of real passengers and crew members who survived the disaster, combining them with archival photographs; it’s intended for children 8 and older.
Titanic: Disaster at Sea by Philip Wilkinson, which Capstone published last month, is a comprehensive book that “tells the whole story,” says Nick Healy, Capstone editorial director of nonfiction, “from anecdotes about the ship’s designers and builders through it’s doomed voyage to the many ways its sinking has lived in popular culture for a century.” Included is a pullout poster and foldout diagram of the ship. Also from Capstone’s Picture Window Books comes Your Life as a Cabin Attendant on the Titanic by Jessica Gunderson, with illustrations by Rachel Dougherty. It is part of The Way It Was series, which introduces readers to various aspects of daily life at different periods in history.
Middle-grade readers will get their share of Titanic books, too. Out in March from HarperCollins is Kaspar the Titanic Cat by former British children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse and more than 100 other works. Illustrated by Michael Foreman, the story follows Kasper and his 14-year-old bellboy caretaker, Johnny Trott, as they travel aboard the Titanic, having many adventures along the way.
Steve Brezenoff is the author of the Return to Titanic series (Capstone/Stone Arch Books, Feb.), which includes four books that combine history and science fiction: Time Voyage, Stowaways, An Unsinkable Ship, and Overboard. While working at a local museum over spring break, Tucker and Maya discover magic Titanic artifacts that can transport them back in time to the actual ship. They fight to change the destiny of a friend they meet aboard before it’s too late. “It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure come to life,” says Michael Dahl, editorial director of fiction for Capstone.
Bestselling YA author Claudia Gray combines romance, mystery and the supernatural in Fateful (HarperTeen, Sept.). Young Tess Davies is aboard the Titanic working for a wealthy family from whom she desperately wants to escape when she meets a mysterious first-class passenger who she soon realizes is being chased by werewolves.
In another YA title, The Watch That Ends the Night by novelist and poet Allen Wolf (Candlewick, Oct.) gives voice to a wide range of people involved in the Titanic disaster, such as a wealthy passenger and his pregnant teenage bride, the captain of the ship, the undertaker sent after the sinking, even the iceberg itself. Liz Bicknell, copublisher and editorial director at Candlewick, talks about what makes this story unique: “Even though the reader knows at the outset what will happen, Allen’s decision to frame each ‘watch’ with words from the undertaker who comes from Halifax, N.S., to collect the bodies gives the book a fresh immediacy.”
Thanks in part to the titles above, the history of the Titanic—a century later—will be kept alive in the imaginations of readers young and old.
Adult books listed in feature:
Farewell, Titanic: Her Final Legacy, Charles Pellegrino (Wiley, Mar.)
Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic, Her Passengers, and Their World, Hugh Brewster (Crown, Mar.)
A Rare Titanic Family: The Caldwells’ Story of Survival, Julie Hedgepeth Williams (NewSouth Books, Feb.)
“Unsinkable”: The Full Story of the RMS Titanic, Daniel Allen Butler (Da Capo Press, Apr.)
Every Man for Himself, Beryl Bainbridge (Europa, Apr.)
Titanic Remembered 1912–2012, Beau Riffenburgh (Carlton Books; Sterling, dist.; Jan.)
Titanic: The Tragedy That Shook the World One Century Later, the Editors of Life (Time Home Entertainment, Mar.)
The Dressmaker, Kate Alcott (Doubleday, Feb.)
The House of Velvet and Glass, Katherine Howe (Hyperion, Apr.)
Impact: The Titanic Poems, Billeh Nickerson (Arsenal Pulp Press, Mar.)
Children’s Books The Titanic Notebook: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Ship, Claire Hancock (Insight Editions, Mar.)
Titanic Sinks! Experience the Titanic’s Doomed Voyage in This Unique Presentation of Fact and Fiction, Barry Denenberg (Viking, November)
T Is for Titanic: A Titanic Alphabet, Debbie and Michael Shoulders, illus. by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen (Sleeping Bear Press, Jan.)
Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, Deborah Hopkinson (Scholastic Press, Mar.)
Titanic: Disaster at Sea, Philip Wilkinson (Capstone Press, Feb.)
Your Life as a Cabin Attendant on the Titanic, Jessica Gunderson, illus. by Rachel Dougherty (Capstone/Picture Window Books, Jan.)
Kaspar the Titanic Cat, Michael Morpurgo, illus. by Michael Foreman (HarperCollins, Mar.)
Time Voyage, Stowaways, An Unsinkable Ship, Overboard—The Return to Titanic Series, by Steve Brezenoff, illus.by Scott Murphy (Capstone/Stone Arch Books, Feb.)