Nine-year-old Frankie Goldsmith was put in a lifeboat and survived the sinking of the Titanic. Alfred Rush, who turned 16 on April 14, 1912, the very day the ship grazed the iceberg, refused a seat on a lifeboat, declaring "I am a man," and was among the some 1,500 souls lost. Then there was Jack Thayer, 17, who leaped from a rail as the ship was sinking -- and made it to a lifeboat. These are among the young passengers whose stories are included in an array of books for young readers published in conjunction with the sinking of Titanic 100 years ago this weekend.
>Titanic, Voices From the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson; Scholastic Press, 275 pages, $15.99. Ages 8 to 12.
The acclaimed author of more than 40 award-winning nonfiction books for children offers a beautifully succinct, well-researched, lucidly written account of the disaster, effectively weaving in the accounts of young survivors, among them stewardess Violet Jessop and science teacher Lawrence Beesley. Hopkinson's book is a page-turner, as she dramatically re-creates the fateful moments of chaos as scarce lifeboats were loaded and fateful decisions determined who would live and who would die. Her book is amply illustrated with diagrams of the ship, reproductions of the telegrams from other ships warning of ice, maps, charts, photos, news clippings and informative profiles of passengers.
>The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic, a novel by Allan Wolf; Candlewick Press, 456 pages. $21.99.
Perhaps it takes a poet to re-create, a century later, the epic proportions of the tragedy. Wolf uses verse to give voice to two dozen passengers and crew -- such well-known players in the drama as millionaire John Jacob Astor, Capt. E.J. Smith, White Star Line President Bruce Ismay, ship designer Thomas Andrews and telegraph operator Harold Bride, to lesser-knowns including 14-year-old Lebanese immigrant Jamila Nicola Yarred, ship's baker Charles Joughin (who miraculously would survive two hours in the icy ocean) and undertaker John Snow, tasked by the White Star Line with recovering and identifying the hundreds of floating corpses. The Titanic was a celebration of all things modern and invincible, as Harold Bride celebrates the miracle of the wireless, with some ominous foreshadowing: "We can harvest the humanity from the air. We transform it into words on paper ... We will be Titanic's only ears ... Titanic's only voice." An interesting blend of imagination and fact, Wolf conjures up a flirtation between Jamila and Alfred Rush, gives voice to the ship's rats and most effectively endows the iceberg with malignant intent. "I am the ice. I watched Titanic's birth. I saw the mighty iron keel laid down ... As she grew, I passed down Davis Strait. I knew what course the Iceberg had to take: southward toward the ship, the ice goes forth. Titanic is my compass needle's North." Among the interesting notes in Wolf's afterword is that Frankie Goldsmith settled with his mother in Detroit near Navin Field, but the roar of the crowd at Tigers games would forever remind him of the sound of Titanic passengers dying in the water.
>Kaspar the Titanic Cat by Michael Morpurgo; illustrated by Michael Foreman; HarperCollins, 208 pages, $16.99. Ages 8 to 12.
The author of "War Horse" and other animal tales for children uses London's Savoy Hotel as his inspiration for this colorful, if preposterous, tale, weaving fact and fiction, of an orphaned 14-year-old hotel bellboy who is befriended by opera diva Countess Kandinsky; becomes the caretaker of her cat, Kaspar; rescues the tomboy daughter of a wealthy family from the roof of the hotel and eventually ends up a stowaway aboard Titanic.
>Dangerous Waters: An Adventure on Titanic by Gregory Mone; Roaring Book Press/Macmillan; 240 pages, $15.99. Ages 9 to 12.
Mone, a contributing editor to Popular Science magazine and a graduate of Harvard, offers vivid detail about life for the working stiffs shoveling the coal and carting around the spittoons aboard the Titanic in this adventure yarn about a conspiracy to steal a rare edition of Sir Francis Bacon's "Essaies" from an actual Titanic passenger, wealthy 27-year-old rare book collector Harry Widener (for whom the Harvard library is named). Both Widener and his newly purchased Bacon were casualties when Titanic sank.
>Titanic Sinks! by Barry Denenberg; Viking, $17.99. Ages 9 and up.
Fact and fiction are woven together in a misleading way in this dubious treatment of the disaster. While the striking format includes dramatic photos of Titanic (including one from below as a lifeboat is launched), true accounts from survivors, a timeline of the disaster and other valuable factual material, the book is presented as a "special edition of Modern Times Magazine" with reporting from "our chief correspondent S.F. Vanni," whose waterlogged but salvageable journal about the voyage was, we are told, recovered from his corpse in a lifeboat and "this is the first time it has appeared." Magazine and reporter are both fiction; it's hard to see why a story that is inherently so fascinating should be presented to children this way. (Denenberg took the same approach in "Lincoln Shot!")
>Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic: The Ocean's Greatest Disaster by Marshall Everett; HarperDesign, $24.99.
This handsome volume with gold-foil stamped pages and worn clothlike cover replicates the look of the book that was published within months of the sinking of the Titanic. The turgid prose is a rough slog but offers a fascinating look at the immediate reaction to the disaster.
>T Is for Titanic: A Titanic Alphabet by Debbie and Michael Shoulders, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen; Sleeping Bear Press, $17.95 (ages 6 to 10).
An alphabet book makes for a garbled format to tell the Titanic story ("X marks the spot where Titanic sank" is one of several odd examples), but this nicely illustrated book does include informative copy blocks detailing the ship's construction along with colorful anecdotes and profiles of interesting passengers, including Millvina Dean, the 9-week-old baby who survived the disaster (and died at 97 in 2009), and Father Francis Browne, who took photos aboard Titanic and left the ship at Queenstown, Ireland. His valuable photo negatives were stored in a trunk and not found until 1986.