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Friday, November 18, 2011

Dear America Titanic Story Familiar, But Still Entertaining

(Image from Barnes & Noble)
When Margaret Ann Brady's older brother sails to America, leaving her in a London orphanage, she's devastated. Well-cared for certainly, but lonely for the only person in the world she can truly call family. The 13-year-old has been in the orphanage for five years when, in March of 1912, a golden opportunity falls in her lap: A wealthy American woman who will soon be traveling home is in need of a companion to help her on the trip. Margaret's only a little reluctant to leave England. Mostly, she's thrilled for the chance to earn some money, live in America and, of course, be reunited with her brother. The fact that she'll be aboard the R.M.S. Titanic, the most glorious ship ever built, is just frosting on the cake.

Margaret's amazed by the enormous ocean liner and amused by the wealthy toffs who inhabit the Titanic's First Class staterooms. Her employer, Mrs. Carstairs, is just as ridiculous as the rest, but at least she gives Margaret plenty of time to herself. Margaret spends those hours exploring the ship; visiting with Robert, a 16-year-old cabin steward from Liverpool; and writing all about her adventures in her diary.

Just when Margaret's getting used to all the luxuries of the great ship, the unthinkable happens: the Titanic hits an iceberg. Suddenly what was supposed to be an exciting pleasure ride turns into a desperate struggle for survival. Margaret's caught in the thick of it. As everyone fights to save themselves, she experiences firsthand the fear, the horror, and the heroism that occurred on the fateful night of April 14, 1912.
With the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic coming up, a slew of books on the subject are being released. First published in 1998, Dear America: The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady: Voyage on the Great Titanic by Ellen Emerson White, was recently re-issued as part of Scholastic's effort to update its popular historical fiction series. Like the other books in the series, this one is written in diary entries which use well-known facts to provide an eye-witness account of a famous happening. Although Margaret Ann Brady never lived, breathed, or traveled on the Titanic, she represents the children who did - her "thoughts" allow readers to put themselves into the shoes of the people who really did sail on the great, "unsinkable" ship.

So much has been written about the Titanic tragedy that creating an original account of it may be impossibile. Indeed, this one tells a familiar tale, one that didn't add any new information to my collection of Titanic lore. Still, it's an exciting story, told in an engaging manner. Margaret's a plucky heroine, funny and brave, who will capture readers' interest with her playful mischeviousness. Her dual place in the working class and First Class worlds of the Titanic make her universally appealing. Her story moves quickly, keeping readers entertained with action, adventure, humor, even a little romance. It wasn't enough to completely blow me away, but I enjoyed this ride on the Titanic - especially since I experienced the voyage in my recliner, safe at home in 2011.

(Readalikes: I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 by Lauren Tarshis and the Titanic trilogy by Gordon Korman [Unsinkable; Collision Course; S.O.S.]; also, the Dear America series reminds me of the American Girl historical novels)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Dear America: Voyage on the Great Titanic from the generous folks at Scholastic. Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. When I read Dear America all those years ago, I distinctly remember this one being my favorite out of the series!


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