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author deborah hopkinson and titanic book cover Author Deborah Hopkinson (left) and the cover of her book Titanic: Voices from the Disaster. (Photos: (left) Melissa Hill, (right) Scholastic)

Voices from the Past

Author revisits Titanic disaster through passengers' stories

By Claudia Pagnozzi-Schwam | March 30 , 2012

There have been many shipwrecks throughout history, but there has always been a particular fascination with the Titanic. Deborah Hopkinson, author of Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, explains that the Titanic stands out for several reasons.

"The ship itself was really seen as the pinnacle of success and luxury at the time," Hopkinson says. "It cut across so many socioeconomic groups of people. There were very famous people on board who died. John Jacob Astor was one of the most prominent and well known millionaires in the United States, so it got a lot of media attention for that reason."

The disaster also came as a surprise since it was a clear, beautiful night when it happened.

April 15, 2012, marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Several children's books are currently being published on this subject. What sets Hopkinson's book apart from the rest is that it is an entirely non-fiction account of the disaster.

Deborah has written many historically-based children's books. She explains that the Titanic disaster was such an important event in the 20th century, that she wanted to "tell it in a way where it included the voices of the people that were there."

The book allows readers to feel as if they actually know the passengers. It's filled with many personal stories, but the one which stood out most to Hopkinson was that of the Collyer family.

The Collyer family included a mother, father, and an eight-year-old daughter who sold everything they had in hope of a better life in Idaho. After hitting the iceberg, both mother and child were forced into lifeboats, leaving Mr. Collyer behind. There is an actual post card that Mrs. Collyer sent to her mother-in-law after the disaster, telling her that her son had died.

"It's so painful, you just know how distraught she was," Hopkinson said.
The author worked on Titanic: Voices from the Disaster for approximately a year and a half. She conducted research from a variety of sources including other books, online research, as well as listening to interviews done in the 1930s. She also reviewed the testimony from the British and American investigation committee.

The book also includes a variety of pictures and drawings. Some are from Father Frank Browne who was a passenger on the Titanic for the first 24 hours and then got off in Queenstown. The Library of Congress also had photos which the author used.

Deborah has had a passion for writing since the 4th grade. She has a strong love for history and adventure, which she hopes to share with her readers. Her desire is that they will explore the back of the book, which contains additional information about the passengers and details about the shipwreck.

"A lot of people think that history is boring, but the Titanic shows it can be very exciting."

Check out Kid Reporter Claudia Pagnozzi-Schwam's review of Titanic: Voices from the Disaster!


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