Deborah Hopkinson

Award Winning Author of Fiction & Nonfiction for Children & Teens


Voices from the Disaster

Titanic Voices from the Disaster

What is this book about?

Sched­uled to coin­cide with the 100th anniver­sary of the trag­ic sink­ing of the Titan­ic, a top­ic that con­tin­ues to haunt and thrill read­ers to this day, this book by crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed author Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son weaves togeth­er the voic­es and sto­ries of real Titan­ic sur­vivors and wit­ness­es to the dis­as­ter — from the stew­ardess Vio­let Jes­sop to Cap­tain Arthur Ros­tron of the Carpathia, who came to the res­cue of the sink­ing ship. Packed with heart-stop­ping action, dev­as­tat­ing dra­ma, fas­ci­nat­ing his­tor­i­cal details, loads of archival pho­tographs on almost every page, and quotes from pri­ma­ry sources, this grip­ping sto­ry, which fol­lows the Titan­ic and its pas­sen­gers from the ship’s cel­e­brat­ed launch at Belfast to her cat­a­clysmic icy end, is sure to thrill and move readers.

Awards and Accolades

  • Sib­ert Hon­or Book
  • YALSA Award for Excel­lence in Non­fic­tion Finalist
  • ALA Notable Chil­dren’s Book
  • Cybils Award Finalist
  • Horn Book Fan­fare Book
  • IRA Teacher’s Choice
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Book of the Year


For Stu­dents: Find out more about the Titanic!

We’ll nev­er know the whole sto­ry of the Titan­ic. Many key play­ers in the dis­as­ter, includ­ing the cap­tain, the ship’s design­er, the chief engi­neer, and the offi­cer on the bridge at the time of the col­li­sion didn’t sur­vive to give evidence. 

There are lots of ways to learn more and come up with your own the­o­ries.  Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Read Sur­vivors’ Tes­ti­monies:  You can find the offi­cial British and Amer­i­can inquiry hear­ings on the Titan­ic Inquiry Project.
  • Dis­cuss the Titan­ic Online: The best place to find out more about the Titan­ic is the Ency­clo­pe­dia Titan­i­ca web­site.
  • Lis­ten to Real Titan­ic Voic­es: You can hear BBC radio inter­views with a pas­sen­ger and crew members:

Fourth Offi­cer Joseph Boxhall

Sec­ond Offi­cer Charles Her­bert Lightoller

Sur­vivor Eva Hart

For Teach­ers


“Hop­kin­son puts a human face on the Titan­ic’s sink­ing in this riv­et­ing non­fic­tion chron­i­cle of the ship’s col­li­sion with an ice­berg and the trag­ic after­math. She threads togeth­er the sto­ries of many pas­sen­gers and crew mem­bers, focus­ing on a hand­ful of sur­vivors that includes an Argen­tine-born stew­ardess, a ram­bunc­tious nine-year-old British boy, a sci­ence teacher from Eng­land, and an Amer­i­can teenag­er trav­el­ing with his par­ents. The author quotes these four and oth­ers freely, their voic­es form­ing a deeply inti­mate account of the tragedy. Hop­kin­son packs her thor­ough­ly researched sto­ry with a wealth of infor­ma­tion about the ship itself (this book is an invalu­able resource for stu­dents), and her por­traits of the ship­mates are ful­ly real­ized and often heart­break­ing. Chap­ters detail­ing the sink­ing, the scram­ble for lifeboats, and the har­row­ing wait for the Carpathi­a’s arrival are fast-paced and riv­et­ing. Pho­tos of the ship, the (pur­port­ed) ice­berg, telegrams sent to and from the Titan­ic, and of the sur­vivors’ res­cue add sig­nif­i­cant con­text and ampli­fy the imme­di­a­cy of the dra­ma. (Pub­lish­ers Week­ly, starred review)

“Hop­kin­son knows pre­cise­ly what’s she doing in her cov­er­age of the Titan­ic dis­as­ter: pro­vid­ing young read­ers with a basic intro­duc­tion to the event with­out over­dra­ma­tiz­ing, draw­ing unwar­rant­ed con­clu­sions, or pro­long­ing the ordeal. She begins her account as the ship embarks on its maid­en voy­age and, once it sets sail, flash­es back to cov­er its con­struc­tion and grandeur as well as some of the crew’s respon­si­bil­i­ties, which play major roles in the sink­ing of the ship and the res­cue of the pas­sen­gers. Hop­kin­son also intro­duces her “char­ac­ters,” real sur­vivors whose voic­es relay many of the sub­se­quent events. She includes crew mem­bers as well as those trav­el­ing in first, sec­ond, and third class, show­ing both the con­trasts between them as the voy­age begins and the hor­ror that binds them by night’s end. In this admirably restrained account, Hop­kin­son cov­ers, but doesn’t dwell upon, the fore­shad­ow­ing of ice­berg reports, the heart­break­ing choic­es in board­ing the (too few) lifeboats, and the agony of those dying in the freez­ing water. For inter­est­ed read­ers who want to read in more detail, Hop­kin­son includes com­pre­hen­sive chap­ter notes, a list­ing of sources, and ques­tions to get young peo­ple start­ed on their own Titan­ic quests. Archival pho­tographs, a time­line, a select­ed list of facts, short biogra­phies of those men­tioned, excerpts from select­ed sur­vivor let­ters, a glos­sary, and an unseen index com­plete this fine book.” (The Horn Book, starred review)

“As the 100th anniver­sary of the sink­ing of the Titan­ic approach­es, there is a whole new out­put of books reex­am­in­ing and updat­ing the infor­ma­tion about the tragedy. This one weaves togeth­er the mem­o­ries and writ­ing of the sur­vivors, and what makes it stand out is the inti­ma­cy read­ers feel for the crew and pas­sen­gers. The sto­ry itself hasn’t changed, but through Hopkinson’s work, young peo­ple get to know and care deeply about the peo­ple involved. Chil­dren, stew­ards, offi­cers, and pas­sen­gers from all three class des­ig­na­tions are includ­ed, and their sto­ries com­bine to recount the events of that fate­ful April night. Read­ers with even a pass­ing knowl­edge of the Titan­ic will find them­selves drawn into the dra­ma and heart­bro­ken at the inevitable end. Peri­od pho­tographs, art­work, dia­grams, and maps appear through­out to illus­trate points and help clar­i­fy events. Tra­di­tion­al­ly accept­ed details about the ship from its con­struc­tion to its lux­u­ri­ous appoint­ments, are dis­cussed, and some of the con­tro­ver­sies that have arisen since the wreck was found, but the real focus here is on the peo­ple and the nar­ra­tive. Stu­dents look­ing for real-life dra­ma will find this an absorb­ing and rich­ly sat­is­fy­ing read.” (School Library Jour­nal, starred review)

“In what’s sure to be a defin­i­tive work com­mem­o­rat­ing the 100th anniver­sary of the sink­ing of the RMS Titan­ic, Hop­kin­son offers a well-researched and fas­ci­nat­ing account of the dis­as­ter.
On Mon­day, April 15th, 1912, the mag­nif­i­cent Titan­ic sank after strik­ing an ice­berg in the North Atlantic. Of the 2,208 peo­ple on board, only 712 sur­vived. It’s a well-known sto­ry, though maybe not to young read­ers, who, if any­thing, might have seen the movie. Hop­kin­son orches­trates a wealth of mate­r­i­al here, using a third-per­son nar­ra­tive voice to tell the sto­ry while incor­po­rat­ing eye­wit­ness accounts of peo­ple on the “most lux­u­ri­ous ship the world had ever seen.” A huge num­ber of archival pho­tographs and repro­duc­tions of telegrams, maps, let­ters, illus­tra­tions, side­bars and even a din­ner menu com­ple­ment the text, yield­ing a vol­ume as inter­est­ing for brows­ing as for through-read­ing. The voic­es include a stew­ardess, a sci­ence teacher, a 9‑year-old boy, the ship’s design­er, the cap­tain and a moth­er on her way to a new life in Amer­i­ca. Best of all is the author’s spir­it: She encour­ages read­ers to think like his­to­ri­ans and won­der what it would have been like on the Titan­ic and imag­ine each char­ac­ter’s sto­ry. Fifty pages of back­mat­ter will inform and guide read­ers who want to know even more.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

Titanic Voices from the Disaster

author, Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son
Scholas­tic Press
ages 8and up, 2012
ISBN  978–0545116749

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