Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Day the World Exploded

Zimmerman, Dwight Jon. 2008. The day the world exploded: The earthshaking catastrophe at Krakatoa. New York: Collins.

The Day the World Exploded is an adaptation for children of Simon Winchester’s, Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883. Although adapted for children, it is definitely for older kids, or children fascinated with the topic. The topic, surprisingly, is much broader than one would think. Trained as a reporter, Winchester pulls together all of the pieces that led to the literally earthshaking explosion that was heard over 3,000 miles away! More than just the story of the earthquake, Winchester places the story in its historical, political, scientific, and geographic proportion. The reader truly absorbs the impact of the explosion and resulting tsunamis when confronted by the science of the day (plate tectonics was a science in its infancy at the time of the eruption), the politics of colonialism (the Dutch East Indies Company was the world’s economic powerhouse at the time), the famous inventors integral to the story (Samuel Morse’s telegraph was invented and underground cables installed just in time to make Krakatoa’s eruption the first truly global event), and the enormity of the catastrophe (months after the explosion, New York fire fighters rushed to what they thought was a massive fire, only to find a blood red sky caused by volcanic ash that had drifted westward).

Extensive illustrations of all types accompany the story, period photos, recent photos of other volcanic activity, period etchings, graphic illustrations, maps and more. “News Briefs” are in the sidebar of many pages, “The crew of the British ship Bay of Naples claimed that when the ship was 120 miles from Java it encountered carcasses of numerous animals, including tigers, and about 150 human corpses as well as enormous tree trunks.” More lighthearted information is included also, including the story of a circus elephant that spent the night of the eruption in a posh Javanese hotel.

A beautiful book for historians and aficionados of natural disasters. The explosion of Krakatoa was truly the world’s first global natural disaster, highlighting the integral nature of nature.

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