Monday, January 2, 2012

Titanic Sinks! a review

Barry Denenberg. 2011. Titanic Sinks! New York: Viking.

Employing the recently recovered journal of a fictional journalist on board the Titanic, Barry Denenberg has seamlessly and expertly blended fact and fiction  to create a gripping re-telling of the Titanic's doomed voyage.  Titanic Sinks! is well-researched and documented with extensive use of period photos.  Timelines, menus, and more are also included in this large-sized picture book for older readers.
Titanic at the docks of Southampton
April 1912
Public domain photo
 As historical fiction, Titanic Sinks! is a phenomenally successful exercise in creating an exciting method of presenting history to young readers.  As nonfiction, Titanic Sinks! is a wealth of well-documented facts, quotes, photos, and timelines from one of modern history's worst and best-known disasters.  As a "unique presentation of fact and fiction," as stated on the book's jacket, I find Titanic Sinks! mildly troubling.  Barry Denenberg has done such a tremendous job of creating the fictional Modern Times magazine, complete with masthead, table of contents, an explanatory "Letter from the Publisher," and even editor's notes, that it will be difficult for readers (both young and old) to discern fact from fiction.  Granted, there is "A Word from the Author" in the book's final pages which explains the melding of fact and fiction, however, a reader might easily pass over the author's note, or be so convinced by the previous publisher's letter and editor's note that he is left confused and unsure of what is fact and what is fiction.

That being said, I would not discourage anyone from reading this compelling account of the Titanic's sinking.  In fact, I highly recommend it, but with a word of caution that some explanation may be in order.  Alternatively, it would make excellent subject matter for older students to learn the process of determining authenticity in a work of nonfiction.

Other reviews @
Publishers Weekly

Barry Denenberg's previous book, Lincoln Shot! is done is a similar vein. He is a prolific author of quality nonfiction and historical fiction titles.  His website offers a link to his blog Another Side, which, if you are a lover of history, you will find incredibly well-written and interesting!  It's now on my list of "must read" blogs.

It's Nonfiction Monday.  Today's roundup is at The Nonfiction Detectives.


  1. Thanks for this. Will favorite the post so I can start building my non-fiction reading list, need to be reading and talking about it WAY more than I do.

  2. Another Titanic book, yay! As I was telling Jeff in his post about the Titanic - I have just recently gone to an exhibit of the Titanic artifacts here in Singapore - it was a magical and surreal experience for my ten year old daughter as well. We prepared for the 'event' by watching the Leonardo DiCaprio film first the night before (hehehehhe) - nice blend of fact and fiction there, right? :) Will look for this book.