Adele has been a youth services librarian in public libraries for 20 years.
Learn About the World Through the Titanic
The name "Titanic" is one of the most widely recognized words in the world along with "Coca-Cola." The Titanic storys drama makes it appealing to children, and so many elements of the story lend themselves to further exploration and study.
In this site, I've gathered the best of the web--sites which explain how guide children in lively activities grounded in science, math, history, language, art, communication, and many others.
I've also included my own personal reviews of the best Titanic books I've come across in my years as a librarian--both fiction and non-fiction. Non-fiction has come a long way from the early days. Instead of dry books that read like textbooks, you can find pop-up books, comic-book style formats, and books in which the readers get to choose the ending.
I'm a Titanic buff who finds her story fascinating. It is my hope that this site will help your own young Titanic enthusiasts learn more about the ship and the world she inhabited.
New! What Was the Titanic? by Stephanie Sabol
What Was the Titanic? is a part of the wildly successful "What Was...?" series, and after I read it, I could see why it is so appealing to kids. First of all, it's easy to read because the text is large and there is quite a bit of space between the lines. The writing is also broken into manageable chunks , with black and white line drawings on almost every page. But, I think that will really make this book successful with children is that it uses a bit of suspense to introduce the story and it includes lots of interesting facts that bring the experience alive for the readers.
At the beginning, author Stephanie Sabol Briefly describes life on the ship and then gets right to the moment when the lookouts telephone the bridge and shout "Iceberg, right ahead!" First Officer William Murdoch, who only had thirty-seven seconds to respond, gave the order to stop the ship's engines and put them in reverse. "Would the Titanic avoid the iceberg?" Sabol asks. "Or was it too late?"
Now that she has the readers hooked, she goes back and fills in some of the history of ocean liners and of the Titanic itself. I've read quite a number of books on the Titanic, but she still found some details that I didn't know. Here's a list of some of the more interesting things I learned from reading this book:
- Ships with sails took several weeks, or even several months to cross the Atlantic. Steam ships cut that time to ten to fourteen days.
- Ocean liners were so called because they traveled the same route, or the same "line" over and over.
- The Titanic carried a tremendously valuable book, a copy of The Rubaiyat whose cover was encrusted with over a thousand jewels including rubies, amethysts, and emeralds.
- Another cargo item was 76 cases of a red dye which was called "dragon's blood."
- There were so many cooks employed that there were some who specialized in one thing, like fish dishes, or soups.
- Titanic's third class passengers had dining halls with meals prepared. On most ocean liners, the people in third class were expected to bring their own food and cook it themselves.
The book goes into a fair amount of detail about how the Titanic was built, moves into a description of daily life on the ship and then relates the warnings, the collision with the iceberg, the sinking, and the rescue. I think one of the strengths of this book is that it offers better explanations of why things happened. For instance, when she tells us that Murdoch ordered the ship turned, she explains "…making a gigantic ocean liner turn is very hard. It can't swerve to avoid an accident like a car can." We begin to understand how the ship hit an iceberg that the crew knew was there.
She also explains how the lack of lifeboats wasn't as big a blunder as it seems to us in hindsight. It turns out that most ship owners thought that other ships would be close by if there was an emergency, and the lifeboats would be used to ferry the passengers from one ship to the other. She tells us "No one imagined a situation in which everyone would need to be evacuated on lifeboats, all at the same time."
The book also contains several pages of black and white photos that you usually see in books on the Titanic: a picture of the ship on the ocean, a dining room, a newspaper boy with a banner headline from the newspaper, Molly Brown presenting a cup to the captain who rescued them.
There are just a couple of things I would quibble with in terms of the facts. She says that the Marconi operators' most important job was keeping the ship safe, but I've read that the telegraph was thought of as mostly a convenience for the rich passengers. That is why the operators didn't deliver every ice warning to the bridge, choosing to work on a backlog of messages for the passengers. They weren't even required to operate 24/7, and thus, missed some warnings, as well. And, she states that the ship's owner, Bruce Ismay was ruined. His reputation may have been in tatters with the general public, but his immediate social circle seemed to have the attitude that these things sometimes happen and he was accepted among them.
Still, all in all, it's a good, engaging book, and would make a fine first book to introduce a child to the story of the Titanic.
New! The Titanic (Blast Back) by Nancy Ohlin
The Titanic (Blast Back) by Nancy Ohlin
The main thing I noticed when I picked up this new book, The Titanic by Nancy Ohlin is that about half of the space is taken up by cartoon-style black and white illustrations. You can see an example in the picture below. It’s an interesting development in nonfiction books and is probably inspired by the success of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and other similar books.
I think it’s a positive development. Struggling readers will appreciate that the text is broken into shorter chunks, and even advanced readers will like having the illustrations they can refer to.
The cartoons are fairly whimsical and have the feel of the early 20th century, though they aren’t necessarily humorous.
The format is like a chapter book, another plus for reluctant readers who don’t want to be seen as carrying a “baby book” around. At the same time, the reading level is around a 6th-grade AR level, so it does have some challenging vocabulary which young readers will probably pick up from context, words like “transatlantic,” “luxurious,” and “competitors.”
The book has a pretty straightforward and readable account of the Titanic’s voyage and sinking. It differs from other accounts for children in that it starts with a brief history of ocean liners, explaining why they were important and how the transatlantic industry evolved. Throughout the book, the author includes sidebars with all sorts of interesting tidbits. We learn that the ship carried 40,000 eggs and 36,000 oranges. One thing I hadn’t realized is how much coal it took to power the ship. Every day, men had to shovel coal into 162 furnaces to the tune of 600 tons per day.
All in all, this is an engaging book that hits all the narrative high points of the story and will be a fast read for Titanic aficionados.
Illustrations from The Titanic
If You Were a Kid Aboard the Titanic
This little account of two children’s adventures on the Titanic is laid out like a small picture book, albeit with a little more text than you see in the average picture book. It almost reads like historical fiction as it follows two fictional children: Alice Carver, a girl traveling in third class; and William Alexander II, a boy traveling in first class.
The story focuses on the differences between 1st and 3rd class and how Alice gets a chance to explore the ship because William accompanies her to the first class areas she wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. On the night when the ship strikes the iceberg, William comes to guide Alice and her mother to safety.
I’d say this is a book for young children, maybe ages 4-6, who are interested in the Titanic. It has nice illustrations and interesting little sidebars, but it’s pretty light on details of the story. It’s also kind of baffling that the publisher’s chose to invent two children to put on the Titanic. Perhaps there is not enough history about any of the children to flesh out a story. It also strains credulity that Alice wouldn’t be noticed as a third-class passenger if she accompanied William. Surely her clothes would tip off the adults around her.
Still, it does serve as an accessible introduction to the story for young children. It includes a timeline, a map, a glossary, and an index, so I can see how it would be useful for a teacher who is leading a unit on how to use nonfiction books. It also includes information about accessing a website for more information.
A Titanic Picture History from Scholastic
Scholastic Discover More: Titanic is subtitled “A picture history of the shipwreck that shocked the world,” and “picture history” is the key phrase here. Every page includes lots of photos, and I counted 18 double-page spreads that show everything from the building of the ship to the detail of the first-class cabins to family photos of passengers aboard the ship. The most impressive photos are the ones that show the huge scale and size of the ship; grown men look small when you see them standing next to the boilers or propellers of the massive Titanic. Some of the photos appear to have been colorized a bit, a detail which will likely annoy authenticity hounds but probably make the photos more relatable to children reading it in the 21st century.
The infographics are noteworthy as well. (I recently saw a book in the library that stated it contained the “Best Infographics of the Year and picked it up because I was curious to see why they would print what I thought would be a boring book. I spent the rest of the night poring over the fascinating information in it and realized what an art it was to be able to convey so much information with a graphic.) Using these visuals, the book goes into all sorts of fascinating side notes that touch on the history of the Titanic. On pages 20 & 21 we see a comparison of the transatlantic rival ship companies: White Star Line (the company that launched Titanic) and its main competitor, the Cunard Liner. On pages 24 & 25 we see graphs and photos which explain the state of immigration into America in the early 1900’s. Other topics include how icebergs form and travel, what a millionaire lifestyle was like, how much cargo the Titanic took on and myriad other topics. I believe teachers would especially like this book for all the detail it gives and the springboards it would provide for looking into topics of science and social studies.
I have read dozens of books on the Titanic, and I still learned new things from this book. It also created an overall organizing structure that helped me keep track of the facts I knew.
This title would be an excellent gift book for children who are drawn to the story of the Titanic. They can dip into topics that interest them, read the short blocks of text (which would make this a great book for reluctant readers) and learn through the photos and graphics.
The book also comes with a code that will let you download an e-book about 5 people who survived the Titanic disaster: Harold Bride, Bruce Ismay, Violet Jessop, Lawrence Beesley, and Edith Rosenbaum. The book is an interesting aside, though the writing style seems to have a little forced zippiness, and I sometimes wondered if it was wandering more into historical fiction since the conversations were rendered so specifically. (And, a little peeve of mine, the writer refers to the people by their first names. Mr. Ismay becomes “Bruce” which seems a bit informal.) Still, it was fascinating to follow Bruce Ismay on the night of the wreck and learn what Captain Smith had told him.
The e-book includes mention of several nautical terms and devices and provides clickable links so that children can see what they looked liked and read about how they worked. I had never known that ships had “inclinometers” before I read this book. Now, I know what one looks like and that it shows which way the ship is leaning. The e-book is a nice little add-on, even if it has some flaws.
I have to say that I liked this book even more than the DK Eyewitness book. If you plan to buy only one book about the Titanic, this book would be a good choice.
New! A 12-Year-Old Girl Escaping Titanic
As far as I can see, the main reason to get Escaping Titanic: A Young Girl's True Story of Survival is for the illustrations. Kory S. Heinzen’s cartoon-style illustrations are full-page interpretations of the dark night the Titanic sank. The artists uses dramatic lighting and big, expressive eyes on the people to show the emotions of the night. Some people think the cartoon style is a jarring contrast to the gravity of the story, but I think children are used to dramatic stories being told with something that looks almost like movie graphics, and I think the illustrations will serve to draw them in.
The story follows the plight of 12-year-old Ruth Becker who grew up in India with a missionary family. The author works to include evocative detail in her work. I especially like her description of the Titanic on a cold North Sea night, “Frost crystals whiskered the rails.”
Still, the writing seems a little distant, maybe mostly because she recounts the story rather than creating much character or dialogue. Perhaps she felt constrained to stick to “just the facts” since this is classified as nonfiction, rather than historical fiction.
There is a bit of a tense time when Ruth is mistakenly left aboard the ship when the rest of her family is in a lifeboat. But, she manages to get on the next lifeboat and eventually reunites with her family on the Carpathia.
All in all, it’s a good enough story and the price for the paperback is not too high. If you have a child who has read everything else on the Titanic and wants more, this is worth getting. Otherwise, go with the Eyewitness or Scholastic title. They include so much more about all aspects of the ship and the wreck.
Your Life as a Cabin Attendant on the Titanic
AR 3.8; Interest Level: Grades 2-5; Nonfiction
Your Life as a Cabin Attendant on the Titanic successfully blends immediacy and a fairly easy reading level, by directly addressing the reader. The first page shows the director of a play saying "Congratulations! You'll be playing the role of Mary Thomas in our play 'Life on Titanic'." Turn to the next page, and we see a lively illustration of the staff and crew boarding the Titanic. The person we are playing, Mary Thomas, is all decked out in early 20th costume and starting her job as a steward.
The director keeps feeding us information, little tidbits that I haven't seen in any other children's books. We learn that there were only 18 female stewards on the ship because sailors were superstitious and thought women were bad luck. Through Mary's eyes, we take a tour of the ship and learn that all of the furniture is bolted down. We continue with her through the whole adventure from the collision with the iceberg to the sinking and the lifeboats. Fortunately, Mary is one of the people who survive.
Though this book is a bit pricey in hardback, I just love its presentation. It's easy to read, lively, and brief, but manages to convey quite a bit of information. And--it features a girl, something that's not always easy to find in the world of Titanic books.
Best Fiction Chapter Books for Kids
- Best Titanic Chapter Books for Kids
Here you will find the best fiction stories based on an event that continues to fascinate young readers--the sinking of the Titanic. It's has enough elements to challenge fact hounds, and enough drama to satisfy those who just like a good story. ..
For the Youngest Fans: T is for Titanic
T is for Titanic: A Titanic Alphabet uses the alphabet book format to introduce the story of the Titanic.The illustrations are beautiful and will keep the attention of the little ones, while older kids will delve into the information provided in the text.
This is one of the best guides for very young children, with activities that go along with the picture book T is for Titanic. The 17-pg guide includes activities on common nouns and proper nouns, objects that sink and float, writing postcards, creating advertisements, and card-matching. There are lots of printable activity sheets that you can just print and go with.
Popular Magic Tree House Research Guide
This non-fiction companion to the popular Magic Tree House book Tonight on the Titanic goes into more detail about the ship, the passengers, life on the Titanic, the iceberg, the sinking, the rescue, lessons learned, and the search for the sunken Titanic.
Magic Tree House Nonfiction
With its small format (roughly the size of its companion fiction book), this book is probably the most affordable and the easiest to read aloud of all the nonfiction books written for children about the Titanic.
The prose style is simple and descriptive, and black-and-white drawings and photographs are included on every page. Children can peruse a labeled drawing of the Titanic, photos of the passengers, and simple maps and illustrations depicting with the crash must have looked like.
The book does a good job of explaining things that would be of special interest to children, for example the kind of food served on the Titanic, and the kind of activities that kids could find on board.
Though this book does not have the splash of other nonfiction with colored pages and zippy chapter headings, it packs a good deal of information into a very readable format.
End matter includes research tips, a bibliography, videos and websites, and an index.
Teacher Guide for Magic Tree House Titanic Book
This is the website companion to the popular Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne. Here you will find 10 activities suitable for younger elementary students. The activities, which are short and mostly hands-on, have children doing things such as talking with their parents about inflation or writing messages in Morse code.
Eye-Catching and Innovative Books
Here you'll find the books that kids love to browse. They include books with pop-ups, replicas, flaps to lift, and nifty visual styles. They make great gifts for the young Titanic buffs in your life.
Photos, Recreations, and a 3-D CD
Essentially a coffee table book for children, this book features over 100 black and white photos as well as 12 color re-creations of various areas of the Titanic. The layout is attractive, and the text supplements the photos and adds interesting tidbits.
The illustrations in Explore Titanic: Breathtaking New Pictures feature all of the items that you would expect: the large propellers, the Grand Central Staircase, the first-class dining saloon, and the requisite foldout spread showing the exterior of the Titanic. The readers will also see some more unusual items: the tickets which the White Star Line sold to people who wanted to watch the launch, the desk lamps that were specially designed to stay level, the decorated first-class teacups, and reproductions of postcards and diaries of the passengers.
All in all, it is an enjoyable book for Titanic fans to peruse.
The book also comes with a CD which gives a 3-D "tour" of the ship. The tour has the look of the setting of a videogame. Users can choose different areas of the Titanic and rotate the view from left to right, as well as up and down. Areas pictured include The Grand Central Staircase, the swimming pool, the wheelhouse, the second-class promenade, and the first-class dining saloon. The scenes can give children a sense of the opulence and vastness of the ship.
However, most of the scenes are from the deck, and viewers aren't offered any views first-class cabins, the library, or the famed exercise room with its mechanical camels. The biggest drawback to the CD is that scenes are not labeled. Users will need to refer to the book if they don't recognize the scene.
Comic Book Style
One of the Graphic Library series, this book uses the illustration style of comic books, (1 to 3 frames per page).
Sinking of the Titanic
For 2nd – 5th grade
The illustrations, dialogue, and text in Sinking of the Titanic highlight the drama of the night the Titanic sank. Though the text is sparse, it manages to convey a fair amount of information about what happened that night.
The end matter includes more facts about the Titanic, a glossary, Internet sites, and bibliographies. At 32 pages, this brief introduction to the Titanic disaster will appeal to fans of graphic novels.
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit
The museum show Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit includes a replica of the Titanic's Grand Staircase. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
- Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
If Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit, is near you, it is well worth the trip to go and see it. The designers of the exhibit have cleverly used visual displays, sound, and even touch (a frozen “iceberg”) to make the experience come alive.
For 3rd-5th grade
This brief nonfiction book, which is written like a novel, caters to the child who likes to be in control of the story. Following the format of the popular "Choose Your Own Adventure" series, this book lets the reader make decisions at key points which will affect the outcome of the story.
Can You Survive the Titanic?
In Can You Survive the Titanic?, you can choose whether to be part of the crew as a surgeon's assistant, a governess to a wealthy first-class family, or a 12-year-old boy traveling with your father to New York. After you decide, you are given a page number which will tell you how your decision turned out.
Since there are so many possible scenarios, each story turns out to be rather brief and matter-of-fact. Character depth is almost nonexistent, but the fun of this kind of book is not in the characters, but in finding out how different decisions affect the outcome of your story.
It's a book geared to reluctant readers, with short sentences and a good amount of space between lines of text.
The Titanic Disaster
This brief book is appealingly arranged with large text, lots of chapter and section headings, and a good mix of illustrations and text.
It covers all the major topics associated with the Titanic disaster: the opulence of the ship, the contrast between rich and poor passengers on board, the collision, the rescue, the investigation, and the search for the sunken Titanic.
The book makes use of a large number of photos, illustrations, and charts, reproduced big enough so that readers can easily see detail. There are interesting sections covering motivations of the shipping company, the band that played on through the disaster, how the ship broke apart, memorials, and plays and films based on the disaster.
The resources section at the end includes bibliographies, websites, places to visit, a glossary and an index.
How Titanic Sank: New CGI
This video, put out by National Geographic, uses CGI to show how the Titanic sank.
Smithsonian Article Has New Theory
- Did the Titanic Sink Because of An Optical Illusion?
The March 2012 issue of The Smithsonian was dedicated to the Titanic and included this article. Perhaps an optical illusion was in effect when the Titanic signaled distress, and a nearby ship didn't realize how dire the situation was.
A Blend of Fact and Fiction
What the author has done is to take factual information from the history of the sinking of the Titanic and put it into fictional forms--mock journals , interviews, and newspaper articles.
What the author has done in Titanic Sinks! is to take factual information from the history of the sinking of the Titanic and put it into fiction forms: mock journals, interviews, and newspaper articles.
It's an appealing layout, giving a sense of the time period. Most appealing are the numerous large-format photos. Here we see two-page spreads of photos of the steamship, a flyer which features photos of the ship's orchestra, and a picture of the two little Navratil boys who were kidnapped by their father and survived the Titanic when they were only two and three years old.
A very nice book which will be treasured by young fans of the Titanic story.
Each of the double-page spreads in DK Eyewitness Books: Titanic covers a different topic. We learn fascinating facts about how the Titanic was built, what travelling was like, and what transpired on the night the Titanic sank. Every page has lots of high-quality photos.
As children flip through the pages, they can see the usual photos of the Titanic steamship and of the passenger and members of the crew that became famous. But they can also see some of the photos that aren't often shown: the "mechanical camel" used for exercise in the gymnasium, the playing cards with the White Star Line logo, the medal which was presented to the man who captained of the Carpathia (the rescue ship), the menus for the Titanic's meals, and a range of other images.
A Nonfiction Book That Reads Like a Novel
This book reads like a novel and is also a good book for the child that needs to have a book of over 100 pages for a school report.
Make Your Own Puzzles and Bingo for the Kids
These sites are free game generators. If you'd like to supplement your unit with puzzles you make yourself, these sites make it easy.
- Discovery Education Free Puzzlemaker
Make your own puzzles using words and quotes from the Titanic. You can to traditional word searches, cryptograms, crosswords and all kinds of variations using this free puzzle generator.
- Bingo Generator
Bingo provides a fun way to review words and concepts. This site enables you to enter whichever words you would like to highlight. You can choose 3 X 3 cards or 5 X 5 cards. You can randomly generate several cards so that all your students’ cards wil
These books are either out-of-print or only available in fairly expensive library editions, so I didn't provide clickable links for them. However, if some of them intrigue you, you can often find them available through the used market.
Truth and Rumors: Titanic
This lively book addresses several widely held beliefs about the Titanic, examines the evidence and comes up with a verdict. The questions include:
-Did Titanic's owners claim the ship was unsinkable?
-Was the Titanic in a rush?
-Was the Titanic disaster predicted before 1912?
(In case you can't read on without knowing the answers, they are: maybe, no, no.)
The format is appealing, with lots of photos and graphics. It would serve as a good example of critical thinking, and would be best for a child who is already familiar with the general story of the sinking of the Titanic.
Nightmare on the Titanic
The outstanding features of this book are the photographs and artworks which occupy 1/2 to 2/3 of each page. Thumbing through the pages, a reader can see a photograph of the Titanic's huge propeller, the elegant library, the telegraph room, and one of the lifeboats with the occupants rowing towards the Carpathia.
There are also several illustrations that fill in the scenes that were never captured on camera: the passengers’ scramble to get on board a lifeboat, and the sinking of the Titanic.
This book covers the collision with the iceberg, construction of the ship, calls for help, loading the lifeboats, how the Titanic sank, the rescue of passengers, and the search for the wrecked ship.
The layout is attractive, with large headlines, and one to two brief paragraphs per page. This is a good book for a reader who likes to explore photographs and drawings and requires short chunks of information with large text.
Includes photos and interesting facts about the captain, crew members, and Molly Brown. Includes glossary and bibliography.
The Sinking of the Titanic
The author starts with a dinner between Bruce Ismay, chairman of the steamship company the White Star Line and Lord William Pirrie, head of one of the largest shipyards in Ireland. The two hatched a plan to win back business from the Cunard company which had just launched two new ships.
They came up with a trio of gargantuan luxury ships: the Olympic, the Gigantic, and – of course – the Titanic. The author points out the irony of the two men choosing terms from Greek mythology, but apparently not giving much thought to the Greek concept of hubris, overweening pride that leads to a great fall.
Though the text is smaller and denser than other children's books, the author maintains the narrative tension all through the story and goes into more detail about what happened and why. There are occasional FYI segments, that discuss related topics such as the development of wireless telegraphy, the search for Titanic underwater, and an alternate theory as to why the Titanic sank.
Iceberg, Right Ahead!
The main portion of the book covers typical elements of the story: the building, the ice warnings, the evacuation of passengers (and lack thereof), the sinking, the subsequent inquests, and the discovery of the sunken Titanic in 1986.
But it is the sidebars that expand and illuminate the story and make this book unique. They include stories of passengers such as Violet Jessop, a woman who survived not just the Titanic shipwreck, but two others as well. There is also a nice piece on wireless operator Harold Bride.
The book also briefly covers controversies over the number of life boats, how third class was treated during the disaster, and whether Charles Lightoller withheld some of the truth when he testified before the Senate committee.
A brief, but fully fascinating book for children.
The author starts the story with a bang, beginning with the experience of Jack Thayer, a 17-year-old who was actually pulled underwater when the Titanic sank. He fought his way to the surfaceand survived the disaster clinging to an overturned lifeboat.
Then Vander Hook backtracks to explaining how the book was made, the passengers on board the ship, what everyday life was like on the ship, the collision with the iceberg, the rescue, and the search for the sunken Titanic.
The author includes several quotes and interesting sidebars on topics such as wireless communication, the ongoing fire that burned in the Titanic's coal room, and how experienced sailors can actually smell icebergs in the area.
New Guestbook Comments
Charito Maranan-Montecillo from Manila, Philippines on March 09, 2014:
Ever since the "Titanic" hit the cinemas in 1997, my son and I have become interested in its history. We bought books and my son even bought the model from the hobby shop.
Adele Jeunette (author) on May 30, 2012:
@flycatcherrr: Thanks so much for stopiing by. I love pop-up books, too.
flycatcherrr on May 30, 2012:
It's hard to resist anything Titanic, and I've got a dreadful weakness for pop-up books, only partly cured by a Phantom of the Opera pop-up with a music chip that wouldn't stop playing the theme music, ever! (I had to wrap the book in several old blankets and stash it in the guestroom closet until it's little battery died and the high-pitched electronic tune finally ceased, which took a good few months.) But I digress... You've done a beautiful job, as only a librarian can, of introducing these children's books on the Titanic story, and helping your readers to make an informed choice. Blessed by a SquidAngel.