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This was a story unfamiliar to me. I am aware that during wartime they had the Kindertransport that took predominantly Jewish children away from parts of Europe that the Nazis were beginning to take control. There was an effort I was unaware of until this book. The CORB was an organization that took both poor and wealthy children and relocated them to Canada. From there some went to live with relatives or friends either in Canada or the United States.
The passenger ship SS City of Benares was one of these ships. There were 406 people on board this ship. This passenger ship was torpedoed and sank in 30 minutes. Only 148 people survived. This book tells the story of many of those courageous people. It shows how hope, determination and sometimes just human decency can mean everything when it comes to survival. The author has done a tremendous amount of research and her bibliography is so informational for people like me who would like to learn more. It was truly one of the best books for kids I have read on this time period. I highly recommend it.
EDGE-of-your-SEAT READ. Brilliantly written. Heiligman's research is thorough but the brilliance is in how she weaves it all together to tell this riveting story—a tragic and courageous adventure our grades 5-9 students will not forget.
Chapters 1-6 introduce the reader to the time period, the context and many of the children aboard the ship City of Benares. There were ninety traveling through a government relocation program (CORB) with adult escorts and then several others traveling with family or family-hired escorts. Their families made the hard decision to send them to the safety of Canada or the U.S., away from the German bombs falling on England. The ship is a fascinating experience for the children as they wait a few days to leave and then begin the journey. Heiligman shares plenty of enchanting details about the children's enjoyment of the ship - the games they played, the endless availability of ice cream eating and so forth. Amidst her introduction to the context of the story, Heiligman also introduces the debate over how to keep this ship with so many children safe - whether the ship should identify itself as carrying so many children or not, whether it should be escorted by war ships or not, whether it should try to move away from territory where German u-boats have sunk other ships as quickly as possible or stay with the convoy. While readers learn about the context for this voyage, they also begin to notice the danger of that period and the tension.
Chapter 7 introduces the German U-boat lurking nearby.
In Chapter 8+ narrates the ship being torpedoed and what follows. Heiligman's picks up speed and FULLY CAPTIVATES THE READER for the next 200 pages! (AND just a heads up, the drama of this story does not end with the rescue immediately after the City of Benares sinks because one lifeboat of survivors is overlooked.)
The DESIGN OF THIS BOOK is notable for the many aspects that will appeal to 5th-9th grade readers. The chapters are mostly brief and each is broken up into short sections. In the first seven chapters there are black and white photos that give the reader just enough information to help them visualize what's going on. Then chapters 8-19 have charcoal-looking illustrations of the tragedy, struggle, courage that occurred as the ship began to sink and the passengers attempted to escape and survive. Then for chapters 20-27 there's nothing--just printed text. These chapters describe what happened to Lifeboat 12 (I don't want to give away too much). The final chapters again include actual photos of the surviving children and so forth.
Heiligman’s THANK YOU notes and lists of SOURCES are worthy of reading through as well—they serve to reveal how thorough her research was and assure the reader of accuracy and authority. (Her “thank you” section has a journey at sea theme ;).
I’d BOOK TALK THIS with students in late 5th – 9th grade.
Books don't usually move me, but this one did. It is the story of a paasenger ship that was used to take children from England to safety from nightly bombers and possible invasion, to security in Canada and other Commonwealth countries. The City of Benares, a former passenger ship, was a revelation to some of the children who had never been outside of London before, and the first time many of them had eaten at a dinner table with silver service, linen napkins and second helpings of ice cream But the ship was selected by a German submarine and torpedoed, killing many children outright, and causing many more casualties in the sinking of the ship and later rescues. Some of the stories are cute others interesting, and a few amazingly heroic. 90 children were evacuated by the CORB or the Children's Overseas Reception Board, who were sending children overseas. Of those 90 children, only 13 survived, of the ten adult escorts or chaperones, six died. The majority of the book recounts the stories of the survivors and what could be gathered from eyewitness accounts. Of the adult escorts, Mary Cornish was a hero. She had gone to her assigned lifeboat, which was one of the few that were lowered safely, with a number of children. For 12 days they were at sea, and Mary Cornish entertained the children and kept them alive with little food, water or warm clothes. In many accounts of sinking ships, only the adults are recounted. Here there were kid's stories of a warm coat, a lost toy, and guilt when an older child could not save their younger sibling. Lifeboats were always a problem in shipping, since many of them capsize when lowered from a listing ship. Also, in a convoy, if one ship is torpedoed, the other ships continue on, trying to get away from the region with U-boats underwater. After this event, one ship is designated as a rescue ship in each convoy, elected to stop and save as many people as possible. A true regret is that many of the native workers from India on the ship were never interviewed at the time, nor can they or their families be located today. Their stories would have been riveting, but are now all lost. A good book, but a sad one.
Written in a voice accessible to middle school students, Torpedoed provides a gripping account of the stories of the hope, survival, and loss of the passengers and crew of the City of Benares. Known as "The Children's Ship," the Benares was attacked by a U-boat while on the way to Canada. The richly researched narrative brings to life the excitement of the initial adventure, the fear and fortitude of those who were rescued, and the heroism of the youth and adults both.
This book was amazing. The parts with Mary Cornish and Lifeboat #12 really showed the true hardships of this tragedy. The book was also very descriptive about the City Of Benares. I really recommend this book for ages 10 and older. The only reason that I say that is that it has a lot of death and it’s also challenging for a younger kid to read/comprehend. Otherwise I think you could read this book at any age. Five Stars!
Eloquently written account of a historical episode that took place during the early years of WWII that reads like a riveting novel...!! Although this is an account of a disturbing incident, it reads at times so pleasantly....so easy to put yourself into the story, within a few pages you begin to Know the players, you begin to have an affinity with each of them...you dread what you know is coming, but you can't stop reading. If I were a High School teacher this book would be required reading, no matter the subject I taught. With my love of history, particularly WWII, I am upset this story wasn't told long ago and more resolutely remembered!! There were so many stories of loss and heroism at that time, the details of this incident may have been lost if not for the exceptional investigative journalism and brilliant writing skills of this author; thank goodness some players survived to tell her their story!!! Bravo AND Thank you!!!
The subject caught my attention, but once I picked up the book and started to read a page or two, I couldn't put it down! It reads like a brilliant novel, but with footnote references to facts. Sometimes history can be dry and boring, but the author approaches the event in an incredibly interesting way. It's absolutely riveting and easily the best "history" book I've read. The stories of the families and the children are touching and personal. It's definitely a piece of WWII history that has long been overlooked. Really great insight and storytelling. I can't wait to share this book with friends!
I make a point of reading my kids historical fiction to give them a better understanding of history and people from different times. I find stories often make it easier for them to remember things than they do with drier texts. This book about the sinking of the Benares is not something I had even heard of before. It is such a tragic story that the author does a great job of bringing to life as she shows the reader what happened to the people on board. The writing is a bit choppy and it jumps around quite a bit showing different people as the events unfold. I think the jumping around would make it hard for my almost 10 year old to follow and given the tragic nature of this true story I am going to wait until he is in middle school to read this to him or give to him to read independently. I think the age range may be on the young side so I would recommend it for older readers. A sad but fascinating account of the people on board.
I am a big fan of this author but to be honest I wasn't sure I would enjoy reading about this kind of tragedy. I woke up at 3am this morning, unable to sleep and so cracked the book open. Three hours later I was still turning pages, still wanting to know more about the lives that were lost and those that were miraculously saved. It's the kind of book that grabs hold of you and won't let go. Only a master storyteller could have pulled off this balancing act of horror and humanity woven throughout. I thought ending it with LIfeboat 12 was a brilliant way of uplifting us after such a harrowing ride. I am anxious to pass the book onto my 13 year old grandson (after I take a nap).