Thursday, 10 March 2011

BOOK REVIEWS ~ "Titanic" ~ By: Jim Pipe

A novelty Book
Alisdair and I finished reading another book about the RMS Titanic. "Titanic," by Jim Pipe, was published by Firefly Books in 2007.  It gives a different twist on the topic as it is a novelty book with cut-outs and lift-a-flap items.  Of course these make for an exciting read for youngsters, but one must be careful the various cards do not fall out of the book itself.

As soon as you open the cover, there is a red envelope glued to the inside.  It contains a card inviting the reader to set sail on the RMS Titanic:

An Invitation to sail on the maiden voyage.
The book is written from the perspective of an imaginary journalist who travels on the tragic maiden voyage.  He is a "fictitious character, and any resemblance to real people is entirely coincidental," we are told in fine print at the bottom of the front cover, beneath the invitation.  Personally, we prefer the true-to-life accounts of actual survivors.

Each colourful two-page spread covers a new topic.  The first one is "Birth of the Titanic."  Interesting facts are included.  For example, it tells how "for two years, Harland and Wolff's shipyard workers worked nine hours a day, six days a week, to build the Titanic's massive hull."  It also shows a picture of an actual "Launch Ticket" as thousands of spectators paid a shilling each to watch the great ship put into the water on May 31, 1911. 

Other facts, we had not gleaned from other sources were "the ship cost 1.5 million pounds and 17,000 men worked for three years to build her.  The Titanic could carry up to 3,547 passengers and crew."  Or that "during the building of the ship, there were more than 250 accidents.  Eight men died.  One unfortunate worker was crushed under the ship as it launched."

"The Voyage Ahead" describes "The Blue Riband Prize" (for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic) which was held, at the time, by the Cunard liner, the "Mauritania."  It also has a pull-out with coloured pictures of three types of whales, the Northern Gannet and the Atlantic Puffin, that passengers might have seen from the Titanic's decks. The ticket prices "varied a great deal.  The third-class (steerage) fare was seven pounds and 15 shillings.  A second-class ticket cost 13 pounds, while a first-class ticket was 86 pounds.  A promenade suite on B deck cost 870 pounds.  This was the equivalent of four months' wages for the skilled workers who built the Titanic."

The section, "Boarding the Ship," has a colourful cross section through the hull, showing supplies being loaded and the trimmers' and the firemen's cabins.  This page also gives three passenger lists ~ for First, Second and Third classes.  It also points out the various "Odd Jobs" for the crew of more than 800.  Some of their jobs included "printer, surgeon, Turkish bath attendant, boot steward, confectioner, window cleaner, Hebrew cook, interpreter, and barber!"

Did You Know? facts include:

* The Titanic was as long as 22 buses end to end.
* Each funnel was big enough to fit two trains.
* The two masts were just flagpoles:  the Titanic had no sails!
* The ship had its own daily newspaper.

* On board there were:

   3,364 bags of mail,
   30 cases of golf clubs and tennis rackets,
   50 cases of toothpaste,
   3 crates of ancient models for the Denver Museum and
   300 cases of walnuts.

The "Cabins Fit For Kings," section has actual photographs of a first-class cabin and a third-class cabin.  There is also an artist's rendition of the accommodations in second-class. It talks of Mrs. Cardeza who was travelling with her son.  They brought "14 trunks, four suitcases, three crates, and a medicine chest" with them on the voyage!

A sample "First-Class Menu" is included in an envelope on the pages describing "The Height of Luxury."  "The highlight of the day was the seven-course evening meal.  Women wore gowns of satin and silk and men dressed in evening suits.  Diners were called to dinner by the sound of a bugle!  After dinner, passengers could dance to the ship's band or relax in the smoking or reading rooms.  Card games and gambling were popular."

First-Class Menu selections
"Exploring the Ship" is the next double spread.  It features a pocket with three playing cards with the White Star Line logo on the back.  We photocopied the cards and some of the rest of the novelty elements to glue into Alisdair's Titanic lapbook that we ordered online from "Hands of a Child."

Another "touch-and-feel" addition
 Playing cards with the White Star Line logo on the back.
This section describes the 32-foot heated swimming pool, the indoor squash court on F-deck, the gymnasium on the boat deck (complete with rowing machines, cycling equipment and two electric "horses"), and both Turkish and electric baths.  It also describes the barbershops that offered men a daily "lather and a shave," as well as haircuts.  "Amazingly, only 66 crew members sailed the ship while 475 looked after the passengers."

A diagram detailing why the Titanic was thought to be "Unsinkable" is included under the heading "Full Steam Ahead."  There is also a colourful artist's depiction of what it was like for the men stoking the boilers.  "It took 29 triple furnace boilers to power the engines.  Most of the boilers had two ends, so when all the ship's boilers were working, there were 162 fires burning." . . . "Firemen shovelled 825 tons of coal a day into the furnaces.  Stripped to the waist, they carried out this backbreaking work hour after hour.  A team of 35 engineers, led by Joseph Bell, made sure that everything ran smoothly.  If the boilers ran out of coal the ship would have soon come to a stop!  This team also looked after the four electrical generators and 75 fans.  These sucked dirty air out of the engine and boiler rooms and ventilated the cabins."

"The Wireless Room" is the next section of Pipe's book.  Again there is an envelope with a replica of Radio-Telegram inside.  It is a copy of one received by the S. S. Birma from the Titanic, containing the latitude and longitude and the words, "We have struck iceberg sinking fast come to our assistance."

A copy of an actual telegram
Harold Bride and Jack Phillips, the two wireless operators on board the Titanic, were kept busy sending and receiving messages, prior to the disaster.  "Sending a wireless message in the middle of the Atlantic was all the rage, but I was shocked at the expense - $3 for just ten words, as much as I earn in a day!  However, the first-class passengers seemed to be falling over themselves to send a 'Marconigram' from the Titanic.  In the first four days some 250 messages were sent! . . . All ships have three letter callsigns.  The Titanic's callsign was MGY."

"The Iceberg Hits" tells us "water was pouring in through twelve small slits cut in the hull by the iceberg."  It also suggests "the iceberg that hit the Titanic probably began life as part of a glacier in Greenland.  Passengers and crew who saw the iceberg said it was 50 to 100 feet high and 200 to 400 feet long."  This section also reminds readers that "(nine tenths of an iceberg is under water)."  "The Titanic had received nine ice warnings.  One was handed to Captain Smith four hours before the collision.  Instead of slowing down, he ordered 'Full speed ahead.' . . . When the ship struck the iceberg, Smith was asleep in his cabin."

The next section is titled, "Abandon Ship."  It details five survivor's stories and what "people took with them:

* Adolf Dyker handed his wife a satchel with two gold watches, two diamond rings, a sapphire necklace, and 200 Swedish crowns.
* Norman Chambert pocketed a revolver and a compass.
* Edith Russell carried her musical toy pig.
* Lawrence Beesley stuffed books into his pockets.
* Mrs. Dickson Bishop left behind $11,000 in jewelry then sent her husband back for her muff.

This section also gives two accounts of "Miraculous Escapes:

* Winnie Troutt did not want to save herself until a man handed her a baby and asked her to save it.  She made her way to a lifeboat and was helped onboard.
* Baker Charles Joughin stood on the stern as the ship went down then paddled to a lifeboat."

There are also photographs of the bandleader, Wallace Hartley, and the six musicians that played with him.  All were lost when the ship sank.

"The Rescue" provides a map showing where the accident took place and the distance left to travel to New York City.  It tells of the arrival of the RMS Carpathia, noting "the crew looked desperately for survivors, until spotting a green flare shot from Lifeboat No. 2.  It took another four hours to rescue all the survivors, by now scattered over an area 4 miles wide.  For people in the boats, things were hard.  They had no food, no lights and very few blankets.  Life jackets helped survivors keep warm, but the night was bitterly cold.  Many survivors took turns at rowing or sang to keep their spirits up and their bodies warm.  Survivors in one lifeboat were too weak to shout as the Carpathia came near.  Luckily, a black dog named Rigel, who had been swimming in the icy water for three hours, alerted the ship's captain by barking loudly."   This page also features a copy of the front page of the New York City newspaper "The World" from Tuesday, April 16th, 1912.

Reproduction of a newspaper from 1912

The "Aftermath" includes information on Molly Brown, who became "head of the Titanic Survivors' Committee, which helped poor passengers who had lost everything in the disaster."  It also features a photograph of a Mr. and Mrs. Harder, one of eight couples who were enjoying their honeymoon on the luxury liner.  Only two of these eight couples were among the survivors.  There is also a colourful booklet outlining the five stages of the sinking.  There is a brief paragraph about Dr. Robert Ballard's successful expedition in 1985, to search for the wreckage and a photograph of some of the items retrieved from the ocean floor.  It also mentions James Cameron's 1997 movie, Titanic.

A "Timeline" is provided that begins in 1904 when "the White Star Line is bought by J. Pierpont Morgan.  J. Bruce Ismay becomes the chairman.  William J. Pirrie becomes a director."  The final entry is in 1997, which states, "The movie Titanic opens in the US.  It wins 11 Academy Awards, including the award for best picture."

There is also a statistical tally of those who survived (and those who died) from the Crew and First, Second and Third Class:

Crew - Total 891.  Deaths 679.  Survivors - 212.
First Class - Total 324.  Deaths 123.  Survivors - 201.
Second Class - Total 284.  Deaths 166.  Survivors - 118.
Third Class - Total 709. Deaths 528.  Survivors - 181.

A "Glossary" containing 30 words is included on the next to last page.  it also provides titles for further reading and websites to surf.  It also suggests readers visit:

The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Belfast, Ireland;
Southampton Maritime Museum, Britain
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Canada
The Titanic Museum, Indian Orchard, Massachusetts, USA.

The inside back cover of the book features a photograph of a memorial, in Belfast, Ireland, which was erected in memory of the  22 men from that city who died as a result of the disaster.

A poster is included in the back of the book. 
 We made a colour photocopy and it now
hangs on Alisdair's bedroom wall.

Alisdair and I wholeheartedly agree with the review on Amazon, as it declares, Jim Pipe's book, "Titanic is a richly detailed and dramatic interactive experience for readers of all ages."

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