Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of the “The Children’s Ship” by Deborah Heiligman

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

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Summary:  On September, 1940, the ship SS City of Benares left England, bound for Canada.  On board were 90 children traveling as part of the Children’s Overseas Reception Board (CORB) program, which evacuated British children to safer countries.  A few days into their journey, the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine, and sank in about half an hour. Of the 90 children, only 17 survived. Most were picked up the next day, but due to a miscalculation, Lifeboat 12 was missed by the rescuers and was adrift for eight days before finally being spotted by a plane (a story told in verse by Susan Hood in 2018’s Lifeboat 12).  The survivors returned to England, and CORB suspended operations after this tragedy.  Includes a list of all those who died, as well as a lengthy bibliography and index. 304 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  I started reading this with trepidation, as I’m not crazy about reading about disasters at sea (no more Titanic books, please).  I kept flipping between the narrative and the list of those who died, and I could tell the outlook for most was not good.  Once the torpedoes hit, though, I couldn’t put the book down. The storytelling is masterful, following the narratives of so many different children and the adults who traveled with them.  I saw this on a Newbery prediction list.  I’d be surprised if it got a Newbery, but I could definitely see a Sibert award.

Cons:  As mentioned above, reading about the drowning deaths of 73 children isn’t really my favorite pastime.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.


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