I, like millions of otherwise worldwide, thoroughly enjoyed James Cameron’s film Titanic (tho am in the probably far smaller subcategory of viewers who certainly didn’t expect to!) I cried my way through much of the last twenty or so minutes of the movie, as the scale of the tragedy unfolded on-screen. Of course, the romance in it isn’t for everyone, or every age. If you’d like a concise book version of events, with far less fiction and kissing, then you simply cannot pass up the latest installment of the Magical History Tour series, focusing on what happened to that allegedly unsinkable ship, why and the aftermath.
Nico is getting ready to zoom down a bike path on his roller blades when his big sister Annie reminds him that for all that he thinks he’s invulnerable, safety must always be his watchword. This was a hard lesson learned by everyone involved in the sinking of the Titanic, a cautionary tale that she imparts to him as they prepare for his run.
In simple, engaging language, Annie describes the construction of the ship and the composition of its passenger list as the Titanic set sail on its maiden voyage in 1912. She talks about the class stratification aboard, but emphasizes that for most if not all of the passengers, this was an overall positive journey for their first five days. But then disaster struck on the night of the fifth, as a series of unfortunate events — each harmless or merely inconvenient on their own — converge to doom over two thirds of the lives aboard.
Annie explains the scale of the disaster in a manner that is both matter-of-fact and empathetic: a tragedy of this scale doesn’t need further sensationalism, after all. She also discusses the aftermath of the sinking, including the way ship safety was tightened and improved across the industry, as well as the lingering cultural legacy of the wreck.
As always, Fabrice Erre’s text is clear and precise (and beautifully translated by Nanette McGuinness.) My only quibble with it was the implication that the Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic, had an uneventful career, when it had crashed the year prior in a collision with another ship, as mentioned in the supplemental material. Perhaps it doesn’t signify because it happened before the Titanic’s sinking? That’s about the only criticism that I have of this amazing graphic novel, which is beautifully illustrated by Sylvain Savoia. I loved especially the use of the rising water to signal Annie and Nico’s transition from everyday life to the world of the imagination. The commitment, too, to technical drawings of the ship and its construction are a joy to behold.
I didn’t realize that each of these volumes is only $6.99 in hardcover, but I definitely want to grab an entire set for my family. These books are uniformly informative and entertaining, with a view to history that does its best to balance impartiality with humanity. They’re a wonderful way for kids, and even some adults, to learn about the wider world and the past we share in common.
Magical History Tour Vol 9: The Titanic by Fabrice Erre & Sylvain Savoia was published today June 7 2022 by Papercutz and is available from all good booksellers, including