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Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of "The Children's Ship"

By: Deborah Heiligman

Amid the constant rain of German bombs and the escalating violence of World War II, British parents by the thousands chose to send their children out of the country: the wealthy, independently; the poor, through a government relocation program called CORB. In September 1940, passenger liner SS City of Benaresset out in a convoy of nineteen ships sailing for Canada. On board were ninety CORB children, chaperones, and crew, along with paying passengers. When the war ships escorting the Benares to safe waters peeled off, and the way forward seemed certain, a German submarine attacked and torpedoed the Benares. What followed is an amazing example of all that people are capable of—the worst, and the best.

Author’s note. List of people in the book. “After the Voyage.” Select bibliography. Endnotes. Index. Black-and-white illustrations, photographs, and reproductions.

ISBN: 9781627795548

JLG Release: Dec 2019


Sensitive Areas: Violence: War/Harsh Realities of War
Topics: City of Benares (ship) , World War II (1939–1945) , Evacuation of British children during World War II , Evacuation of civilians , German naval operations during World War II , Shipwrecks (North Atlantic Ocean) , Personal narratives , Great Britain , England , Military history

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Awards & Honors

2020 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award Finalist
Kirkus Best Books - 2019
Horn Book Fanfare - 2019
CPL Best Books - 2019
The Nonfiction Detectives Best Nonfiction Books - 2019
YALSA Award Honoree - 2020

Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book Magazine*, Booklist*, Kirkus Reviews*, School Library Journal*

School Library Journal

Heiligman tells a story of bravery, courage, and despair through the eyes of the passengers on the SS City of Benares, a ship commissioned to sail to Canada with 100 children on board during World War II. The SS City of Benares was torpedoed by a German submarine. The imagery of the waves hitting the lifeboats and rafts as the survivors hung on for Heiligman tells a story of bravery, courage, and despair through the eyes of the passengers on the SS City of Benares, a ship commissioned to sail to Canada with 100 children on board during World War II. The SS City of Benares was torpedoed by a German submarine. The imagery of the waves hitting the lifeboats and rafts as the survivors hung on for life is so vivid that readers almost feel as if they, too, are fighting for their lives. Heiligman includes information about the lascars, or Indian sailors, many of whom gave their lives to save as many people as they could. The book is filled with photographs, illustrations, and letters written from the children to their families, as well as the telegraphs reporting the deaths of those on board. The extensive back matter, paired with the author’s deft narrative touch, makes this title a must purchase for ­libraries, a must-read for all, and a beautiful memorial for those who perished in this tragic event. Expect this book to garner Heiligman another nonfiction award. Pair this with Susan Wood’s historical fiction novel Lifeboat 12.

Horn Book

Nonfiction maestro Heiligman (Charles and Emma, rev. 1/09; Vincent and Theo, rev. 3/17) here tells a riveting wartime story. As World War II brings intense bombing to England, some parents choose to send their children across the ocean, ostensibly to greater safety, but all ships crossing the Atlantic are at risk of attack by G Nonfiction maestro Heiligman (Charles and Emma, rev. 1/09; Vincent and Theo, rev. 3/17) here tells a riveting wartime story. As World War II brings intense bombing to England, some parents choose to send their children across the ocean, ostensibly to greater safety, but all ships crossing the Atlantic are at risk of attack by German submarines. On September 17, 1940, the unthinkable happens. The SS City of Benares—carrying two hundred passengers, half of them children—is torpedoed in the North Atlantic and begins to sink, leaving the pajama-clad passengers little time to scramble onto lifeboats in the dead of night. Heiligman navigates the chaos of those crucial minutes by skillfully juggling various points of view, heightening the narrative tension. As word of the disaster reaches the near-est ship, those in the water—in lifeboats, on rafts, clinging to debris—struggle to survive; many perish in the night from exposure to the cold temperature and stormy weather. Help eventually arrives, but in a gut-punch of a surprise twist, one lifeboat is left behind, extending the rescue drama by eight days and several more chapters. Heiligman builds and maintains suspense while remaining scrupu-lously faithful to the historical record, eschewing quotation marks, for example, for anything that’s not a primary-source document. Black-and-white photographs and illustrations are incorporated throughout; the front and back matter include an author’s note, a personnel list (“Shipmates”), a bibliography, source notes, and an index.

Book Details

ISBN

9781627795548

First Release

December 2019

Genre

Nonfic

Dewey Classification

940.54

Trim Size

9" x 6"

Page Count

288

Accelerated Reader

N/A

Scholastic Reading Counts

N/A

Lexile

Level 840L

Format

Print Book

Edition

Hardcover edition

Publisher

Henry Holt and Company, Inc.

Potentially Sensitive Areas

Violence: War/Harsh Realities of War

Topics

City of Benares (ship), World War II (1939–1945), Evacuation of British children during World War II, Evacuation of civilians, German naval operations during World War II, Shipwrecks (North Atlantic Ocean), Personal narratives, Great Britain, England, Military history,

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