Luck of the Titanic
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Luck of the Titanic is historical fiction about the eight Chinese people who were actually on board the ship by award-winning YA author Stacey Lee. The narrator Valora and her twin brother Jamie had an English mother and a Chinese father, and the other Asian characters are from Cantonese-speaking China. There's very little violence for a book about a shipwreck. The only gore is a brief mention of blood and brains when the narrator imagines being keelhauled. The shipwreck itself and large number of deaths are handled by describing danger and fear, and hearing screams. There's an assault and attempted rape that's stopped after mentioning fumbling with trousers. The victim gouges the attacker with a weapon and the attacker flees. Important characters die. There are some romantic dynamics and a few brief kisses that aren't described in detail. Strong language is limited to "butt," "bloody hell," and a some insults. Teens drink alcohol a few times, never to excess, and at a celebration even children are given champagne. A minor character smokes cigarettes, and there are a couple of mentions of cigars. A father's past struggle with and early death from alcohol use is a prominent theme. The main characters are also still mourning the death of their mother. Past corporal punishment and physical abuse are briefly mentioned.
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What's the Story?
LUCK OF THE TITANIC is the story of twins Valora and Jamie Luck. As children of an English mother and a Chinese father, they've always straddled two worlds and rarely fit in comfortably anywhere. With nothing to keep her in London anymore, Valora stows away aboard the Titanic, where Jamie's been hired to stoke the boilers. To avoid being discovered and sent back to London, she disguises herself as both a wealthy White lady in first class, and as one of the Chinese boys who work in the ship's boiler rooms belowdecks. Valora hopes to convince Jamie to stay with her once they reach New York and continue their career as an acrobatic duo in America. But Jamie's made a good life for himself at sea and doesn't want to move to American or be an acrobat anymore. Valora's got just about a week to change Jamie's mind and arrange an audition with a head honcho at Ringling Bros., who Valora discovers happens to be aboard. But as we know, while Valora moves between two worlds to make her dreams come true, Fate has other plans.
Is It Any Good?
Veteran author Stacey Lee brings an intriguing Asian perspective to one of the world's most famous shipwrecks, bringing it to life with humor, drama, hearbreak, and hope. . Many readers will be surprised to learn there really were eight Chinese people aboard the doomed ship, overlooked and unreported by Western media and analysis. Luck of the Titanic is at its best recreating life aboard the great ship for both the haves and the have-nots. The racism and discrimination experienced by the Chinese characters isn't glossed over, but it doesn't overwhelm the sense of adventure, possibility, and sometimes even the sheer fun of the voyage.
There's a large cast of colorful characters, and the main ones develop well as we learn about them and their backgrounds. But some drift in and out over extended periods of time and cause some confusion about which is which until the book is well underway. The story drags a bit in the middle, but picks up again later when disaster finally strikes. The ending is pretty abrupt, and doesn't provide much sense of closure that could be provided if we knew what became of more of the characters. But it's also very moving, so keep a tissue handy when you get there.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Asian representation in Luck of the Titanic. Why is diversity important in books, movies, videos, and other media? What do we learn from reading about different experiences of famous events?
Valora, Jamie, and their friends from China experienced a lot of racism and discrimination in their everyday lives. Do you think attitudes have changed since the early 1900s? In what ways are things different, and/or still the same?
Did you know about the Chinese Exclusion Act before you read this book? Do some searching to learn more about it. How did it come to be? What affect did it have on people? Are there ways it's still affecting us today?
- Author: Stacey Lee
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
- Publication date: May 4, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: May 25, 2021
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For kids who love stories with Asian characters
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