On Board the Titanic: What It Was Like When the Great Liner Sank

Book review by
Tanya Smith, Common Sense Media
On Board the Titanic: What It Was Like When the Great Liner Sank Book Poster Image
Suspenseful narrative about two aboard Titanic.

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Kids say

age 6+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

The Titanic sinks, and hundreds of people die. Jack fears he may die, and later learns his father died in the wreck.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that one of the book's diagrams depicts the number of survivors according to their station on the boat. It's tragic -- although no shock -- that the higher one's class, the higher one's chance of survival.

User Reviews

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Kid, 10 years old July 27, 2020

Great Movie

I would recommend the movie from the 1999’s it’s way better in my opinion! But in the first movie there is smoking, drinking and sex.
Teen, 13 years old Written bycoliegirllovesa... May 10, 2010
i love it it think i will watch the movie i would not recomend

What's the story?

Seventeen-year-old Jack Thayer and his parents board the doomed Titanic on April 10, 1912. While his parents hobnob with the rich and famous, Jack explores the ship on his own. Jack quickly makes friends with the ship's designer, who offers to let Jack tag along on his inspection rounds.

Jack's privileged point of view is intercut with that of twenty-two-year-old wireless operator Harold Bride. After an iceberg splits the ship in two, both boys find themselves clinging to the same life raft-struggling to survive while bravely helping others.

Tanaka uses imagined conversations and thoughts to give a narrative structure to the real-life stories of Thayer and Bride. Copious pictures, paintings, and diagrams mesmerize as well as instruct. A glossary and a list of books recommended for further reading round out the educational value.

Is it any good?

With ON BOARD THE TITANIC, Shelly Tanaka turns the real-life stories of 17-year-old Jack Thayer and 22-year-old Harold Bride into a suspenseful narrative. Visuals crowd each page: a shot of the postcard given to travelers as they boarded, a picture of the telegram announcing the wreck, a Morse code diagram. Drawings of the ship's interior jockey for space with haunting black-and-white passenger photos. While the information adds to the story, the design can at be overwhelming.

Many lessons emerge from the fate of the Titanic. The true stories of first-class passenger Jack and working-class Harold underscore the class differences that meant life or death for many passengers. It's tragic -- although no shock -- that the higher one's class, the higher one's chance of survival. Also, the Titanic has become a symbol of the dangers of poor planning and overconfidence.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the concept of class differences. How did class affect people's way of life in the early 1900s? America is considered to be a place where anyone can improve their station in life by working hard -- how true was that in the age of Titanic? How do you see class at play today? Are the rules as rigid?

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