Genre: Middle Grade Nonfiction
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date: 2011
From the publisher:
On December 6, 1917, two ships collided in Halifax Harbor in Nova Scotia, Canada. One ship was loaded top to bottom with munitions and the other held relief supplies, both intended for war-torn Europe. The resulting blast flattened two towns, Halifax and Dartmouth, and killed nearly 2,000 people. As if that wasn’t devastating enough, a blizzard hit the next day, dumping more than a foot of snow on the area and paralyzing much-needed relief efforts.
Fascinating, edge-of-your-seat storytelling based on original source material conveys this harrowing account of tragedy and recovery.
I learned about this book from a friend in my LibraryThing group. I vaguely remember hearing about the Halifax Explosion at some point but I really didn’t remember any details, so I picked this up at the library.
It’s a middle grade book but it’s an good read for adults too. There were only a couple of places where she’s explaining terminology that reminded me that this was a book intended for a 10-14 year old audience.
The book is fascinating. Walters sets the scene and introduces several families who will be impacted by the disaster. The story of how the ships ended up colliding, the actual explosion and the aftermath were all well done.
The immediate aftermath focuses much on the children in the families she features. many of whom were in the age range of her audience.
What surprised me was how quickly the city leaders got organized and began search and rescue as well as treating the wounded and managing the dead. An interesting note was that Halifax had experience in dealing with large numbers of dead because the bodies that were recovered from the Titanic disaster 5 years earlier had been taken there.
Other interesting things:
Many people thought that the Germans had attacked.
Lots of people were watching the fire after the ships collided so when the blast happened there were large numbers of eye injuries when the windows they were watching through blew in.
People were thrown by the blast and many babies were gathered in one place until they could be identified by surviving family members.
The blizzard that dumped snow on the are the day after the explosion hampered the rescue and recovery efforts.
Within hours of the explosion the city of Boston was organizing relief efforts and sending a train with supplies and medical personnel.
This is an interesting book about an incident I had heard of but didn’t know a lot about. I might seek out a more comprehensive book aimed at adults about this event.
I’d recommend this one even if you aren’t the target age range.