Get to Know Deborah Hopkinson
Photo courtesy of author
100 years ago this month, on April 15, 1912, the Titanic, which everyone said was unsinkable, sank in the Atlantic Ocean, and more than 1,400 children, teens and adults died. People have been fascinated by this tragedy ever since, and amazing author Deborah Hopkinson shares the story of the people and the ship in Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, and you won’t want to stop reading.
Titanic: Voices from the Disaster
Scholastic, 2012 (Ages 8-13)
Author Deborah Hopkinson introduces her new book, Titanic: Voices from the Disaster.
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Q & A with Deborah Hopkinson
Where did you get your idea for this book?
I’ve always been fascinated by the Titanic, especially by reading first-person stories of survivors. Many wonderful books about the Titanic have already been written. But in Titanic: Voices from the Disaster I wanted to tell the story as much as possible using the words of people who were there.
What was your favorite book when you were growing up?
I had many favorite books growing up, but the one that I liked most was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I still have pictures in my mind of that special garden and that lonely house on the moors. It is a magical story. I think books like The Secret Garden that made me want to be a writer.
How old were you when you started writing?
I started writing when I was about 10 years old. I didn’t just write made-up stories like The Secret Garden though. I liked doing research papers just as much. When I was in the sixth grade I wrote a long paper about the history of horse racing because I loved horses. Also, I hoped that if I got an A, my parents might let me take horseback riding lessons and I would grow up and become a jockey! Well, that didn’t happen, but I did learn something.
That’s the thing about reading and writing—when we do them we are always learning. And perhaps that’s another reason why I enjoy writing nonfiction books like Titanic: Voices from the Disaster so much. I definitely got lots of practice writing papers in school!
What is your favorite word?
Now, this may sound strange, but my favorite word is “work.” Maybe it’s volunteering to pull weeds, or help paint a room, or clean a closet. Or maybe it’s getting a big school project done. But work can be fun.
In my day job, I work in fundraising at Pacific Northwest College of Art, which means I raise money for things like scholarships to help make it possible for young people to go to college. I got scholarships myself to go to school. So I know the work I do every day makes a difference.
Of course, my favorite work is writing, which I do on weekends. It is hard, but it’s also fun. I think finding work we love is one of the most important things we can do in life.
What is your favorite book about Chicago?
My favorite book is The Great Fire by Jim Murphy. It’s about the October 1871 fire that swept through the city of Chicago. Jim Murphy is a wonderful nonfiction writer and I admire him a lot.
I liked to read about disasters when I was a kid. And now I like to write about them! In addition to my new Titanic book, I’ve written about the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, and the Triangle shirtwaist company fire of 1911 in New York City.
About writing Titanic: Voices from the Disaster:
At first, I thought writing about the Titanic would be easy. After all, it wasn’t like writing about something that lasted for years and years. In fact, the whole disaster took place in about nine hours, from the time the ship struck the iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912, until the next morning at about 8:50 a.m., when the rescue ship, the Carpathia, steamed away carrying 712 survivors. How hard could it be, I thought, to write about events that were over in less than a day?
Boy, was I wrong! I started out by reading all the basic secondary sources to get a general picture of the disaster. In the end, I found that I relied most heavily on primary, first-hand accounts, especially the testimonies given at the U.S. and British inquiries, which are available online and are fully searchable. What an incredible resource! Also, my book includes some information by Titanic historians and experts. Encyclopedia Titanica online was also an invaluable resource.
I included a section in Titanic: Voices from the Disaster about becoming a Titanic researcher, and also a long list of other books and websites to look for more information. There’s even a website where you can hear old radio interviews with a couple of Titanic survivors. You can really hear their voices that way!
More to Explore
- Read the headline that Chicagoans saw on Monday, April 15, 1912 in the Chicago Daily Tribune. Follow the accounts of the days following the disaster with the Chicago Tribune Historical Archive.
- "The Titanic," a poem by Mrs. Mattye E. Anderson inspired by the sinking, appeared in The Chicago Defender the weekend following the disaster.
- Only three years after the Titanic sank, there was a deadly ship accident in Chicago as well, when the Eastland went down in the Chicago River.
- Many items recovered from the Titanic, such as shoes and hairbrushes, were on exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in 2000.
- Several people from Chicago were on board the Titanic. For example, Mrs. Ida Sophia Hippach and Miss Jean Gertrude Hippach were rescued from lifeboat #4; Mr. Ervin G. Lewy and Miss Ann Elizabeth Isham did not survive. Many others had relatives and close connections here, including Captain Smith.
People to Know
- Robert Ballard
Robert Ballard: Oceanographer Who Discovered the Titanic
By Christine Hill
- View original photographs taken of the Titanic’s journey from Southampton to Cobh, Ireland by Father Frank Brown.
- Molly Brown
Heroine of the Titanic: The Real Unsinkable Molly Brown
By Elaine Landau
- Seven years old when she survived the Titanic, Eva Hart lived until 1996, and shares her amazing story.
- Commander Joseph Boxhall and Commander CH Lightoller recount their experiences that night.
Deborah Hopkins drew on many primary sources, including personal accounts, documents and photographs in the writing of this book. Still, no one knows everything that happened that night. Take a close look at the official inquiries and draw your own conclusions.
Want to Learn More About the Titanic and Other Sea Disasters? Try These Books Next
Disasters: Natural and Man-Made Catastrophes through the Centuries
By Brenda Z. Guiberson
Ghost Liners: Exploring the World’s Greatest Lost Ships
By Robert Ballard and Rick Archbold, illustrations by Ken Marschall
Little, Brown, 1998
Iceberg, Right Ahead!: The Tragedy of the Titanic
By Stephanie Sammartino
Twenty-First Century, 2012
Inside the Titanic
By Hugh Brewster, illustrated by Ken Marschall
Little, Brown, 1997
Secrets of the Deep Revealed
By Frances Dipper
Story of the Titanic
By Steve Noon, illustrated by Eric Kentley
T is for Titanic: A Titanic Alphabet
By Debbie and Michael Shoulders, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen
Sleeping Bear Press, 2011
Titanic: Disaster at Sea
By Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Brian Sanders
Titanic: The Story Lives On
By Laura Driscoll, illustrated by Bob Kayganich
By Barry Denenberg
To the Bottom of the Sea: The Exploration of Exotic Life, the Titanic and Other Secrets of the Oceans
By George M. Sullivan
Twenty-First Century, 1999
Also by Deborah Hopkinson
Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale (Introducing his Forgotten Frontier Friend)
Illustrated by John Hendrix
Schwartz & Wade, 2008
Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes and Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains
Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
A Band of Angels: A Story Inspired by the Jubilee Singers
Illustrated by Raúl Colón
A Boy Called Dickens
Illustrated by John Hendrix
Schwartz & Wade, 2012
Illustrated by A.G. Ford
Katherine Tegen, 2010
Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings
Illustrated by Terry Widener
Hear My Sorrow: The Diary of Angela Denoto, a Shirtwaist Worker
Home on the Range: John A. Lomax and His Cowboy Songs
Illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Into the Firestorm: A Novel of San Francisco
Keep On!: The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-Discoverer of the North Pole
Illustrated by Stephen Alcorn
Illustrated by A.G. Ford
Katherine Tegen, 2009
Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building
With James E. Ransome
Schwartz & Wade, 2006
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt
Illustrated by James Ransome
Sweet Land of Liberty
Illustrated by Leonard Jenkins
Under the Quilt of Night
Illustrated by James E. Ransome
Up Before Daybreak: Cotton and People in America
More About Deborah HopkinsonDeborah Hopkinson.com »
Deborah Hopkinson @ Scholastic.com »
Deborah Hopkinson Shares Her Love of Reading and Writing »
Interview with Deborah Hopkinson on Reading Rockets »