With the coming anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, Harcourt is re-releasing this children’s novel of the event. Barry O’Neill has been raised by his grandparents in Ireland. At the age of fifteen, he is being sent to join his parents in America. Barry is unhappy with this move, made worse by his annoying chaperon and by the Flynn brothers, two ruffians from his hometown who have it in for him. Barry is a first-class passenger on the Titanic, and the Flynns are traveling steerage, but Barry does not feel safe from their threats. To complicate his problems, Barry befriends the brothers’ beautiful sister, Pegeen Flynn, who is also unhappy about moving to America. Barry’s desire to protect Pegeen when the ship hits the iceberg makes the story extra exciting. Bunting plays with some foreshadowing of the disaster and cleverly draws out the suspense. Every reader knows the Titanic will sink, but one doesn’t know who will survive and who will drown.
Through naïve Barry, Bunting adeptly displays class prejudice and the dire consequences of being a third-class passenger on the Titanic. This is a well-written, simple story, for a young audience. The book says ages twelve and up, but every child in my son’s fourth-grade classroom (age ten) read it to begin their school year, and I think that is a more accurate audience age.