Sunday, March 12, 2023


Nielsen, Jennifer. Iceberg
March 7th 2023 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
Hazel's family in England has fallen on hard times. Her father, a farmer, has died, and her mother is trying desperately to keep the family together, When an aunt who has moved to New York offers to take Hazel in and get her a job in a garment factory, Hazel knows it is her only hope of helping to support her family. She walks for four days to Southampton, but is a pound short for a ticket. She decides to stow away on the boat, and is caught only by the young porter she has befriended, Charlie. Even though he doesn't agree with her "stealing" a ticket, he manages to find an unused room to put her in, as long as she will pay for the ticket when she makes enough money in America. Hazel also finds support from former governness Mrs. Abelman, who loans her a notebook, as well as the wealthy Sylvia Thorngood, who wants to hang out with her despite the objections of her governess. There are sevearl suspicious things going on, like a fire in the coal bins, and the Mollisons, who see to be up to know good. Hazel, using a pen she borrowed from someone and didn't give back, is taking notes about the Titanic, hoping to sell her story. Sylvia praises her, and hopes that she can be one of the first female journalists in the world. Hazel talks to an engineering student and even the captain about how the boat is constructed, and has some thoughts about the gates between third class and the rest of the boat. She takes advantage of Syliva's loan of a better dress to prowl around the upper class decks, gathering information. The Mollisons, however, are wary of her and steal her notebook, fearing she will scuttle their plans. Of course, as well all know, there is only one way the story of the Titanic ends. Who will survive? Who will perish? There is a short section on fact versus fiction in the story at the end of the book. 
Strengths: Even after 110 years, the survival story of the Titanic is appealing to readers, and I occasionally have a student who is just obsessed with the topic, so I have a fair number of books in the library about this fateful voyage. Hazel is a solid character who has ambitious hopes and dreams, and is defying the odds to make a new life in the US. The supporting characters represent a wide range of personlities and social classes, which is interesting. This had more information about how the ship was constructed than any fictional account I have read, and this will make it very appealing to those who have already read a bit about the event. 
Weaknesses: There were a couple of things that seemed historically suspect. Would Hazel have borrowed a pen and not returned it? Weren't there a decent number of female reporters in the 1800s? Nielsen's work is usually so well researched, and this felt a bit rushed. Will my students have these complaints? Absolutely not. 
What I really think: There are a fair number of decent Titanic books, but a lot of mine are older. Korman's 2011 trilogy, Tarshis' 2010 I Survived, Weyn's 2009 Distant Waves, White's 1998 Voyage on the Great Titanic, Bunting's 1996 SOS Titanic, and Williams' Titanic Crossing are a small sampling of ones I have in my library, and they are looking rough. Nielsen's work is popular, and the topic still interests students, so I will purchase this one, even though there were some things about it that didn't strike me quite right. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review. I'm a huge fan of Jennifer's and am looking forward to reading her new book. I don't know that much about the Titanic. I went to an online release party she had on Friday night, and she really knew a lot about the ship and what happened.