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Titanicat Review by Susan K. Marlow

Marty Crisp
IllustratorRobert Papp
Sleeping Bear Press
310 North Main St., Ste 300
Chelsea, MI 48118

Can a story about a ship's cat aboard the Titanic have a good ending? Worse, what if this cat gave birth to a litter of kittens not long before the great ship was launched? With these thoughts in mind, I opened Titanicat and prepared myself for the inevitable, wondering how the author would handle the subject of the many animals who must have died along with their human owners that dreadful night of April 15, 1912.

Titanicat is the true story of the ship's four-footed crew member and of cabin boy Jim Mulholland, whose job it was to care for the cat. This 38-page hardcover picture book is a well-researched and beautifully illustrated account of this tragic moment in history, when over 1,500 people lost their lives.

Young Jim signs on as cabin boy aboard the brand-new, "indestructible" liner Titanic. He names the ship's cat "4-0-1" (after the ship's original name while she was being built), and discovers she has a litter of four kittens below deck. This voyage will be lucky, indeed, the boy thinks! A cat aboard ship is not only needed to control the rodent population, but is also considered good luck. And four more cats? Extremely good fortune! Jim happily goes about his duties, getting the Titanic ready to receive passengers for her maiden voyage. The cat is his constant companion. After the launch, Jim swabs the decks, fills the water tanks, and becomes excited at the prospect of seeing America. The kittens join in, batting playthings and frisking to the tune of his Irish songs. A few days later, however, when the passengers start to board the ship, Jim begins to feel anxious when he cannot find 4-0-1. Where is she? When he finally spots her, he wonders why she is walking down the gangplank with a kitten in her mouth.

Titanicat, with its rich, realistic illustrations and flowing text, captures the reader from the very first page. The author's note in the back of the book enhances the story and lifts it from "fiction" to "it really happened" status. Titanicat is a wonderful enrichment book for kids ages 6 and up (even high school!) for the study of the early part of the 20th century. It brings an added dimension to the story of the Titanic. Amidst the tragedy of that episode, there are a few bright spots.

The only disappointing thing was that the author's note at the end was in tiny print and difficult to read. I found myself wanting to learn more about how this incident was discovered. This can be a jumping off point for research into the subject. Primary sources are cited, which could lead older students to investigate further.

I highly recommend this extraordinary book for your homeschool library shelf.

Product review by Susan K. Marlow, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2008