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Turn of the (last) century

Two horrific tragedies and an infamous hoax: these nonfiction titles bring headline-worthy events from nearly one hundred years ago to new life for contemporary readers.

Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917In Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917, Sally M. Walker sets the stage with a brief history of Halifax, Nova Scotia; a summary of World War I; an introduction to the two fated ships; and an agonizingly suspenseful account of the collision that resulted in one of history’s largest human-caused explosions. Through the eyes of five local families, we experience the disaster, its aftermath, relief efforts, and finally, the rebuilding of a community. Black-and-white photographs and maps further enliven Walker’s consummate storytelling. (12 years and up)

TitanicWithout overdramatizing, Deborah Hopkinson objectively chronicles a well-known tragedy in Titanic: Voices from the Disaster. The “characters,” real survivors whose voices relay the events, include crew members as well as first, second, and third class passengers; their contrasts are shown but also their night’s-end bond. Admirably restrained coverage includes details like the foreshadowing of iceberg reports, the boarding of (too few) lifeboats, and the agony of the freezing water. Extensive back matter offers more information for further research. (12 years and up)

The Fairy Ring

Mary Losure’s The Fairy Ring: Or, Elsie and Frances Fool the World addresses our timeless fascination with the supernatural through the story of Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright’s staged photographs, which  many viewers believed proved the existence of fairies. In an engaging account focusing sympathetically on the young photographers, readers are given a sense of their personalities, life in WWI England, and events that may have provoked their trick — as well as evidence that hints it wasn’t all made up. This meticulously researched volume includes reproductions of the photos themselves, fine source notes, and a bibliography. (10 years and up)

Katrina Hedeen About Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is associate editor of The Horn Book Guide and manager of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards.

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