CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 16. . . .December 18, 2015
10 Ships That Rocked the World. (The World of Tens Series.)
Gillian Richardson. Art by Kim Rosen.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2015.
173 pp., pbk., hc., html & pdf, $14.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-781-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-782-4 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55451-783-1 (html), ISBN 978-1-55451-784-8 (pdf).
Boats and boating-History-Juvenile literature.
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by Ellen Wu.
Each of these sea passages involves a particular ship. But it’s people who are at the heart of any story about ships. Like the ripples that fan out from a stone dropped in a pond, these stories touched many shores and many lives in diverse ways. They spread knowledge and created new communities. They inspired the development of new technologies and attitudes. They turned some people’s lives upside down, and offered unexpected directions to them. They shone a light on inequality in the world. The stories unfold around displays of courage and determination, curiosity and imagination. The greatest legacy of these voyages is realizing how far the ripples of change traveled when those individual pebbles fell into the oceans of history.
10 Ships That Rocked the World is another welcome addition to the “The World of Tens” series from Annick Press, encompassing diverse historical narratives of maritime exploration, colonialism, political revolution, environmental protest, and more, under the unifying theme embodied by the ships. Young readers set sail on learning about events spanning six centuries, from the little-known treasure ships of 15th century China under the aegis of Zheng He, to the Sirius Star, a ship hijacked by Somali pirates in 2008. These are ships which touched off events that shaped exploration, commerce, warfare, immigration policies, and transformed societies, some of them even becoming symbols of revolution and hope.
Gillian Richardson’s informative and engaging text is paired with the distinctive artwork of Kim Rosen. An introductory spread includes a physical description of each ship, when it was built, its “claim to fame”, and its eventual fate. The ships are featured in chronological order. As with other books in the series, each chapter begins with a fictional vignette pulling the reader into the historical context of the ship, usually through the eyes of a young protagonist. Each ship’s story is also brought further to life with ample paintings and historical photographs. There are sidebars and features of other topics which are highlighted by the story of the ship in question. For example, the story of the Komagata Maru also briefly discusses the boat people of Vietnam, and modern-day refugees in need of a haven to call home. In the story of the Granma, readers also learn more about Che Guevara and the Mariel Boatlift which transported 125, 000 Cubans to Florida.
The book begins with the little-known treasure ships of Zheng He which were built in the early fifteenth century in Nanjing, China. His seven voyages, a peaceful series of encounters with Southeast Asia and Africa, were meant to expand China’s influence across the Eastern world and bring more tributes to the Ming dynasty. Young readers next learn of the regrettable legacy of Vasco de Gama who commanded the São Gabriel on behalf of the Portuguese empire and who circumnavigated Africa to reach India. He forged a series of bloody and violent trade encounters that set the tone for other colonial powers in the region.
The United States’ intimidation of Japan through the USS Susquehanna in the 19th century led to the end of Japan’s 200-year-old imposed isolation and brought about its modernization. Developments in marine warfare are also discussed through a chapter on the H.L. Hunley that was built in South Carolina during the Civil War and was one of the earliest submarines. Despite its small role in the war, it helped advance technology into making submarines the undersea weapons they are today. A chapter of Canadian history also takes centre stage as the voyage of the Komagata Maru, from Hong Kong to Vancouver, documents the racism inherent in Canada’s immigration policy and recounts the injustice South Asian newcomers faced when they were refused entry into Canada. Readers also learn of the symbolic significance of the Exodus 1947 that was used to bring Holocaust survivors to Israel and how their plight in being denied entry by Britain was an international incident that helped contribute to the eventual creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Each ship’s tale impacts so much more than the people on board and demonstrates Richardson’s opening words that, in the ocean of history, their legacy brought about “ripples of change” farther than the traveler could imagine.
The ships highlighted above are just over half of the fascinating ships’ stories readers learn about in this highly readable book. While 10 Ships That Rocked the World is eye-opening in showing the power imbalances and structures that allow for grave injustices to take place, it also shows peoples’ resilience, ingenuity, and the ability to adapt and thrive in a constantly changing world. 10 Ships That Rocked the World will have young readers’ minds filled with new and interesting facts, making connections between ideas and events from the past and realizing how they still resound, still matter, very much in the present. 10 Ships That Rocked the World is an excellent resource for young researchers, and includes a selected bibliography and suggestions for further reading. It would be a solid title for any school and public library.
Ellen Wu is a teen services librarian working in Surrey Libraries, BC.
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