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LIFEBOAT 12

Based on a true WWII story

Simon and Schuster (Pub date: September 4, 2018)

978-1-5344-2782-2

$17.99

A Junior Library Guild Selection

This debut middle grade novel-in-verse is based on a true, but little-known WWII disaster. It tells the story of a boy’s harrowing experience on a lifeboat after surviving a Nazi torpedo attack.

With Nazis bombing London every night, it’s time for thirteen-year-old Ken to escape. He suspects his stepmother is glad to see him go, but his dad says he’s one of the lucky ones—one of ninety boys and girls to ship out aboard the SS City of Benares to safety in Canada.

After five days at sea, the ship’s officers announce that they’re out of danger. They’re wrong.

Late that night, an explosion hurls Ken from his bunk. They’ve been hit. Torpedoed! The Benares is sinking fast. Terrified, Ken scrambles aboard Lifeboat 12 with five other boys. Will they get away? Will they survive?

This riveting novel of courage, hope, and compassion is based on copious research of the true events and author interviews with the real Ken Sparks and his fellow survivors. Includes historical photos. 

 

In the end, Lifeboat 12 is about believing in one another, knowing that only by banding together will we have any chance to survive.


Kirkus Reviews

"An escape from war-torn Britain becomes a struggle for survival when a ship is torpedoed off the coast of England. Told in verse, the story of Lifeboat 12 is lyrical, terrifying, and even at times funny. Hood makes effective use of line breaks and punctuation to wrap readers up in Ken’s tale. Copious research, including interviews with the real Ken Sparks, went into the making of this fictional recasting of a true story of survival. Backmatter offers further information, including the racism experienced by the Lascars. A richly detailed account of a little-known event in World War II."(Historical verse fiction. 9-12)

School Library Journal (starred review)

redstar Gr 4-7 –It’s 1940, the beginning of the Blitz, and 13-year-old Kenneth Sparks is selected to go to Canada as part of a program to send British children to the safety of the U.K.’s overseas dominions. When his ship is torpedoed, Kenneth, five other boys from the program, and about 40 adults make it aboard Lifeboat 12, one of the only lifeboats remaining after the evening’s gale-force winds. Together, they must survive the North Atlantic in a boat with limited supplies. Evocative verse perfectly captures the horror of their situation, the agonizing disappointment of near-rescues, and the tedium of daily life aboard a cramped lifeboat. For example, immediately following the shipwreck, Kenneth spies the red rocking horse that had been in the children’s playroom floating in the wreckage: “It rears up from the sea,/the red horse of war,/its mouth open,/silently screaming/at all it sees,/rocking up and down/in the waves,/past the bodies of those/I now know/are already/dead.” Adding to the appeal of this work is an exceptionally well-curated and organized array of back matter that includes an author’s note, a nonfiction account of the real-life Lifeboat 12, photos, an essay on the author’s sources and research technique, and documented source notes for a significant amount of the book’s dialogue. VERDICT This stirring novel-in-verse based on a true story is an edge-of-your-seat survival tale, an extensively researched work of historical fiction, and an exemplar of the form.

–Eileen Makoff, P.S. 90 Edna Cohen School, NY