Reviews for Blizzard of Glass : The Halifax Explosion of 1917


Booklist Reviews 2011 November #1
Disasters make for gripping reading, and this account of the huge explosion of a munitions ship and its devastating effects in Halifax harbor, Canada, in 1917 tells the dramatic history with clear, detailed facts that combine the science and technology of why and how the accident happened with powerful personal accounts of what it meant for families who were there. The story of the largest man-made explosion until Hiroshima begins with two ships floating quietly in the night as families nearby prepare for their day: The Imo is loading food and coal; the Mont Blanc, like a monstrous bomb, carries 2,925 tons of explosive material. When the two ships collide, people rush to see the dramatic fire in the harbor, and many die in the fiery explosion after huge benzine-filled drums and the main cargo blow up, creating a tsunami that sweeps people away. With archival photos on almost every page, the narrative will connect readers with recent tsunami and earthquake disasters and the drive for recovery and reconstruction. Source notes and a selected bibliography conclude this title by an award-winning science writer. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
In Halifax, on December 6, 1917, two ships collided in the harbor, one of them carrying an extraordinary amount of explosives. Walker sets the stage, then focuses on five families that lived in the waterfront neighborhoods. Through their eyes, we experience the explosion, devastating aftermath, and eventual rebuilding. Numerous black-and-white photographs, plus a couple of welcome maps, further chronicle events. Bib. Copyright 2012 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2011 #6
"Halifax, the largest city of Nova Scotia, Canada, has a story to tell." Prior to the atomic bomb, the largest man-made explosion in the world occurred in Halifax on December 6, 1917, when two ships collided in the harbor, one of them unfortunately carrying an extraordinary amount of explosives. Walker sets the stage with a brief history of Halifax, a summary of World War I, an introduction to the two fated ships, and an agonizingly suspenseful slow-motion account of the collision. But her story also focuses on five families that lived in the waterfront neighborhoods of Richmond and Dartmouth. Through their eyes, we experience the explosion (highlighted by a rapid-fire, staccato list of what each person was doing at exactly 9:04 a.m.), the devastating aftermath, the outpouring of humanitarian service, and the eventual rebuilding of the city and community. Numerous black-and-white photographs, plus a couple of welcome maps, further chronicle these events. Halifax does indeed have a story to tell, but Walker once again proves that it's her consummate gifts as a storyteller that breathe life into the tale. Source notes and bibliography are appended. jonathan hunt Copyright 2011 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 October #1
A terrible explosion devastated Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a neighboring town in 1917, causing local residents and others miles away to act heroically in response to an unprecedented catastrophe. Thousands of miles from the action of World War I, two ships headed for the conflict collided in Halifax Harbour and precipitated an astonishing disaster. On December 6, 1917, the Mont Blanc and the Imo were slated to deliver supplies to Europe. "In less than five minutes, an explosion--the likes of which the world had never seen before--and a tsunami had destroyed homes, factories, and businesses, wiping them from the land as though they had never existed." Rescue was hampered by a blizzard the next day. Nearly 2,000 people perished in the town that a few years earlier had helped with the remains of Titanic victims. Sibert Award–winning author Walker (Secrets of a Civil War Submarine, 2005) tells this story with detailed immediacy, focusing on five families affected as well as the accident itself. Tension builds as the hours before the explosion are described. The attempts to provide relief as well as to rebuild add another level of interest to the unfolding story. Despite the immense tragedy, the satisfying concluding chapter tells how loss and heroism are remembered by descendants of townspeople and those who helped. Period photographs contribute to the high level of authenticity. Source notes reveal how much came from personal narratives and interview comments of those involved. Riveting. (Nonfiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 October

Gr 5-8--This intriguing title tells the story of a little-known event. In late 1917, the French freighter Mont-Blanc was sent to North America to be refitted and loaded with much-needed war material. With its hull packed with TNT, picric acid, and gun cotton, and its deck stacked with barrels of benzene, it made its way along the coast of Nova Scotia to Halifax Harbour before setting sail for Europe. It was there, as it entered Bedford Basin, that the Mont-Blanc encountered the empty Belgian relief ship Imo riding high in the water. Amid a cacophony of ships' whistles, communication became muddled, and the Imo rammed the Mont-Blanc. Sparks soon ignited the leaking benzene. Though the ship began to burn almost immediately, it happened slowly enough that people became aware of it and either started toward the harbor or stood at their windows to watch. Unfortunately, it did explode, creating the largest man-made blast in the world prior to the dropping of the atomic bomb. The impact flattened more than 16 square miles and killed almost 2000 people. The author describes the holocaust and how it changed the lives of five families. The text reads smoothly with unfamiliar words defined in the text. Illustrations consist of two full-page maps and numerous black-and-white photos. The final chapter revisits the featured families and their descendants, thus tying up the loose ends. The acknowledgments, source notes, and bibliography indicate thorough research. This tragic, but well-told story belongs in most collections.--Eldon Younce, Anthony Public Library, KS

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