White Star A Dog on the Titanic by Marty Crisp


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Oct 13, 2000
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Crisp, Marty. White Star. A Dog on the Titanic. 1st printing. New York: Holiday House. April, 2004. hardcover. children’s book (ages 8-12). isbn: 0823415988. scarcity: fairly common.

White Star is a children’s book that tells the story of a fictional Irish Setter who joins the dozen or so dogs that really were on Titanic. Marty Crisp has written quite a number of books for young readers, many of them with dogs as the heroes. White Star continues in that vein, blending the real story of the Titanic disaster with her fictional account of a twelve year old, first class passenger named Sam, a dog lover who volunteers to help with the dogs in Titanic’s kennel.

There he meets the young setter, whom he names Star. The two of them quickly become fast friends, even though Star is actually owned by White Star Line president J. Bruce Ismay. Sam and Star become inseparable, and have several amusing adventures as Titanic steams unknowingly towards her dark destiny. Sam manages to meet most of the other passengers who are also traveling with their dogs, and we get introduced to many of the dogs who really were on board.

When disaster strikes, Sam’s only thought is rescuing Star from the kennels. This he does, and Star returns the favor by leading the boy off the ship, eventually to be picked up by one of the lifeboats already in the water. The men in the boat try to save Sam, but refuse to let Star into the boat. Sam rebels and an argument ensues until one of the first class passengers demands that both boy and dog be taken aboard.

So both end up being saved and make it safely onto the rescue ship Carpathia, eventually returning to New York. After having gone through so much together, the bond between the two is immense. But Sam knows that Star really belongs to Mr. Ismay, and he has to make the most difficult decision of all, to return Star to his rightful owner.

Crisp does a very good job of interweaving her fictional characters with the people and dogs who really were aboard the ship. She did her homework, and most of the information about the real people and their pets is right on the money. The one glaring mistake is that she has Officer Pitman scolding Ismay during the launching of the lifeboats, while in reality it was Officer Lowe who so famously told his boss off.

The author rounds out the book with a map showing Titanic’s voyage, a cutaway of the ship showing all the decks, and a timeline of what happened on the maiden voyage. There follows a section describing some of the more famous mysteries about the voyage, and brief bios of some of the passengers. A few more minor blunders make it into this part of the book, including the one single mistake that just won’t die; namely that the first time SOS was used was during the Titanic disaster. I don’t know why this error keeps finding its way into book after book, but it does, and it is just plain wrong. SOS was first used years before Titanic, most famously in 1909 when it resulted in the rescue of most of the passengers and crew of the Republic, after that ship was rammed by the Florida.

The book finishes with not just one, but two bibliographies for further reading, one for younger readers, and one for adults. All in all this is a charming and moving book, well told and mostly accurate. One word of caution, if your child is unusually empathic, you might want to read this yourself before you let them read it. Crisp doesn’t sugar coat the tragedy, and several of the dogs you meet during the story do die. Aside from that, if you love a good dog story, this one is top rate.

For a look at the book cover, plus a link to the author's website, check out Crisp's Author Page:

http://titanicbooksite.com/crisp_marty.html

The book is now available for purchase on most of the major new book sites.
all the best, Michael (TheManInBlack) T
 

Pat Cook

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Apr 26, 2000
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Hi Michael,

You said "The one glaring mistake is that she has Officer Pitman scolding Ismay during the launching of the lifeboats, while in reality it was Officer Lowe who so famously told his boss off".

During the U S Hearings, Pitman did testify:

Mr. PITMAN. In the act of clearing away this boat a man said to me, that was dressed in a dressing gown, with slippers on, he said to me very quietly, "There is no time to waste." I thought he did not know anything about it at all. So we carried on our work in the usual way.
Senator SMITH. Do you know who that was?
Mr. PITMAN. I did not then.
Senator SMITH. Do you now?
Mr. PITMAN. I do now.
Senator SMITH. Who was it?
Mr. PITMAN. Mr. Ismay. I did not know who it was then; I had never seen the man in my life before. So I continued on getting this boat uncovered and swinging out. It struck me at the time the easy way the boat went out, the great improvement the modern davits were on the old-fashioned davits. I had about five or six men there, and the boat was out in about two minutes.
Senator SMITH. You are referring now to No. 5 boat?
Mr. PITMAN. No.5 boat.
Senator SMITH. The boat at your station?
Mr. PITMAN. At my station; yes. The boat went out in two or three minutes. I thought what a jolly fine idea they were, because with the old-fashioned davits it would require about a dozen men to lift her, a dozen men at each end. I got her overboard all right, and lowered level with the rail.
Senator SMITH. You lowered her level with the rail of the boat deck?
Mr. PITMAN. Of the boat deck; yes. Then this man in the dressing gown said we had better get her loaded with women and children. So I said, "I await the commander's orders," to which he replied, "Very well," or something like that. It then dawned on me that it might be Mr. Ismay, judging by the description I had had given me."

While this isn't a scolding, he did have something of a confrontation with Ismay. Was this what Crisp wrote?

Best regards, O M
Cook
 
Oct 13, 2000
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Hi Pat,
thanks for that reminder. I had forgotten that Pitman also had words with Ismay. Crisp actually has Murdoch utter the line "I await my captain's orders".

she then describes Ismay screaming "lower away! lower away!". then comes "If you'll get out of the way, I'll be able to get something done! If I lower away too quickly, I'll drown the whole lot of them". those were definitely Lowe's words. in my initial reading I thought she still had Pitman talking here, but going back and reading the paragraph more carefully, she attributes this outburst to "a crewman", not Pitman.

thanks for keeping me on my toes!
all the best, Michael (TheManInBlack) T
 
Jun 4, 2000
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Thanks for the good news on this release, Michael. I know I'm not the only person who's been anticipating this book as Marty's a well regarded children's author and certainly put in the hard yards on research. She was a regular presence on a few Titanic discussion groups a while back, too. It's marvellous to know it's now in print (even if I don't recognise the imprint as distributed locally, but I suppose that's what special orders are for, eh).
 
Mar 10, 1998
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This is grand news! Marty is a really nice lady and has been working on "the Titanic dogs" for years. Glad to see the book is finally in print and I hope she sells a zillion copies.
 
Oct 13, 2000
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Tracy, I expect Crisp edtied out Lowe's, ummm, more colorful language, as this is a book for children after all. lol.

Fiona, I am not knowledgeable about the author's other books, though it is obvious from her website that she has quite a number of them. I can tell you this, though, Crisp very obviously "gets" dogs. she has their mannerisms down perfectly, as well as how relationships develop between people and dogs. anyone who is a dog lover will definitely find a kindred spirit in Marty Crisp.

Phil, you are right, this book has been in the process for quite a long while. I first heard about the book in November of 2002 (courtesy of Fiona). I had contacted the author at the time asking for more information and she told me the publishing date was targed for April of '04. I thought for sure she mistyped and meant 2003. but on asking for confirmation, she assured me she meant 2004. it is amazing how long titles can take to work their way through the publishing process. but on the other hand the book is out now, in March, so its actually a month early! ;)

all the best, Michael (TheManInBlack) T
 
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Cheryl Adair

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I don't want to start a whole thread for this, so will just say it here -- I just today learned that several dogs and one cat perished when the Titanic sank. This makes it even more horribly sad for me, being the animal lover that I am (especially cats!) I had no idea that any animals were on the ship!
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Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Cheryl, there is a story that the ship's cat (if ever there was one) boarded in Belfast and then wisely took herself and her kittens down a gangplank in Southampton and thus became an early survivor of the disaster. No sure proof of that, but I like to think it's true and I reckon you will too!
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Jun 19, 2004
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About the "SOS" myth I think I saw on another thread here that it was the first time "SOS" had been used on a British ship. Correct me if I'm wrong on that one.
 

Ben Lemmon

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Feb 6, 2008
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I realize that this thread is nearly 4 years old, but I thought I would add my own review of the book for those not sure if they wanted to purchase it or not.

I just read this book, and I think that it is a good read for all ages, not just children. Some of the information is faulty, but then, you have to realize that we have deduced much in the past four years concerning the layout of the Titanic.

The book itself almost makes you feel as though you are on the Titanic as she is going down. It makes you feel emotions about the characters that are impossible to feel with Cameron's Titanic If you are looking for a book about the Titanic, or more accurately, a book about the Titanic that involves children, this is a definite must-read. You would likely be able to find this book at your public library, but if you cannot find it there, you can purchase one for less than five dollars on Amazon.com
 
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