Updated: Jun 8, 2019
We are delighted to host a guest post by Lindsay Littleson, author of The Titanic Detective Agency (available here).
In this blog post, Review Panel member Hayley tells us what to expect from the book and then author Lindsay (a primary teacher herself) explains how her new book could be used in primary school classrooms.
Title: The Titanic Detective Agency (available here)
Author: Lindsay Littleson
Publisher: Pokey Hat / Cranachan
Publication Date: April 2019
Most Suitable For: Years 4-6
Reviewed by: Hayley Warner (@MrsHWteach), Assistant Headteacher
Unlock the secrets of the unsinkable ship…
This is a wonderful story that re-tells the tragic events of the Titanic, told through the eyes of two if its passengers: Bertha and Johan. Bertha – a first class passenger – is brave, inquisitive and destined for adventure whereas Johan – a third class passenger – is quiet, suffers heavily from seasickness and doesn’t speak a word of English. He is Swedish and therefore finds it hard to understand other passengers, especially Bertha. This may sound confusing, but I felt that it added to his character more, as Littleson cleverly includes written Swedish alongside action, to really help the reader understand the text and to further the story. However, what I found most exciting about this book, is that the chapters intertwine, with some events being repeated but given by the perspectives of Bertha and Johan.
Johan wishes for a better life for his family and is on his way to join his dad to live the American Dream. But an innocent altercation with a stranger leads him on the hunt for hidden treasure aboard the Titanic. The only problem is, he needs help to dissect the clues. This is where Bertha comes in, who by chance, has already started a Detective Agency with her friend Madge after witnessing some suspicious activity from another passenger. Will they be able to solve the mysteries before it’s too late?
This was a very easy and enjoyable read. There are enough historical facts to balance with the exciting fictional content to keep readers entertain and engaged. Though some spoken parts are written in Swedish or French, the action alongside the speech means that this only adds to the characterisation.
I would certainly recommend this book to be shared with years 4 -6. There are plenty of writing opportunities that could stem from this, such as diary or character development after the event. This text could also be used in history to help timeline the Titanic’s voyage. The way in which the sinking has been described cleverly has enough detail and description, but not enough to cause any fear or upset to younger readers.
Interestingly, all passengers referenced in this book were actual passengers of the fateful vessel. At the back of the book, there are photos and a short paragraph on each to explain what happened to them during or after the sinking. This makes for a very meaningful end touch to the book.
by Lindsay Littleson, author of The Titanic Detective Agency
My publisher Cranachan Books specialises in children’s historical fiction and all their Yesteryear titles support current project work in UK schools. Anne Glennie, who is both a publisher and literacy consultant, asked me if I’d be interested in writing a Titanic set story, if possible with a Scottish protagonist. She felt there would be real interest, as Titanic is an extremely popular topic. As well as being a publisher, Anne is also the author of Reflective Reading and Phonics Forever, and owner of The Learning Zoo, and she is planning to produce a Reflective Reading Pack to accompany The Titanic Detective Agency.
As a primary teacher myself, I am all too aware of how time-limited teachers are and how important it is that they can access appropriate resources to accompany class novels, so I have produced resource packs for all of my previous children’s novels, including A Pattern of Secrets, my Victorian set mystery and Guardians of the Wild Unicorns, a fantasy adventure set in the Scottish Highlands. There are plenty of resources and a mass of information out there on the Titanic disaster, but the sheer amount of material can make it difficult to know which themes to tackle first, particularly as the information needs to be pitched at the correct level.
Reading The Titanic Detective Agency as a class novel will help to place events in a chronological time line and bring those events to life, without being too harrowing for young readers. The novel explores all the important historical themes and will spark plenty of debate, particularly on how the rigidity of the class structure and strict codes of conduct affected people’s chances of survival.
The photographs at the back of The Titanic Detective Agency remind readers that the children in this book aren’t fictional. They were real-life passengers with their own fascinating stories to tell. The main character is 12 year old Aberdonian, would-be polar explorer Bertha Watt.
It is an unfortunate fact that a lot of stories set on the Titanic are rather dull until the ship starts to sink and I had to find a way of engaging young readers from the start. In The Titanic Detective Agency, Bertha is thrilled to be travelling to America but quickly realises that some passengers are behaving strangely, and determines to unravel their secrets. With new friend, Madge, she sets up her own detective agency to try and solve the mystery of the enigmatic Mr Hoffman and his two adorable little boys.
When Johan Cervin Svennson, a Swedish lad travelling alone in 3rd Class asks for help in deciphering a map he has discovered, Bertha adds The Strange Boy and the Treasure Map to her case book. Bertha and Madge work on solving the mysteries, both unaware that the ship is steaming towards disaster and that time is running out for hundreds of those on board.
The Titanic Detective Agency is published on the 15th of April, the date of the sinking. It has been months of hard work to research and an absolute pleasure to write.
Many thanks to Lindsay for sharing this guest blog post with us and to Review Panel member Hayley for reviewing the book, supplied by the publisher.
Check out the other stops on the blog tour, too!