The first thing I want to talk about with this book are the illustrations. Each one appears to have been hand painted on canvas before it was made into an illustration for the book. One word. Wow. I can't even imagine how long it would have taken to do all of these paintings. They really add something to the book as well, they set a mood. The fact that they are done in such a realistic fashion helps to make the reader feel that this story could have actually happened. In addition the quality of the illustrations make it easy to envision yourself in the book. The illustrations also set a more serious tone to the book, which is fitting considering the topic is the Titanic. Really though, I just cant say enough good things about them, they are beautiful and very realistic. It just occurred to me too that they were a very good choice on the author's part. Just think of how ridiculous this book would have been and how different the tone if the illustrations had been cartoons instead.
In addition to having fabulous illustrations, this book had a wonderful story. One of my favorite things about it was that it was a point of view I have never seen before in a story about the Titanic. In fact, the actual ship's name isn't even used until the very end- though you knew they were talking about the Titanic the whole time because of the title of the book, and the views that you get in the illustrations. I almost wish they had titled the book something else so that when you got to the end and they told you that the ship was the Titanic you could actually be surprised. At any rate, the story is based around the old sea myth that every ship must have a cat and it is bad luck not to. At first, the ship does have a resident cat, and four kittens. It is Jim's job to take care of them. He carries the kittens around in a box everywhere he goes and the cat follows. Then on the day that the Titanic is supposed to set sail, Jim sees the cat carrying her kittens off the ship one by one. As they are pulling up the gangplanks, Jim realizes that she forgot one kitten and he jumps on to the dock to return it to her. In doing so, Jim misses his ride to America. Days later, Jim realizes that the cat saved his life, after hearing news of the Titanic sinking.
I feel like animals are a good way to help relate hard topics to children, and the Titanic is certainly a hard topic to discuss given that it was such a tragedy. If you wanted to have this as part of a history unit, this book might be a good way to start it out. There are also many other books out there that have animals and the Titanic as their theme. Even if you don't have a unit on the Titanic, this would still be a good book for your classroom shelf because the story is a good one and it introduces history. Ages 5 to 9.