Monday, November 12, 2007
Iron Thunder: the battle between the Monitor & the Merrimac by Avi, C. B. Mordan, illustrator, Hyperion, 007
I have been interested in the Monitor and the Merrimac ever since I made a shoe box diorama depicting the battle in elementary school.
Avi has brought the Monitor's story to life in his new novel, Iron Thunder: the battle between the Monitor & the Merrimac. The book left me with a much greater understanding of the history of the two ships and the strategic role they played in the outcome of the American Civil War.
Tom Carroll has already lost of his father to the war. His income selling newspapers is not enough to help his struggling family so when he is given a chance to work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard he takes the job. The pay may be minimal, seventy-five cents a week, but the work is steady.
He works for Captain John Ericsson who is designing the oddest boat Tom has ever seen, the ironclad Monitor. The reader is in no doubt that Tom is going to end up on the ship and he is there for the famous battle with the Merrimac.
Avi has woven lots of history and facts into the story. The book design includes actual diagrams, period photographs, artifacts, newspaper illustrations and broadsheets that summarize the latest war news throughout the story.
Tom's story is illustrated in black and white images that evoke the engraved style of newspapers of the time. An author's note brings the story of the Monitor up to date with the discovery of the wreckage in 1973 and the USS Monitor Center and website. A glossary and bibliography are also included.
This book is the first of a new "I Witness" series which initially brought the "Dear America" et al. series to mind but this story does not exude the dreary melancholy that permeates so many of those books. This is a vivid retelling of a battle that was as pivotal as Gettysburg in the final outcome of the war.
Duel of the Ironclads: The Monitor vs. the Virginia by Patrick O'Brien, Walker, 2003
Patrick O'Brien's maritime paintings lend color to the story for those who want to pair the novel with a nonfiction read.