The Code Red series from Bearport Publishing vividly recreates nine of the worst disasters in modern history. Using a narrative format, the setting is established and the causes are revealed. Readers feel the impact of the incident and the aftermath through first-hand testimonies, photographs, and descriptive details. There are ten books in the series—The Challenger Space Shuttle Explosion, Emergency at Three Mile Island, Earthquake in Haiti, The Exxon-Valdez’s Deadly Oil Spill, The Great Chicago Fire, The Hindenburg Disaster, Nightmare on the Titanic, The Texas City Disaster, The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and The 2001 World Trade Center Attack. Here are the highlights of a few of the books I read.
The Challenger Space Shuttle Explosion (by William Caper)This disaster is one I remember clearly. I used to live on Merritt Island where we watched (and felt) the shuttles launch outside of our school buildings or homes. My mother used to run the banquets for the astronauts. I remember the shock and disbelief as we watched the coverage on the television at school. Caper brings out the human side of the space catastrophe by highlighting many of the people on the craft—including how Christa McAuliffe was chosen and trained to be the first civilian and teacher in space. The narrative concludes with hope—both in the positive changes that were made to the space program and the words of President Reagan. In his speech he said, “It’s hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery.” With risks, there are failures—sometimes tragedy. We should never give up though.
The Hindenburg Disaster (by Aaron Feigenbaum)I had previously heard of this incident, but I did not know any details. The Hindenburg was one of the early passenger airships. With nearly 100 people on board, the ship had a smooth trip from Germany to the United States. The passengers enjoyed luxurious accommodations. As they were in the process of landing, the craft caught on fire. People were screaming and jumping out of it, many badly burned. One reporter, on the scene, referred to it as “the worst catastrophe in the world” and “the worst thing [he] ever witnessed.” The event had a huge impact on the people as they listened to the news reports on their radios. The age of the airship ended, but man was not discouraged from venturing into flight.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (by Jacqueline Dembar Greene)This event was entirely new to me. I could not help but to think as I read that it was in some ways to New Yorkers in 1911 what the collapse of the Twin Towers was to them in 2011. The Triangle Waist Company was in the top three floors of the ten-story Asch Building. It was one of New York City’s new skyscrapers. When the fire broke out, people (primarily women) were crowded into the noisy building working in harsh conditions, often behind locked doors. Many people were trapped. Others fell to their deaths as they attempted to get out using the fire escape. This tragic event led to factories becoming safer, better places to work, and it prompted stricter fire safety codes. Unfortunately, many lives were lost though.
The Code Red series deals with a broad range of historical events—both recent and long ago. The books are ideal as supplements to history unit studies, for book reports, or for general background knowledge and reading. Written for ages 9 and up, the series delves into high-interest, engaging topics that are sure to become favorites in any home, school, or classroom library.
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