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Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917

by Sally M. Walker

School Library Journal Gr 5-8-This intriguing title tells the story of a little-known event. In late 1917, the French freighter Mont-Blanc was sent to North America to be refitted and loaded with much-needed war material. With its hull packed with TNT, picric acid, and gun cotton, and its deck stacked with barrels of benzene, it made its way along the coast of Nova Scotia to Halifax Harbour before setting sail for Europe. It was there, as it entered Bedford Basin, that the Mont-Blanc encountered the empty Belgian relief ship Imo riding high in the water. Amid a cacophony of ships' whistles, communication became muddled, and the Imo rammed the Mont-Blanc. Sparks soon ignited the leaking benzene. Though the ship began to burn almost immediately, it happened slowly enough that people became aware of it and either started toward the harbor or stood at their windows to watch. Unfortunately, it did explode, creating the largest man-made blast in the world prior to the dropping of the atomic bomb. The impact flattened more than 16 square miles and killed almost 2000 people. The author describes the holocaust and how it changed the lives of five families. The text reads smoothly with unfamiliar words defined in the text. Illustrations consist of two full-page maps and numerous black-and-white photos. The final chapter revisits the featured families and their descendants, thus tying up the loose ends. The acknowledgments, source notes, and bibliography indicate thorough research. This tragic, but well-told story belongs in most collections.-Eldon Younce, Anthony Public Library, KS (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list Disasters make for gripping reading, and this account of the huge explosion of a munitions ship and its devastating effects in Halifax harbor, Canada, in 1917 tells the dramatic history with clear, detailed facts that combine the science and technology of why and how the accident happened with powerful personal accounts of what it meant for families who were there. The story of the largest man-made explosion until Hiroshima begins with two ships floating quietly in the night as families nearby prepare for their day: The Imo is loading food and coal; the Mont Blanc, like a monstrous bomb, carries 2,925 tons of explosive material. When the two ships collide, people rush to see the dramatic fire in the harbor, and many die in the fiery explosion after huge benzine-filled drums and the main cargo blow up, creating a tsunami that sweeps people away. With archival photos on almost every page, the narrative will connect readers with recent tsunami and earthquake disasters and the drive for recovery and reconstruction. Source notes and a selected bibliography conclude this title by an award-winning science writer.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

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