As World War II progresses and bombs are dropped on London every night, thirteen-year-old Kenneth Sparks’ home become a war zone. Before long, he’s glad to leave on the SS City of Benares, a luxury ship chartered to bring ninety English children to Canada to escape the war. To Ken, the ship is like paradise. He has plenty to eat, a comfy bed to sleep in, and a room of toys to play with.
But when the City of Benares is torpedoed by German U-Boats, Ken and forty-five other children, passengers and sailors escape on Lifeboat 12. They have limited rations and even less water. As the days drag by and no land or rescue boat appears, Ken begins to wonder if they will simply die at sea.
Lifeboat 12 was historical fiction, but it was about real people and real events (and don’t worry—it does have a happy ending!). All the characters actually lived, and narrator Ken Sparks really was on Lifeboat 12. Parliament’s decision to send children to the British colonies is a little-known piece of history which I found quite interesting. Of course, Lifeboat 12 is fictionalized, but was firmly based in the accounts of survivors and newspapers.
When I first picked up Lifeboat 12, I didn’t know if I’d like it. I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction. However, this book pulled me in, and I think it would be a great book for fans of little-known history, like World War II’s Fly Girls. In the back of the book, Susan Hood also provides historical context which was quite interesting. At the same time, the book was written as fiction—in free verse poetry—so unlike many similar books, it was quite engaging. I recommend Lifeboat 12 to lovers of historical fiction ages ten and up.