Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

Non-Nonsense

on June 24, 2012

Sally M. Walker has an obvious talent for finding important (nonfiction) stories that are not as widely known as they might be.

On December 6, 1917, an explosion rocked Halifax Harbour, leveling much of the city and killing 1,952 people. It was the largest manmade explosion prior to the atomic bomb. After painstaking and exhaustive research, Ms. Walker wrote the excellent and moving account, Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917.

A lot of things had to go wrong for this explosion to have taken place. World War I was raging, and the Mont-Blanc was newly outfitted to carry munitions to Europe. The Imo was riding high in the water and had moved to avoid other harbor traffic. When the Mont-Blanc caught fire, her captain and crew abandoned ship. They were the only people who knew of the cargo. Had it not been for Vincent Coleman, the telegraph operator who perished in the explosion, the outside world may not have known of the explosion as soon. Halifax was cut off. The next day, a blizzard hit the city.

Through Ms. Walker’s eyes, we get a glimpse of the daily lives of Halifax’s citizens and how the event affected them.  She brings in details that bring the disaster to a personal level. Clothing blown off, lost relatives, and struggles to recover. I was in tears more than once. The force of the blast threw part of the Mont-Blanc’s anchor over two miles. Very sobering.

Strangely, Halifax had learned about morgues and body identification just five years earlier when bodies from the Titanic were brought to the city. Her citizens brought the same efficiency to dealing with housing, medical care, and other relief.

With starred reviews, this was a book I was happy to have discovered. Because I have several nonfiction projects currently on my plate, I look forward to hearing from the author herself.

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