The Sinking of the Vasa by Russell Freedman | SLJ Review

Gr 3-6 –In August 1628, the Vasa, a massive, opulently decorated Swedish navy warship, was ready to launch. Commissioned by Sweden’s king and having taken more than two years to build, she was loaded with weaponry and crafted to strike fear into all enemies.

redstarFREEDMAN, Russell. The Sinking of the Vasa: A Shipwreck of Titanic Proportions. illus. by William Low. 44p. bibliog. Holt. Aug. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781627798662.

Gr 3-6 –In August 1628, the Vasa, a massive, opulently decorated Swedish navy warship, was ready to launch. Commissioned by Sweden’s king and having taken more than two years to build, she was loaded with weaponry and crafted to strike fear into all enemies. Anticipation over the inaugural sailing was high, with observers waving offshore and the ship’s crew and their families on board. Shockingly, after traveling less than a mile, the Vasa was struck by wind, capsized, and sank, taking many lives. The ensuing investigation suggested poor design was to blame. Whatever the cause, no charges were ever brought. More than three centuries passed before the great hulk was raised from Stockholm’s harbor in the late 1950s. Years of painstaking repair and restoration followed and today, the Vasa is proudly displayed in a museum. Freedman did impeccable research to recount this little-known event, and his clipped sentences convey appropriate drama and suspense. Low’s wonderful digital paintings perfectly capture the historical settings and prodigious breadth and size of the ship. Underwater scenes depict exciting salvage efforts and include a breathtaking gatefold of the Vasa being lifted to the surface. There are a number of curriculum connections to be made with this text; for journalism and history units, elicit oral or written “you-were-there” interviews from the perspectives of the sinking ship’s observers or survivors. Students can also compare and contrast the events surrounding the sinking of the Titanic and the Vasa. VERDICT A richly crafted work of history for upper elementary schoolers.–Carol Goldman, formerly at Queens Library, NY

This review was published in the School Library Journal July 2018 issue.

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