Ships & Shipwrecks! January 31, 2017 – Posted in: Booklist Updates – Tags: ,

Q. We are looking at the topic of Shipwrecks this term. We’ve already got a few books on pirates and we’re keen to find some other texts that focus on islands, ship and sunken treasure. Would you be able to recommend some fiction and non-fiction books for pupils in years 5/6?

A. Thank you for your question. There’s lots of scope here for brilliant fiction books for UKS2, as well as some great non-fiction titles, so let’s see what treasures we can find!

Any child who enjoys mysteries or graphic novels will love the Tintin story Red Rackham’s Treasure by Hergé, which features a gripping quest to find sunken treasure; the usual cast of eccentric characters including Thomson and Thompson, Professor Calculus and Captain Haddock; and even a gloriously quirky shark-shaped submarine. This is a classic Tintin adventure, and the underwater scenes in particular are beautifully drawn.

robinsonThe brilliant Classic Starts series of classic novels retold for children has a version of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe that is ideal for young readers. The hero’s fight for survival, perilous encounters with tribes and mutineers, and friendship with Man Friday make for an engrossing tale, and the story’s huge influence on literature and popular culture makes this an essential read for any child studying this topic.

Echoes of Defoe’s tale can be found in another wonderful fiction book, Kensuke’s Kingdom. One of Michael Morpurgo’s finest works, this book suffuses a wondrous island adventure with the author’s typical flair for writing about themes such as friendship and the natural world. Michael’s parents buy a yacht, and take him off to sail round the world. Washed overboard in a fierce storm, Michael finds himself on the shore of a remote island – and soon discovers he’s not alone. Kensuke, a former Japanese soldier, survived the war and the bombing of Hiroshima, and has made the deserted island his home. You might also want to pick up a fantastic Morpurgo bind-up Island Tales, which includes ‘The Wreck of the Zanzibar’ and ‘Why the Whales Came’.

Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr is a short novel telling the story of a girl living on a remote island with her father and the animals she calls her friends. When her dad goes missing at sea and a storm hits the island, Nim has to fend for herself and protect her home. Featuring a resourceful and brave heroine, this is an involving story. With e-mail correspondence playing a significant role in the narrative, this more modern take on the island adventure tale also makes for an interesting comparison with the Robinson Crusoe story. This is a fairly short novel, and could be useful for more reluctant readers in year 5/6.

Shakespeare’s tempestplay The Tempest is a strange and magical story that chimes well with this topic. Prospero and his daughter Miranda are stranded on a lonely desert island. Then a magical storm washes a royal ship ashore – and Prospero finally has the chance to right old wrongs. Short Sharp Shakespeare by Anna Claybourne and Mr William Shakespeare’s Plays by Marcia Williams both provide excellent versions of the tale for young readers.

When it comes to non-fiction, the 100 Facts series is a great place to start for any topic. 100 Facts: Shipwrecks by Fiona MacDonald presents one hundred essential nuggets of information on doomed ships throughout history in a bold, bright layout with quizzes, ideas for projects and quirky cartoons. Its accessible format makes this book a key text for your topic.

Treasure Hunters: Shipwrecks by Nick Hunter combines a look at the science and technology of exploring shipwrecks with historical facts. The text has an immediate style that includes descriptions of maritime disasters written in the present tense, bringing them vividly to life. This book also looks at the ethics of and reasons for exploring shipwrecks, discussing how some people have searched these sites to try to learn about the past, while others have been driven by the lure of undiscovered riches.

If you’re looking for an informative book 16thcon ships in general, Usborne’s See Inside Ships is indispensable, giving readers an interactive lift-the-flap view of ocean-going vessels from Viking longboats to modern aircraft carriers. Also highly recommended is Spectacular Visual Guides: A 16th Century Galleon by Richard Humble and Mark Bergin, which contains highly detailed drawings – including fascinating cross-sections – of how ships of this period would have looked, as well as insight into how they were built, crewed and navigated.

With its trademark humour and instantly recognisable line drawings, the Horrible Geography series has the same charm as the original Horrible Histories books. Wild Islands by Anita Ganeri brings readers all the weird and wonderful facts anyone could wish to know about atolls, archipelagos and Atlantis in an eye-catching format, which includes fact files on famous islands around the world and fun quizzes.
Lastly, we can’t fokasparrget the most famous shipwreck of all, the sinking of RMS Titanic, which has inspired some fantastic books. For a fiction book that touches on the disaster, Michael Morpurgo’s Kaspar Prince of Cats is a superb choice. Alternatively, try the narrative non-fiction title My Story: Titanic by Ellen Emerson White, about an orphan girl chosen to accompany a wealthy lady aboard the great Titanic. There are plenty of brilliant traditional non-fiction books on this subject as well: try two from DK – Eyewitness: Titanic and Story of the Titanic – and the brand new 50 Things You Should Know About: Titanic from QED Publishing.

I hope that’s helped and given you some inspiring ideas for your new topic! Have a look at our ‘Shipwrecked!’ book list in the KS2 section of our website for even more ideas!