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Lifeboat 12, by Susan Hood

Lifeboat 12, by Susan Hood

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(Paperback, 336 pages, first published in 2018)

“Lyrical, terrifying, and even at times funny. A richly detailed account of a little-known event in World War II.” —Kirkus Reviews

“An edge-of-your seat survival tale.” —School Library Journal (starred review)

This poignant novel in verse based on true events tells the story of a boy’s harrowing experience on a lifeboat after surviving a torpedo attack during World War II.

With Nazis bombing London every night, it’s time for thirteen-year-old Ken to escape. He suspects his stepmother is glad to see him go, but his dad says he’s one of the lucky ones—one of ninety boys and girls to ship out aboard the SS City of Benares to safety in Canada.

Life aboard the luxury ship is grand—nine-course meals, new friends, and a life far from the bombs, rations, and his stepmum’s glare. And after five days at sea, the ship’s officers announce that they’re out of danger.

They’re wrong.

Late that night, an explosion hurls Ken from his bunk. They’ve been hit. Torpedoed! The Benares is sinking fast. Terrified, Ken scrambles aboard Lifeboat 12 with five other boys. Will they get away? Will they survive?

Award-winning author Susan Hood brings this little-known World War II story to life in a riveting novel of courage, hope, and compassion. Based on true events and real people.

Cautions: This book contains some references to luck and coincidences occurring around the number thirteen, one exclamation of the Lord's name, and one scene where a crewmate goes crazy (from drinking saltwater on the lifeboat) and jumps off the boat to his accidental death. The protagonist does not appear to be religious, but he reflects on the prayers and actions of mostly nameless Catholic and Muslim crewmates on his lifeboat; a kind, named Catholic priest plays an important and positive role.

Ages: 9-13

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