March 29, 2012

Tragedy at sea

by James Heneghan

On September 17, 1940, a German U-boat sank a passenger ship called the CIty of BenaresIt was carrying 406 passengers and crew, of whom 100 were children being evacuated to Canada and the United States. Only 19 of the children survived. Wish Me Luck is a fictional story of this World War II disaster. 

For thirteen-year-old Jamie Monaghan, the war seems very exciting. He doesn't want to miss any of it, even if it means hiding in a bomb shelter most nights. So he's not pleased when his parents decide to send him to Canada. "Ye'll be safer there" says his dad.

Within 24 hours, Jamie finds himself sharing a cabin with tough Tom Bleeker on the City of BenaresThe ship stops only once, when the waters need to be swept of mines, making their sailing date Friday the thirteenth. Meanwhile, the voyage proceeds like a luxury cruise, with gourmet meals, personal laundry services, and hot showers. In another bit of foreshadowing, Bleeker insists that a German U-boat is tracking them, but nobody believes him. 

The description of the sinking is gripping and suspenseful, made all the more tragic because it involves children. Bleeker is the hero in this story; his transformation from an angry, uncouth boy to a quiet, contemplative teen is nicely handled.

Also read the nonfiction book Miracles on the Water, by Tom Nagorski. It tells the harrowing story of the Benares through eyewitness accounts from some of the survivors. For a review, go to

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