Day the World Exploded: The Earthshaking Catastrophe at Krakatoa




Shock waves.


The almighty explosion that destroyed the volcano island of Krakatoa was followed by an immense tsunami that killed more than thirty thousand people. The effects of the waves were felt as far away as France, and bodies were washed up in Zanzibar.

Today, one ...

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Shock waves.


The almighty explosion that destroyed the volcano island of Krakatoa was followed by an immense tsunami that killed more than thirty thousand people. The effects of the waves were felt as far away as France, and bodies were washed up in Zanzibar.

Today, one hundred and twenty-five years after the volcano erupted in one of the greatest catastrophes the world has ever known, the name Krakatoa is still synonymous with disaster.

In this illustrated account based on Simon Winchester's bestselling Krakatoa, the colossal explosion is brought to vivid life. From the ominous warnings leading up to the eruption to the wave of killings it provoked, here is an engaging and insightful look at what happened on the day the world exploded.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Kevin Beach
This fascinating adaptation of the author's bestseller Krakatoa (HarperCollins, 2003) brings to the younger reader the significance of Krakatoa's 1883 volcanic eruption to the disciplines of history, geology, communications, politics, religion, and art. The catastrophe was the first international event reported over the "Victorian Internet," the undersea telegraph, and was the first major natural disaster to be studied by scientists in the modern world. People now realized that natural occurrences in an unknown remote portion of the world could have global consequences. In its aftermath, religious zealots, deciding that the growing trade and influence from the Western world had angered Allah, spawned a political upheaval in the colonial region. Naturalist Alfred Wallace, Darwin's contemporary, began forming basic ideas about evolution and geology from his investigations in the region. The first Asian tourism industry cropped up in the region as preliminary tremors and minor eruptions attracted thrill seekers. After the eruption, the ensuing tsunami killed thousands, caused major damage, and increased tidal activity more than 10,000 miles away. Even the sunset colors in artist Edvard Munch's painting The Scream were influenced by the global dust caused by the catastrophe half way around the world. Today the area still serves as a laboratory for scientists studying life after an eruption. The book goes on to explore the nature of volcanoes and specifically the legends and history of the islands surrounding Krakatoa. The prolific illustrations and primary source photographs are a terrific complement to an interesting and highly readable text. Reviewer: Kevin Beach
Children's Literature - Joyce Rice
Stories of disaster are one of the favorite subjects for middle school age male readers. Whether reading about an adventure gone bad or a sinking ship, they seem to revel in the tragedy and the risk. The eruption of Krakatoa in August 1883 caused monumental damage and led to a cost of over thirty thousand lives as a result of lava flows and the resulting tsunamis as far away as France. This is a text that is accessible to the older elementary reader, the middle school reader, and the reluctant reader in high school. The culture and business life of this area of Southeast Asia during the late nineteenth century is presented with maps, historical photos, drawings, and graphs. Other well-known volcanoes, such as Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Vesuvius, are pictured and described. Scientific explanations as to the development of volcanoes is included to help students understand what causes a volcano and how the eruption develops. Beginning on page 60 of the text, the author begins to describe the events surrounding the eruption. There is a discussion of the early warnings and an explanation as to how the people could become complacent about the small eruptions that they witnessed weeks before the actual main event. Following the coverage of the explosion that caused so much devastation, the author discusses what the reader can find in Krakatau today. This is a very well done adaptation with extensive illustrations. A glossary, suggested reading, suggested websites and an index are included. This book is an excellent source of reference for one particular event, as well as a source for a particular geographical area and a particular era in time. This is a worthy purchase for Social Studiesclassrooms and media centers. Reviewer: Joyce Rice
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8

Zimmerman has successfully adapted Winchester's Krakatoa (HarperCollins, 2003) for young people. The book casts light on a specific moment when geological forces interacted with civilization, providing readers with a vivid picture of the destruction and human suffering caused by the volcanic eruption. The volume conveys much historical background to the 1883 Indonesian disaster, including the European colonization of the region in response to the spice trade. Relevant cultural and scientific advances are also presented, such as Alfred Wegener's concept of "continental displacement," Alfred Russel Wallace's breakthroughs in evolutionary science, and the invention of the telegraph. The eruption sequence is portrayed chronologically from personal records, telegraph reports, and official officer logs. Chin's full-color cartoon illustrations enhance the many archival and contemporary photographs, historical illustrations, and maps that accompany the text. The account of 19th-century scientific achievement is coupled with the drama of the eruption, resulting in an exciting and informative read, with the wide-ranging effects of the volcanic explosion explained in a powerful manner. In addition to this work's educational and reference potential, it lends a human face to a natural disaster and will attract general readers as well.-Jeff Meyer, Slater Public Library, IA

Kirkus Reviews
" . . . [W]e humans inhabit this planet subject to geological consent, which can be withdrawn, at any time." Adapted from Winchester's Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883 (2003), this chronicle of the infamous volcanic disaster takes elements from the adult text and renders them child-friendly. The science of volcanic eruptions, the presence of the Dutch (and their East India Company), inventions of the time that kept the world informed, the explosion and its aftermath each get their own sections. A plethora of full-color illustrations, photographs, maps, sidebars and other inserts make for a visual stunner. Zimmerman does what he can to cull information from the original text with mixed results. Much of the book is interesting, but sidebars called "News Briefs" often prove distracting. Though the actual explosion entrances, sometimes the reading bogs down, as in the Invention section of the book. Yet while it may not be the only title on Krakatoa for kids out there, this is still one of the best. (glossary, index, suggested reading) (Nonfiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061239823
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/6/2008
  • Pages: 96
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.90 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Simon Winchester

Simon Winchester is the acclaimed author of many books, including The Professor and the Madman, The Man Who Loved China, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and Krakatoa. Those books were New York Times bestsellers and appeared on numerous best and notable lists. In 2006, Mr. Winchester was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by her Majesty the Queen. He lives in Manhattan and in western Massachusetts.

Jason Chin is an illustrator and web designer. He has illustrated The Day the World Exploded by Simon Winchester. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


One of the leading practitioners of the offbeat, narrative nonfiction genre The New York Times affectionately calls "cocktail-party science," Simon Winchester studied geology at Oxford, worked on offshore oil rigs, and traveled extensively before settling into a writing career. For twenty years, he worked as a foreign correspondent for the Guardian, augmenting his income by writing articles and well-written but little-read travel books. Then, an obscure footnote in a book he was reading for sheer recreation sparked the idea of a lifetime.

The book in question was Jonathon Green's Chasing the Sun: Dictionary Makers and the Dictionaries They Made, and the footnote read, "Readers will of course be familiar with the story of W.C. Minor, the convicted, deranged, American lunatic murderer, contributor to the OED." Immediately, Winchester knew he had stumbled on a real story, one filled with drama, intrigue, and human interest. Published in 1998, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Oxford English Dictionary was an overnight success, garnering rave reviews on both sides of the pond, and remained on The New York Times hardcover bestseller list for more than a year.

Fueled by curiosity, passion, and a journalist's instinct for what makes "good copy," Winchester has gone on to explore the obscure, arcane, and idiosyncratic in blockbusters like The Map that Changed the World, Krakatoa, and The Man Who Loved China. Coincidentally, his subjects have placed him squarely in the forefront of the new wave of nonfiction so popular at the start of the 21st century. In an interview with Atlantic Monthly, Winchester explained the phenomenon thusly: ""It shows, I think, that there is deep, deep down -- but underserved for a long time -- an eagerness for real stories, real narratives, about rich and interesting things. We -- writers, editors -- just ignored this, by passed this. Now we are tapping into it again."

Good To Know

Winchester once spent three months looking at whirlpools on assignment for Smithsonian magazine.

He once wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times to correct a factual error in an article about where the millennium would first hit land on the morning of Jan. 1, 2000. (It was the island of Tafahi, not the coral atoll Kirabati.)

He reportedly loves the words "butterfly" and "dawn."

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    1. Hometown:
      New York; Massachusetts; Scotland
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 28, 1944
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      M.A., St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, 1966
    2. Website:

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