On May 6, 1937, the giant German airship the Hindenburg was destroyed by fire as it attempted to land at Lakehurst Naval Base in New Jersey. Of the 93 people on board, a remarkable 62 survived, including Werner Franz, the ship's 14-year-old cabin boy. In Surviving the Hindenburg, writer Larry Verstraete recounts young Werner's story of the airship's final voyage. Through Werner's memories young readers will explore the inner workings of the giant airship, marvel at the breathtaking vistas from its observation ...
On May 6, 1937, the giant German airship the Hindenburg was destroyed by fire as it attempted to land at Lakehurst Naval Base in New Jersey. Of the 93 people on board, a remarkable 62 survived, including Werner Franz, the ship's 14-year-old cabin boy. In Surviving the Hindenburg, writer Larry Verstraete recounts young Werner's story of the airship's final voyage. Through Werner's memories young readers will explore the inner workings of the giant airship, marvel at the breathtaking vistas from its observation windows, and hold their breath during Werner's terrifying escape from the fiery devastation. "My mind didn't start working again until I was on the ground," Werner said later. "Then I started running." Captured in detailed, dramatic artwork, the story of the doomed airship comes alive for readers and history buffs of all ages.Larry Verstraete's book, S is for Scientists: A Discovery Alphabet, was named a 2011 Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students by the National Science Teachers Association. He lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.David Geister's work has been featured in The History Channel Magazine. His books include B is for Battle Cry: A Civil War Alphabet. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Werner Frantz was the youngest crewmember on the ill-fated voyage of the Hindenburg. The 14-year-old served as cabin boy to the officers and crew, a job that kept him busy on the lower deck. When he could, Werner would walk the gangway to visit the mechanics and pilots; but he most enjoyed making his way to a window in the bow, from which he could watch the Atlantic Ocean and eventually the swarming sidewalks of New York. As the Hindenburg neared its mooring, Werner finished up his chores. Hearing a thud and seeing a glow through the window, he ran to the gangway and saw behind him a fireball tearing his way. Fearing he was trapped, Werner quickly scrambled to a hatch leading outside and thus made his escape—one of 62 survivors. Verstraete tells the story in the third person in a very composed, almost emotionless tone, giving some distance from the horror. He occasionally uses Werner's own words, although nowhere does he cite his source for them. Geister's magnificent paintings bring the story to life. He shows Werner navigating the narrow gangway surrounded by girders, the glowingly hot fireball racing toward him down the corridor, his hanging onto ropes as the fire surrounds him, his jumping from the zeppelin as it disintegrates behind him, and his sitting with other shocked survivors. His mixed palette captures the varying emotions—with coolly bright scenes as the zeppelin makes its crossing changing to darker, smoky tones as disaster strikes. Verstraete provides historical information both before and after the text, but again provides no sources. A diagram of the Hindenburg would have been helpful, as would some websites where readers could find more information. With this year being the 75th anniversary of this disaster, as well as the 100th anniversary of the Titanic, there should be plenty of interest this last living survivor's story. Reviewer: Peg Glisson
School Library Journal
Gr 1–4—The story of the disaster is told through the eyes of the last surviving member of the crew, Werner Franz, who was only 14 at the time of the crash. He was a cabin boy aboard the luxury airship and moved freely about the zeppelin as he completed his regular duties. On May 6, 1937, attempting to land on a New Jersey airfield, the Hindenburg caught fire and the hydrogen-filled cells were immediately engulfed in flames. Young Werner was saved by a soaking from a burst water tank and narrowly escape the inferno. This picture-book biography provides an exciting introduction to the bygone days before airplanes were a viable option for crossing the Atlantic. While the information provided about the Hindenburg and airships is brief, the story is punctuated with descriptive details, and readers may be encouraged to seek out more in-depth sources. The writing is straightforward, but with enough suspense and buzz to keep students interested. The accompanying paintings, with their slightly subdued colors, adequately depict the drama as it unfolds. A solid addition to real-life disaster collections.—Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA