Ship shape: Titanic efforts by kids at shipbuilding
Fairfield Woods Branch Library was transformed Friday from a repository for reading and research into a shipyard, with kids on the job assembling boats while learning about one of the most famous maritime disasters in history.
As part of this year's "One Book, One Town" community reading program, the library has scheduled activities throughout March focused on the doomed ocean liner Titanic, which sank 100 years ago this April after colliding with an iceberg on its maiden voyage. The overall theme of the program is set by "The Watch that Ends the Night," a novel by Allan Wolf that imagines voices from passengers on the sinking ship.
"Shipbuilding 101," led by Children's Librarian Cheryl DelVecchio, was the first of several workshops planned for children this month, with the focus for the event inspired by the book, "TitaniCat," by Marty Crisp and illustrated by Robert Papp. "TitaniCat" is loosely based on the true story of a cat called 4-0-1 that lived aboard the Titanic. The cat would have gone down with the ill-fated vessel, but was taken shore in Southampton by a cabin boy as the cat gave birth to kittens. The boy was supposed to have gone back aboard to complete the trans-Atlantic journey, but missed the departure and was ultimately saved from almost certain death.
DelVecchio read "TitaniCat" to kindergarten and first-grade children at the Friday workshop, then guided them in crafting mini replicas of the Titanic from construction paper, milk cartons and glue. The models included smokestacks and could be adorned with accessories like waves and sea creature stickers. Children and adult companions collaborated on the work, trimming, taping and decorating the small ships.
"We thought a shipbuilding exercise would be fun," said DelVecchio. "This is the first of four children's programs themed around the Titanic that we will offer this month."
While entertaining, "TitaniCat" was also informative. Notably, every ship that sailed in those days carried a cat on board to control mice and rats. Sailors also believed a ship's cat brought good luck for a voyage.
The cat's curious name, 4-0-1, was related to the Titanic's initial designation. In those days, it was a long-standing superstition not to call a ship by name while it was being built. The Titanic was assigned the number 4-0-1, which later was bestowed on the ship's cat.