“Women, children and unbelievers into the lifeboats!”
One hundred years ago, on April 15, 1912, the “unsinkable” Titanic hit an iceberg… and sunk. More than 1,500 people perished in the freezing cold waves that morning, including a man who loved Jesus more than his own life.
Before the sun rose, as the ship tilted rapidly into the ocean, John Harper stood on the deck of the Titanic, calling the attention of his fellow passengers to the state of their souls. For Harper, this focus on salvation was nothing new. As a pastor and evangelist on his way to preach at Chicago’s Moody Church, Jphn Harper spent much of his life, including his time on the Titanic, pointing others to Christ.
As the ship sunk, Harper – a widower – loaded his 6-year-old daughter into a lifeboat, knowing she would soon be orphaned. Drying his eyes, he then turned to the crowd and began calling, “Women, children and unbelievers into the lifeboats!” John Harper brought fellow souls to Christ, even in the icy waters of the Atlantic just before his death.
John Harper’s story is compelling. His love for Jesus governed his life. Robert Plant, a Christian children’s evangelist from Ireland, tells Harper’s story in an exciting and engaging manner for children aged 7-12. Titanic, the Ship of Dreams: John Harper is published by Christian Focus Publications in the Torchbearers line.
I read this book a number of months ago and loved it. In fact, I stayed up incredibly late two nights in a row reading it. So, when I decided to spend a week observing the sinking of the Titanic as part of our homeschool, Titanic, the Ship of Dreams: John Harper naturally had to be included. My boys (ages 8 and 9) were fascinated by the story. I offered to review this book for Christian Focus’ blog hop because I loved the book. They sent me an e-book to read, however I have a print copy, and the e-book was not a motivation for me. (How’s that for a disclaimer?)
Titanic is a fictionalized biography. That’s much like historical fiction, but with a focus on the biography of a real individual. Much of the story is imagined, yet real facts are artfully woven in, and the storyline is faithful to everything known about John Harper’s character, and his final days aboard the Titanic. Christian Focus Publications’ Torchbearers line highlights the lives of Christian martyrs. I highly recommend the Torchbearers line!
John Harper’s young daughter Nana is an integral part of Titanic. We see much of the grand ship through her exploring, and we see her father through his interactions with and around her. Nana witnesses her father sharing Christ throughout the story, and she follows suit, telling those she meets about Jesus.
Throughout the book, Robert Plant artfully contrasts the fragile nature of the “unsinkable” Titanic with the eternal and sovereign nature of Jesus Christ. This theme permeates his writing, pointing children to salvation in our Messiah. My boys frequently interrupted the story to discuss the silly people aboard the boat who placed their faith in earthly things: the ship, wealth, and personal power. We had fantastic discussions about the fact that our trust must be in God alone.
Mr. Plant also repeatedly returns his readers to the fact that God alone is sovereign. Every event in our lives is chosen to bring Him glory, and to serve His purpose. There is nothing that can be attributed to “luck” or “fortune”. God is ultimately the author of our time here on earth. The boys and I were able to discuss this as we considered the fact that John Harper was originally scheduled to sail on another ship. His voyage aboard the Titanic was not accidental. Rather, God used the life of John Harper to minister to the dying, and to glorify Himself.
I love Titanic, the Ship of Dreams: John Harper by Robert Plant. In fact, I loved it enough to read it twice. I plan to read it again with the children, as we study the early 1900’s in two years. It’s just that good.
You can find Titanic the Ship of Dreams: John Harperand the other biographies in the Trailblazers biography series for 8-12 year olds at
Other Christian Focus Trail Blazer & Torchbearer books reviewed on Thinking Kids
- Brother Andrew: Behind Enemy Lines
- Fanny Crosby: The Blind Girl’s Song
- Nate Saint: Operation Auca
- John Knox: The Sharpened Sword
- Michael Faraday: Spiritual Dynamo
- Mary of Orange: At the Mercy of Kings
- John Stott: The Humble Leader
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~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.