word craft


Iron Thunder

Iron Thunder

Hype­r­i­on, 2007

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audio book nar­rat­ed by 
Tyler Greenlaw

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The Battle Between The Monitor and The Merrimac

What’s this book about?

When his father is killed fight­ing for the Union in the War Between the States, thir­teen-year-old Tom Car­roll must take a job to help sup­port his fam­i­ly. He man­ages to find work at a bustling iron­works in his home­town of Brook­lyn, New York, where dozens of men are fran­ti­cal­ly pound­ing togeth­er the strangest ship Tom has ever seen. A ship made of iron. Tom soon learns that the Union army has very impor­tant plans for this iron ship called the Mon­i­tor. It is sup­posed to fight the Con­fed­er­ate “sea monster”—another iron­clad, the Mer­i­mac. But almost no one believes the Mon­i­tor will float!

Mean­while, Tom’s job at the iron­works has made him a tar­get of Con­fed­er­ate spies who offer him mon­ey for infor­ma­tion about the ship. Tom finds him­self caught between two cer­tain dan­gers: an encounter with mur­der­ous spies and a bat­tle at sea in an iron coffin… .

Story Behind the Story

If you enjoy read­ing history—as I do—it’s easy to also devel­op a fas­ci­na­tion for the things, the arti­facts of his­to­ry. Napoleon’s hat. Jane Austin’s tea cup. Muse­ums pro­vide much of that, illus­trat­ed biogra­phies add more, and there are books with titles such as The His­to­ry of World War One in One Hun­dred Objects. I just pur­chased A His­to­ry of Amer­i­can Sports in One Hun­dred Objectsfor one of my sons.

Over the years I’ve come to know that young peo­ple, boys in par­tic­u­lar, are fas­ci­nat­ed by things, too, whether it be a Colt revolver, or Ben­jamin Franklin’s eye-glasses.

It was these kinds of inter­ests that led me to cre­ate what I hoped would be a series called I Wit­ness. The notion was to write his­tor­i­cal fic­tion with as much accu­ra­cy as I could, and insert a young per­son into that real­i­ty. Then I would have the book illus­trat­ed with his­tor­i­cal documents—pictures of things—old paint­ing and etchings—to illu­mi­nate the story.

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Awards and Recognition

  • Pub­lish­ers Week­ly, 2007, starred review
  • Banks Street Best Books of the Year, 2008
  • Bea­con of Lib­er­ty Award, 2008, nominee
  • William Allen White Chil­dren’s Book Award, 2009, nominee


“The spec­tac­u­lar clash with the Mer­ri­mac caps this intense and action-packed account of a bat­tle that changed the course of naval war­fare. Illus­trat­ed with peri­od engrav­ings, this is grip­ping his­tor­i­cal fic­tion from a keen­ly imag­ined per­spec­tive.” (Pub­lish­ers Week­ly, starred review)

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if you liked this book, try: