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Friday, May 18, 2012

Trapped, written by Marc Aronson. Atheneum, 2011. $19.99 ages 10 and up

"Gomez was the spiritual leader, and Yonni Barrios, who had had a bit of medical training years earlier, was the doctor. Everyone was occupied. They had a goal, a purpose. No one was permitted to go off alone for very long. "We worked hard for our own rescue," Urzua explained. Every light Pena turned on and every chore that each team completed tied them together, and gave them hope."

When I was teaching and working as a teacher librarian, I tried to remind the children in our school that we are living history each day. One hundred years from now people will not know about our lives unless we write about them. They will not know our story unless SOMEONE writes it. They will not be able to 'Google' us unless we leave a legacy, or a map to follow so that there will be a record of life as it is lived in 2012. We can tell our own stories.

When we look at historical writing from an earlier time, we are thankful that someone was forward thinking enough to realize that.  Much of the research that students do concerning historical events is now available online, through interviewing someone who lived then, watching video of all types, listening to audio that describes a time past. Even adults often fail to recognize that what is happening to us today will be of interest to someone at a future time.

A lot of our students would have some knowledge of the Chilean mining disaster two years was reported daily on television and in newspapers. Why the publicity? Haven't there been other mining accidents? Have other miners not be trapped underground in places nearer to most of us than Chile? Of course, they have. In most cases, the death toll is reported and little else except to nearby communities whose lives are forever changed by such events.

This collapse was different. This time the thirty three men trapped so far underground in the San Jose copper mine were alive...and the world wanted to keep apprised of their story and the many people involved in trying to bring it to a happy ending. Was it possible to find them? Could they be saved? How would they bring them to the surface of the earth once more? As I watched I had so many questions about survival, about living in such an environment (hot, cramped, with little to eat or drink in the first days), about claustrophobia and darkness (I absolutely knew I would not survive such terrors), about safety from further collapse, about family above ground, about rescue. Marc Aronson does his best to answer many of the questions that readers might ask.

If you, as I did, watched the rescue with admiration and bated breath, it is a memory that will never be forgotten. I watched as each and every miner was brought to the surface with tears in my eyes and joy in my heart for their families, for the miners themselves and for the ending to that part of their story that united many in a collective sigh of relief!

Marc Aronson's book reads, at times, like the best adventure stories...compelling, tense and imaginative. The characters are immediate and their story is personal. We feel their plight and we cheer their collegiality and their humanity under the most terrible circumstances. We admire the many who strove to keep them alive, to find ways to communicate with them, to feed them and to develop the tools needed to bring them safely from so far below the surface.

It was extremely enlightening to read Marc Aronson's included section on his writing of this book: having no previous sources to consider since the disaster was so recent, there was no cache of gathered information to use as source notes, no few thousand 'Google' hits to help tell the story of the thirty three miners who were living the story as it unfolded to the world. Kids will be wowed by his sharing of his process. It makes a compelling argument for original research wherever possible.

Backmatter  includes brief biographies of each of the thirty-three miners, a timeline, a glossary, a word on “The World of the Miner” by a miner, a note to students, notes and sources, a bibliography, a list of interviewed subjects, useful websites, and an index.

This is a book that will be very much appreciated by anyone interested in world events, and by those who, like me, were totally absorbed in the plight of so many men, their families, and the many scientists and engineers who worked worldwide to bring their story to a satisfying conclusion.

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