Twelve-year-old Kevin Messenger finds himself caught up in a century-old mystery involving a ghost, an unexpected inheritance and the sinking of the Titanic. Someone, somewhere, needs his help.

The terror, anxiety and reality of the Titanic’s fateful end come to life as Kevin tries to right the wrongs of the past and put some troubled souls to rest.

"…contains all the necessary ingredients to make it a classic children's mystery story."
                                                    —  Victoria Times-Colonist

Canada: Scholastic Canada, 2011
 ISBN: 978-1-4431-0041-0

Winner, Chocolate Lily Award, 2013
Honour Book, Silver Birch Award, 2012
Saskatchewan’s Diamond Willow Award, Nominee

USA: Holiday House, 2012
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-8234-2423-8
Publication Date: April 1, 2012

Hebrew edition, published
by Dani Books in Israel

The Story Behind the Story

The story of the Titanic has been told many times and in many different ways. What isn't so well known is the role that Halifax played in the aftermath of the disaster. On a visit to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic way back in 1997, I learned that Canadian cable ships were chartered by the White Star Line to go to the disaster site, recover victims' bodies and take them to Halifax for identification and/or burial. I also learned that the Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax has the largest number of Titanic victims buried anywhere in the world, and that sailors had a long-standing tradition of carving objects out of wreck wood.

I jotted down a few notes but never considered writing about the Titanic. Ten years later, I still didn't consider it. Especially after being immersed in the writing of No Safe Harbour, a novel set during the 1917 explosion that destroyed the north end of Halifax and took the lives of some 2000 people. No way did I want to write about another disaster! But during my research of the Halifax Explosion I discovered an intriguing fact that tied in with the Titanic. And that had to do with the identification of bodies.

Yes, bodies. A disaster equals bodies. And somebody has to deal with them. Imagine what a gruesome, heart-wrenching and monumental task it must be to recover and identify bodies. In the case of the Halifax Explosion, the amazing thing is that the majority of victims were identified — thanks to a system developed five years earlier by a Dr. John Henry Barnstead, the Deputy Registrar of Deaths in Halifax at the time of the Titanic's sinking.

I was intrigued by Dr. Barnstead's skillfully improvised system, particularly in its meticulous recording of details. In a way, this further connection between Halifax and the Titanic took me from one disaster to another.

Besides, it was time for a change. By the time I started Ghosts of the Titanic I'd written four books for the Our Canadian Girl series and three books for the Dear Canada series - all historical fiction from the perspective of young girls. Why not a write a book that wasn't part of a series? Why not write from a boy's point of view? And why not link his story with that of a sailor on board the ship that goes out to retrieve victims' bodies? I imagined the effect that such a grim task would have on a young seaman. What if his actions had consequences that extended far beyond April 1912 and into the present day? This was the question that triggered Ghosts of the Titanic, and gave rise to a demanding ghost, a haunted sailor, and a mystified but determined contemporary teenage boy.


With an eye for historical detail, as well as dialogue that rings true to both character and time-period, Lawson has woven a fascinating fiction around historical fact. Readers interested in the Titanic (and who isn't?) will delight in the novel's backstory, which all happened one century ago. Those wishing to know more about the subject can refer to the Titanic website as well as visit Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition, both of which our hero Kevin does in the novel. Reference also to the Halifax Explosion will set readers in search of more on that story. They would do well to seek out another Lawson gem, No Safe Harbour.

Via tight plotting and consistently believable relationships, Lawson has created another great historical action novel, and a timely one at that - the 100th anniversary of the iconic disaster is only months away. Ghosts of the Titanic brought back the excitement I remember so fondly upon receiving my much-anticipated Scholastic orders as a youth.
[Read entire review here.]

Highly Recommended

CM, June 10, 2011

"Lawson creates instantly familiar characters and vivid settings. She fills Ghosts of the Titanic with enough history and facts which will have some young readers looking for books on the Titanic once they are finished, yet never makes the story feel like a history lesson … Like the best children's writers, Lawson never talks down to her readers, which is one of the reasons Ghosts of the Titanic is such an enjoyable read for an adult as well."

Vancouver Sun

"This story is an excellent blend of past and present. A ghost from the Titanic haunts Kevin as he tries to unravel the truth behind his father's unexpected inheritance."

Calgary Herald

Listen to Julie's interview on CBC as she talks about her start as an author, her writing process, and the inspiration that led to Ghosts of the Titanic.

Read an interview with Julie Lawson here.

Where to Buy this book

Ghosts of the Titanic is available now:

1. at your local bookstore or children's bookstore.
2. by placing an order with your local bookstore or online bookseller.
3. directly from the publisher, Scholastic Canada. (1-800-268-3860)