The Great Molasses Flood: Boston 1919 by Deborah Kops is an account of a very unusual disaster. On a quiet day in January 1919, a huge tank of molasses burst open and flooded a Boston waterfront neighborhood. The massive wall of sticky liquid did an amazing amount of damage. People were injured and eventually 21 died. Several buildings were destroyed and the elevated train tracks were damaged. After the immediacy of rescue and clean up efforts came the questions. Why had the giant tank broken open? What caused this disaster?
In the prologue, Kops sets the historical stage to the flood by recalling the significant events of the previous year, including the outbreak of the Spanish flu and the ending of World War I. In chapter one she targets the happenings of the area right before the tank bursts, giving an introduction to some of the people and places involved. Chapter two recounts the events of the disaster from the third person perspective of a number of the victims. The next chapter covers the rescue and clean up efforts, and the final three chapters discuss the mystery surrounding how the tank burst and the resulting legal investigation.
After recently reading books about Prohibition (Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition) and World War I (Unraveling Freedom), this book revealed how the events of the time were intertwined in yet another way. It turns out that the previous batches of molasses owned by the U.S. Industrial Alcohol Company had been turned into alcohol that was used in the manufacture of ammunition for World War I. Now that the war had ended and Prohibition was on its way, the company had to convert the molasses to alcohol fast or it would lose a lot of money. Talk about a sticky situation.
Not only will The Great Molasses Flood thrill history buffs, but it is also a very good mystery. Definitely deserves a spot on the library shelf.
Investigate the science behind the disaster with a hands-on activity at Growing With Science.
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 112 pages
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing (February 1, 2012)
Book provided by the publisher for review purposes.
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This week’s round-up is here at Wrapped In Foil.