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Maritime Archaeological Association of NZ reviews 'SS Penguin SOS.'


Book review by John Ackrill, August 2020 in the MAANZ Newsletter Aug/Sept 2020.


For more reviews of SS Penguin SOS and our other titles see our reviews page:


Jack (aged 11) has been staying with his Aunt Ada and her son, Wally, in Wanganui since his father died. His mother and sister are with relatives in Picton. Jack’s English teacher has set her class the task of writing an essay on a hero or heroine, and he finds out that Aunt Ada survived the sinking of the SS Penguin in Cook Strait several years earlier.


He persuades his Aunt to tell him and Wally what happened, and discovers that she was the only woman among the 30 survivors; her husband and four children were some of the 72 who lost their lives in one of New Zealand’s worst maritime disasters. And that she saved the life of a young boy when they were trapped under a capsized lifeboat, so was a real-life heroine. Read the book to find out what happened to Jack’s essay!


This book was written for young adults but, is very readable – and worth reading - at any age. The author acknowledges ‘Wreck of the Penguin’, by Bruce Collins (a MAANZ member), as source material in writing her book, and information obtained from Papers Past. Aunt Ada (Ada Hannam) was her great-aunt and Jack, her father, so the book is based on a true story and a family tragedy. Sadly, Adrienne Frater died in February 2020.


The plaque commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the sinking was placed at Tongue Point by MAANZ members on a Field Trip in 2009.

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