Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ship Breaker

Bacigalupi, Paolo. 2010. SHIP BREAKER Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: New York.  ISBN 9780316056212.

Plot Summary
Ship breaking in the gulf is the only life that the young Nailer knows in the post-apocalyptic world created by Bacigalupi.  Workers are marked by their tattooed faces, and the jobs are rough and dangerous.  Corrupt bossmen and swanks rule ruthlessly with weapons and half men.  Hope is scarce until a raging city killer storm blows through, and Nailer and his crew find a girl amongst the wreckage who could be worth a lot more than he ever bargained.  He is faced with a difficult decision to run with her the Orleans with a dream for a better future away from the wreckage.  

Critical Analysis
Ship Breaker instantly hooks in the reader with detailed descriptions of the painfully violent jobs in the shipyard and the graphic descriptions of the motley crew.  The cutthroat nature of humanity transcends the shipyard and paints a picture of a dark and corrupted world. Bacigalupi paints an eerily realistic vision of the future and the characters represent the battle between good and evil.  The genetically altered half-man, Tool, is a brilliant counterpart to the swank girl, Nita.  Tool speaks powerful words of wisdom and proclaims, "They made a mistake with me...I was smarter than they prefer."    Ship Breaker takes the reader to the edge of an ultimately bleak future, and yet warmth and love find ways to beam through the smoggy clouds of a polluted atmosphere. 

Awards & Honors
2010 National Book Award Finalist 
ALA Printz Award

". . . A decisive rout of a legion of villains will leave readers content." - Bulletin of the Center for Childrens Books 2010
"This thriller will grab and keep readers' attentions as Nailer and Nita ‘crew up’ in their fight to survive. . ." - The Horn Book 2010
"Vivid, brutal, and thematically rich, this captivating title is sure to win teen fans for
the award-winning Bacigalupi." - Booklist 2010


  • Introduce the book by defining "ship breaking", and show students photos and/or a presentation about the reality and dangers of ship breaking. 
  • After reading, students can choose their favorite scene from the book and make a shadowbox to represent it.
  • Explore OSHA regulations for ship breaking.  There are many posters for ship breaking on their site.  Students can compare our standards to Bacigalupi's world of Ship Breaking.  Then they can write a safety plan for the Nailer, Pima ,and the Crew

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