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Young Adult Fiction Military & Wars

September 17

A Novel

by (author) Amanda West Lewis

Red Deer Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2013
Military & Wars, General
Recommended Age
12 to 16
Recommended Grade
7 to 11
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2013
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


In July 1940, a British government-sponsored program called Children's Overseas Reception Board — or CORB — was set up to send children from Britain to Canada and other Commonwealth countries, in order to rescue them from the bombings of British cities. The City of Benares was a luxury liner that was recruited in September 1940 to transport 90 of these children to Canada, along with the ship's regular passenger complement.

A convoy of ships including the The City of Benares set off from Liverpool in mid-September and approximately six hundred miles out, after the naval escorts had withdrawn, the ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sank in about half an hour. Only thirteen of the CORB children survived the sinking. As a result of this tragedy, the program was cancelled.

September 17 is a novel that tells the story of three of the children that were on board The City of Benares, as they experience and survive the disaster and wait to be rescued. One lifeboat was not picked up by the destroyer sent to make the rescue, and was at sea with 46 passengers, children and adults for eight days until it was picked up near the Irish coast. Two teenaged girls held onto an overturned lifeboat for 18 hours before they were picked up, while another family, including two children not on the CORB program, floated on a tiny raft for hours before being rescued.

The characters whose adventures are described are all real, though some conversations and encounters have been fictionalized by author Amanda Lewis.

About the author

AMANDA WEST LEWIS is the author of seven books for young readers, including These Are Not the Words. Her novel September 17 was nominated for the Silver Birch Award, the Red Cedar Award and the Violet Downey IODE Award. She is a writer, theater creator, calligrapher and teaching artist. She is the founder of the Ottawa Children’s Theatre, and she has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Born in New York City, she now lives in Brooke Valley, Ontario, with her husband, writer Tim Wynne-Jones.

Amanda West Lewis' profile page

Editorial Reviews

"It is an astonishing story and one that Amanda West Lewis tells extraordinarily well. It is alive and arresting, sharing as many perspectives as possible, while providing deeper looks into the genuine experiences of several children. We learn what they anticipated, what they feared, what they endured, and what happened to them. It is an extraordinary glimpse into a perhaps neglected part of World War II history, and one that needs to be commemorated all the more on September 17 with September 17 the book."
CanLit for LittleCanadians

"Riveting and heartbreaking alike, especially as readers count down the days to the tragedy they know is coming."
Kirkus Reviews

"Their heroism is inspiring, but the children also put faces to war's cost. They endure harrowing events and witness the death of other children, including friends and siblings of friends."
The Times Union

"Although the story is deeply tragic, the determination, heroism, courage, and compassion of passengers and staff are inspiring. This book is an example of how far-reaching and horrifying the effects of war are on even the most innocent victims."
Books For Children blog

"It's a harrowing tale, with despair and hope alternating as lifeboats fail to launch properly in heavy seas or capsize as they hit the water. The survivors were mostly just lucky, but luck is nearly always tempered by good leadership, courage, and co-operation. These traits come through very strongly, especially in Lifeboat 12 in which Ken found himself and which was not rescued until over a week at sea. . . a gripping story."
CM Magazine

"(September 17) will have strong appeal for readers entranced by Titanic tales or those who encountered The City of Benares' story in Heneghan's Wish Me Luck, and Lewis ably incorporates the protocols for wartime transport and search-and-rescue operations that contributed to the disaster and its aftermath."
— Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

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