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April 5, 2012

Children drawn to Titanic tale; educators use caution

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

John Payne's mom was nervous about him seeing James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster, "Titanic," when a 3-D version hits theaters in April. He's seen the edited-for-TV version over and over again.

"The people who died, who sacrificed, I think they were really brave to die like that," he said. "I really liked the movie but the parts I found scary were the parts where Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) were trapped in the sinking parts."

Karen Heafer, a second-grade teacher in Lincoln, Neb., has been in the classroom for 31 years. She read a fictionalized account of a mascot cat on the Titanic to her students a couple of years ago and considers the story valuable, even half told.

"I use generalities. We don't go into a specific number of people killed," Heafer said. "A lot of them are curious about how the people survived, how long did they have to stay on the water, who found them? They're more drawn to the survivors than the ones who drowned."

Not so for Will Bousquette III, a 9-year-old at The Browning School in Manhattan. Assistant librarian Susan Levine invited Denenberg to the private Upper East Side prep school for boys after choosing his book for her third-grade reading group for fathers and sons.

Will was especially touched by the story of Isidor and Ida Straus. The co-owner of Macy's department store and his wife of 40 years went down with the ship together after she refused a spot in a lifeboat.

"It was heart-touching," Will said. "It made me sad, then it felt sweet. I was greatly surprised. I also didn't realize how cold the water was. I could feel the emotions but I wasn't freaked out."

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