I’ve been trying to hash out what exactly I would classify as a survival story, then decided to just go with my gut. I also decided I shouldn’t bore you with repeated recommendations for the same books (otherwise, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood would somehow be found on every list). So the following are some survival themed reads, limited to one per reading level, from my bookshelves:
Henry’s Freedom Box, A True Story of the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson (Scholastic, 2008, 38pgs)
Henry Brown wasn’t sure how old he was. Henry was a slave. And slaves weren’t allowed to know their birthdays. (pg. 1)
The title and subtitle pretty much explain this book’s presence on the list, and the Caldecott Honor medal on the cover attests to the quality of the writing, illustration and story. A wonderful book for reading aloud and discussing slavery and freedom, among other topics, with young children. And the illustrations are gorgeous, adding to the impact of this story.
Early to Intermediate Readers:
Ten True Animal Rescues by Jeanne Betancourt (Scholastic, 1998, 66pgs)
A non-fiction read that delivers what the title promises, ten stories of rescues made by animals including dogs, a dolphin, a pony, and a gorilla. These are very quick stories that get straight to the point, which made them perfect for end of the day read-aloud when there was only a minute or two to fill when I was a substitute teacher. This book was quite popular with many classes, and I carried the book in my bag with multiple flags indicating which story to read next for each class.
Intermediate to Middle Grade Readers:
Not the End of the World by Geraldine McCaughrean (HarperCollins Childrens Books, 2004, 244pgs)
I find it interesting to read different takes on historic events, and this is an interesting (though problematic) take on the Noah’s Ark story. You know (probably), the one where a family survives a flood that covers the entire earth. Here’s what I said about it on GoodReads in early 2015: Wonderfully descriptive language is the best (or worst, depending on what is described) part of this creative but flawed retelling of the biblical tale of Noah and the Ark.
As an adult, this is an interesting re-imagining that doesn’t shy away from the gruesome, the brutal, or the smelly. As a children’s book, these and other elements (kidnapping, spousal abuse, animals talking to their gods, etc) are problematic.
So I was a bit critical, but I’m including it here as a recommendation for adults who might want a quick, easy read of a differently imagined take on the story of the Ark, told from the perspective of Noah’s fictional young daughter.
Middle Grade to Young Adult:
Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare (Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1989, 274pgs, 1957 copyright by the author)
Written by the author of two award winning books, The Bronze Bow and The Witch of Blackbird Pond, this is a lesser known book that has been a favorite of mine since I first read it sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s. It is a fictional retelling of the captivity, at the hands of a tribe of Abenaki and then by the French, endured by Miriam Willard and others from a settlement in New Hampshire just before the French and Indian War. As a young teen I thought the story exciting and romantic. As an adult, I have yet to reread it, but I appreciate that Speare chose the younger sister of Susanna Johnson, whose perspective is more commonly known due to her memoirs, as the main character.
I Forgot to Remember, A Memoir of Amnesia by Su Meck with Daniel de Vise (Simon & Schuster, 2014, 281pgs, ARC)
I read and reviewed this book in 2013, rating it at 3/5 stars, but I decided to include it as my adult recommendation because it is Su Meck’s story of surviving a traumatic brain injury and the book that I credit with giving me a basis with which to judge (and a desire to read) fictional amnesia stories. While the writing is not stellar, the work and progress that were involved are impressive. You can read my GoodReads review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/767852563
This week’s list has me thinking of doing a post of books that were popular with classes I taught as a substitute teacher. I’m wondering, though, if there would be interest in that? I might just have to post a list to find out.
Monthly Recommendations is a GoodReads group of bloggers and YouTube content creators started by Kayla of Kayla Raines and Trina from Between Chapters.