There is something mysteriously intriguing about survival books. Watching smart kids pull their limited resources together and do great things can be an inspiring message to 21st century children who spend the majority of their time in front of a screen. What would you do if you were stuck on a deserted island with nothing but lots of bananas and one piece of string? These types of books can draw both boys and girls - so without further ado I present a sorted list of classic survival books.
( I have to admit that I am a little picky when it comes to survival books. I cannot personally recommend many of the established "classics." I will list the classic books here and add an asterisk to those I have personally read AND enjoyed. )
Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
Where: Deserted island
This is the survival book of survival books, the one that started them all.
Although this book is a little bit more of a difficult read, it is certainly something
a survival oriented family could enjoy together. Me and my family never
could get into it, but there has to be something in there worth reading, for it
is considered one of the greatest novels in the English language.
The Swiss Family Robinson - Johann David Wyss
Where: Deserted Island
This is one of the rarest type of books you can find. The type of book where the movie is better then the original novel. Of course, that is my personal opinion. The novel is certainly a fun idea in a beautiful setting. It works best for kids who are REALLY into the survival thing (this probably shouldn't be the first survival story you read). Long paragraphs are dedicated to not only WHAT they did to survive but HOW they did it - making it a classic best enjoyed by children who enjoy spending hours in the backyard planning their own abandoned island.
Island of the Blue Dolphins - Scott O'Dell *
Where: Deserted island homeland
This is probably the best introduction to the survival genre. The entire book is perfectly balanced between explaining the ways a young girl survives on an island alone and somehow staying upbeat and exciting ( although there is only one primary human character). In my opinion, this is survival for kids at its very best.
Baby Island - Carol Ryrie Brink *
Where: Deserted Island
Although rather unknown, this is probably my favorite survival story of all the ones I've read. Two young girls escape a sinking ship and must survive on a deserted island until help can be found. Sound familiar? Well the twist is that as they left the ship they grabbed identical twin toddlers and a young baby girl. So these resourceful girls must learn how to survive and change diapers all in one humorous adventure.
Hatchet - Gary Paulsen
Where: Middle of a forest
This is the story of a young boy whose plane crashes into a lake in the middle of nowhere. He must spend months living on his own, with only a small hatchet as a means for survival. Many children complain that this story is boring and too detailed. They have a point, but don't write it off too quickly. Although this book is probably geared toward the more outdoorsy of young boys, there are beautiful passages that can be enjoyed by anyone. Me and my older sister really enjoyed this book by listening to a professional audio reading. I would highly recommend that method. Get an audio version and listen during a lazy afternoon, sick day home from school, or long car drive.
Julie of the Wolves - Jean Craighead George *
Where: Alaskan Tundra
This is a survival story on a different landscape: the frozen tundra of Alaska. Julie survives not alone, but by adapting herself and being adopted by a local group of wolves. This book combines the intriguing idea of survival with a touching story of acceptance and endurance. Although this book is exciting and well written, its target readers are definitely girls. Do not make your son read this book, unless he really wants to.
Lord of the Flies - William Golding*
Where: Deserted Island
What if you weren't alone on a deserted island? What if you were surrounded by all your school age buddies? This famous literary masterpiece explores questions of the basic nature of humanity. While its themes are interesting and its characters lovable, there is quite a bit of gross content. I would recommend waiting to read this book with your kids until they are a mature 11-12 ( maybe even older then that ).
My Side of the Mountains- Jean Craighead George
Where: Catskill Mountains
This is a famous ( well-spoken of ) tale of a young boy from New York City who runs away to the Catskill mountains. While it sounds interesting, I have heard reviews both negative and positive. Unfortunately, I have never read it and cannot give a personal recommendation.
The Sign of the Beaver - Elizabeth George Speare
Where: Cabin in the Wilderness
When his family is delayed, a young boy must take care of the family homestead
all on his lonesome. As he fights off strangers and learns new skills, the boy must
not only survive but also grow into a man. ( Warning: this book is best for those who like SAD stories )
And there you have it! Go prepare yourself for the next apocalypse.