HomeBooks by AgeAges 9-125 Gripping Survival Stories to Be Read and Passed on to Young Readers

5 Gripping Survival Stories to Be Read and Passed on to Young Readers

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Tod Olson | The Children’s Book Review | January 29, 2018

Tod Olson

Tod Olson

There’s nothing like a good survival story: The conflict is clear, the stakes are as high as they get, and you know exactly what you’re rooting for. Kids know all of this instinctively, which is why there are tens of millions of I Survived books in print and everyone has read Hatchet by the time they leave 8th grade.

When I was 11, an adult survival story turned me onto nonfiction, and I think every kid’s reading level rises when the material is gripping enough. In that spirit, here are five classic nonfiction survival tales written for adults—to be read and passed on to young readers with a taste for adventure.

Alive- The Story of the Andes SurvivorsAlive: The Story of the Andes Survivors

Written by Piers Paul Read

An Uruguayan rugby team is pushed into extreme culinary choices after a plane crash strands them in the Andes Mountains. This was my introduction to survival stories, and I didn’t leave my chair until I turned the last page. I tell the story when I visit schools, and the grisly details only seem to draw kids in.

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Publisher: Harper Perennial | 2005 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0060778668

In the Heart of the Sea- The Tragedy of the Whaleship EssexIn the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

Written by Nathaniel Philbrick

In the 1820s, a whaleship is rammed by one of its prey in mid-ocean. Its crew, set adrift in three 20-foot whaleboats, endures all kinds of hardship trying to make it back to shore. There’s a YA edition that focuses on a teenage crew member and cuts back on some of the great context about whaling, but the adult version is riveting. And yes, they eat each other in this one too.

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Publisher: Penguin Books| 2015 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0143126812

Touching the Void- The True Story of One Man’s Miraculous SurvivalTouching the Void: The True Story of One Man’s Miraculous Survival

Written by Joe Simpson

This is the lean, fast-moving, jaw-dropping story of one climber’s ordeal on a snow-bound mountain (the Andes again). It’s a tale of almost inhuman endurance and an exploration of the absurd ethical dilemmas that arise on a mountainside at 20,000 feet. Most of all, it’s impossible to put down. There’s also a great film built around interviews and a recreation of the climb.

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Publisher: Harper Perennial | 2004 (Revised) | ISBN-13: 978-0060730550

Into Thin Air- A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest DisasterInto Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster

Jon Krakauer

A freak snowstorm and a critical mass of amateur climbers conspire to strand dozens of people near the top of Everest. A heartbreaking story and plenty of fodder for debate about our responsibility to each other in extreme circumstances.

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Publisher: Harper Perennial | 2004 (Revised) | ISBN-13: 978-0060730550

Adrift- Seventy-six Days Lost at SeaAdrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea

Written by Steven Callahan

One man is stranded at sea for 11 weeks on an inflatable raft. Callahan was a trained engineer, and it’s fascinating to watch him jury rig the tools of his survival. He’s also eloquent about the emotional content of his ordeal. “There is a magnificent intensity in life that comes when we are not in control but are only reacting, living, surviving,” he says. And plenty of vicarious intensity for those of us who prefer just to read about it.

Order a Copy Now: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Publisher: Mariner Books | October 17, 2002 | ISBN-13: 978-0618257324

About Tod Olson

Tod Olson is the author of the historical fiction series How to Get Rich and the four books in the Lost series—Lost in the Pacific, 1942; Lost in Outer Space;  Lost in the Amazon; and Lost in the Antarctic. He has written for national magazines on the Columbine school shooting, homeless teens, the murder of Matthew Shepard, and many other stories of interest to children and young adults. Tod holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Vermont with his family, his mountain bike, and his electric reclining chair. To learn more, and to download free teaching resources, visit his website: todolson.com.

Lost in the Antarctic- The Doomed Voyage of the EnduranceLost in the Antarctic: The Doomed Voyage of the Endurance

Written by Tod Olson

Publisher’s Synopsis: There wasn’t a thing Ernest Shackleton could do. He stood on the ice-bound Weddell Sea, watching the giant blocks of frozen saltwater squeeze his ship to death. The ship’s name seemed ironic now: the Endurance. But she had lasted nine months in this condition, stuck on the ice in the frigid Antarctic winter. So had Shackleton and his crew of 28 men, trying to become the first expedition ever to cross the entire continent.

Now, in October 1915, as he watched his ship break into pieces, Shackleton gave up on that goal. He ordered his men to abandon ship. From here on, their new goal would be to focus on only one thing: survival.

Filled with incredible photographs that survived the doomed voyage of the Endurance, Lost in the Antarctic retells one of the greatest adventure and exploration stories of all time.

Praise for previous titles in the Lost series:
★”A riveting, completely engrossing true survival story.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Engaging… A great choice for collections.” —School Library Journal

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Scholastic Inc. | January 1, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1338207347

Available Here

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Tod Olson, author of Lost in the Antarctic: The Doomed Voyage of the Endurance, curated the book list 5 Gripping Survival Stories to Be Read and Passed on to Young Readers. Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with .

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  • I myself love survival stories. It’s amazing to see what endurance we are capable of. Lost In The Antarctic. I know my older grandson would love these stories. Thanks for the post. I’m going to give these titles to my grandson so he can check them out.

    January 31, 2019
  • Survival stories have a lot of tension and are heartfelt accounts of an event that happened which didn’t turn out as planned.

    February 11, 2019
  • The giveaway winners for Lost in the Antarctic: The Doomed Voyage of the Endurance have been drawn!

    Congrats to Catherine G. (TX), Lauralee H. (CO), Francis B. (CO), Beth T. (OR), and Amy K. (NY). Enjoy!

    March 4, 2019

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