Survival books, in the fiction genre, bring a sense of great adventure to reading, especially for boys, but girls like them, too. They are written with a child’s sense of adventure and allows them to picture themselves, imagine what they’d do, and feel they have some power over the world as the hero in the book overcomes the odds in a grown-up world. It’s one of the ways that we use literature to teach real life skills!
There are many great books in this genre, and many knock-offs that aren’t. For some of the authors, like, George, Speere and Paulsen, have a whole line of books are wonderful to read, though I can’t list them all. Most of the titles fall into the 8-15 age range and those that don’t are noted. We’ve read them all and recommend them.
20+ Awesome Survival Stories for Kids
Survival Fiction for Ages 9+
- Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George: She finds herself lost in the Alaskan wilderness, without food, without even a compass to guide her.
- Hatchet by Gary Paulsen Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered Windbreaker and a hatchet. NOTE: Anything by Gary Paulsen is great to read in this genre, but I only have so much room…can’t include them all).
- The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss: A shipwreck; a deserted island; a single family, wondering if they can survive.
- The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford: The tale of two dogs and a cat who are separated from their family and make an incredible journey cross-country to return to them. Remade as a Disney movie called Homeward Bound, it’s a survival tale from an animal’s perspective and a favorite of my kids.
- Nature Girl by Jane Kelley: Eleven-year-old Megan is stuck in the wilds of Vermont for the summer with no TV, no Internet, no cell phone, and worst of all, no best friend. So when Megan gets lost on the Appalachian Trail with only her little dog, Arp, for company, she decides she might as well hike all the way to Massachusetts where her best friend, Lucy, is spending her summer. Life on the trail isn’t easy, and Megan faces everything from wild animals and raging rivers to tofu jerky and life without bathrooms. Most of all, though, Megan gets to know herself—both who she’s been in the past and who she wants to be in the future—and the journey goes from a spur-of-the-moment lark to a quest to prove herself to Lucy, her family, and the world!
- Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Dafoe: This classic tale of shipwreck and survival on an uninhabited island.
- Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare: Twelve-year-old Matt must try to survive on his own.
- My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George: Young Sam Gribley lives a comfortable life in New York City, but tired of urban living, he, with his parents’ knowledge, runs away to the Catskills Mountains, determined to live on the site of his great-grandparents’ old homestead.
- Island of the Blue Dolphin by Scott O’Dell: This story of Karana, the Indian girl who lived alone for eighteen years on an island off the coast of California.
- Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry: Mafatu’s name means “Stout Heart,” but his people call him a coward. Ever since the sea took his mother’s life and spared his own, he has lived with deep fear. And even though his father is the Great Chief of Hikueru–and island whose seafaring people worship courage–he is terrified, and so scorned. By the time he is twelve years old, Mafatu can bear it no longer. He must conquer his fear alone…even if it means certain death.
- I Survived Series by Lauren Tarshis/Scholastic Press: A series of survival stories from the sinking of the Titanic to the Joplin Tornado, all told from a child’s perspective
- Snook Alone by Marilyn Nelson: Snook must learn to fend for himself in the wild, all alone in a world of fierceness and wonder. This is an illustrated book of verse that is so perfect. Note: this is good as a read aloud for ages 4-8
- Arrowhawk by Lola Schaefer: This is the true story of Arrowhawk-an endangered bird of prey who, with sheer determination and will, survives eight weeks in the wild with a poacher’s arrow through his thigh and tail. Note: A lovely picture book for ages 4-8
- Jake & Miller’s Big Adventure by Bernie Carr – In Jake & Miller’s Big Adventure, young readers discover it’s never too early to start prepping. Learning how to use life-saving survival equipment like canned goods, water filters, first aid kits, Mylar blankets and emergency radios can keep you safe, healthy and happy even in the scariest of adventures—whether you’re deep in the jungle or hunkering down at home. ages 4+ (Read my review here)
- Stranded on Terror Island by Lee Roddy: Josh Ladd is suddenly stranded on a remote Alaskan island when the plane he is traveling in crashes. Note: Roddy has a whole series of mystery/adventure/survival books. I would consider these being a little easier to read, along the lines of Hardy Boys.
- Lost in the Barrens – Farley Mowat: Awasin and Jamie, brothers in courage, meet a challenge many mountain men could not endure. When their canoe is destroyed by the fury of the rapids, they must face the wilderness with no food and no hope of rescue. To survive, they build an igloo, battle a towering grizzly bear, track several wolves, slaughter caribou for food and clothing. Two lost huskies they tame bring companionship–and maybe a way home from their dangerous adventure.
- Shackleton’s Stowaway by Victoria McKernan: The story of a stowaway on the ill-fated journey to cross the Antarctic Continent by the famous explorer.
- Castaways: Stories of Survival by Gerald Hausman: Six unforgettable tales of people who are set upon by raging weather, swooping seas, hunger, thirst, wild animals, overwhelming loneliness, and, harshest of all, thier own inner demons.
- Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps by Andrea Warren: Forced to work for the Nazis, then torn from his family as they are herded into a concentration camp, Jack fights to survive.
- A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park: Nya goes to the pond to fetch water for her family. She walks eight hours every day. Salva walks away from his war-torn village. He is a “lost boy” refugee, destined to cover Africa on foot, searching for his family and safety.
- A Week in the Woods: Andrew Clements: Mark didn’t ask to move to New Hampshire. Or to go to a hick school like Hardy Elementary. And he certainly didn’t request Mr. Maxwell as his teacher. Mr. Maxwell doesn’t like rich kids, or slackers, or know-it-alls. And he’s decided that Mark is all of those things. Now the whole school is headed out for a week of camping — Hardy’s famous Week in the Woods. At first it sounds dumb, but then Mark begins to open up to life in the country, and he decides it might be okay to learn something new. It might even be fun. But things go all wrong for Mark. The Week in the Woods is not what anyone planned.
Survival Fiction Books for 12+
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: The Capitol keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. NOTE: This series is for the 12+ crowd, in my opinion.
- If We Survive by Andrew Klavan: High schooler Will Peterson and three friends journeyed to Central America to help rebuild a school. In a poor, secluded mountain village, they won the hearts of the local people with their energy and kindness. But in one sudden moment, everything went horribly wrong. A revolution swept the country. Now, guns and terror are everywhere—and Americans are being targeted as the first to die. NOTE: Ages 13+
- Into the Forest by Jean Hegland: Two teenage sisters living alone in their Northern California forest home. Over 30 miles from the nearest town, and several miles away from their nearest neighbor, Nell and Eva struggle to survive as society begins to decay and collapse around them. NOTE: Ages 13+
Non-Fiction Books for Kids’ PREParedness
- Boy Scout Handbook by Boy Scouts of America
- Dangerous Book for Boys by Iggulden – I wish there was a good equivalent for girls that didn’t focus on crafts and such – but with girl language, but I haven’t found anything, yet, but there’s nothing saying your daughter couldn’t read it and learn tons!
- Willy Whitefeather’s Outdoor Survival Handbook for Kids by Willy Whitefeather
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