Middle School to Young Adult Books

Theme: Survival

A Girl Named Disaster - (ISBN: 978-0545356626)

by Nancy Farmer

A Mozambique girl’s family tries to arrange a marriage for her against her will so she runs away. She escapes to her father’s homeland, Zimbabwe, but it takes her a year to get there. She survives the loss of a makeshift shelter, the theft of her food supplies, and a bout with real hunger before she arrives in the second country. Even after arriving, she has to deal with making many more changes in her life. What questions would you like to ask the girl, Nhamo?

Beneath a Meth Moon - (ISBN: 978-0399252501)

by Jacqueline Woodson

Laurel has many adjustments to make after losing her mother and grandmother and their home while Hurricane Katrina strikes. Still, she does find a good friend, secure a place as a school cheerleader, and develop a special relationship with the captain of the basketball team. After the athlete introduces her to meth, she finds the ghosts of her past return to haunt her. She loses sight of herself. What personal qualities did Laurel have that allowed her to shake her addiction?

Broken Memory: A Novel of Rwanda - (ISBN: 978-0888998934)

by Elisabeth Combres

Emma loses her mother during the Rwanda genocide, but somehow comes to live with a Hutu woman although she is from the hunted tribe, Tutsi. After the courts establish a new kind of justice, allowing the Tutsi to confront their murderers, Emma develops enough courage to face the killer of her mother and to return to her pre-war home. What factors contributed to her maturing self?

Life as We Knew It - (ISBN: 978-0152061548)

by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Although Miranda and her mother survive the effects of a meteor collision that include earthquakes and tsunamis, they find they must adjust their view of what constitutes a “normal” life. With neighbors stockpiling food and the weather unpredictable, Miranda uses her wiles to find a new way of survival. If you enjoy this book, look for its sequel.

The Road From Home - (ISBN: 978-0688144258)

by David Kherdian

A Turkish son imagines what his mother would have said as he describes the government’s slaughter of its Armenian citizens. Kherdian’s great details as he recreates his mother’s life before the political problems help you see the son’s great love and affection for his family members. What other factors do you think led to his desire to put her biography onto paper?

Wild Man Island - (ISBN: 978-0380733101)

by Will Hobbs

Andy ends up shipwrecked after a storm hits his kayaking trip; he has just decided to veer off from the rest of his group when the tempest strikes. With every challenge, Andy uses the skills his father taught him to ensure his survival. How does he use his dead father’s knowledge and spirit to combat starvation, food poisoning, weather extremes, hungry wild animals, and wild men?

Motown and Didi - (ISBN: 978-0440957621)

by Walter Dean Myers

Paradise: Based on a True Story of Survival - (ISBN: 978-0618114504)

by Joan Elizabeth Goodman

The Dead and Gone - (ISBN: 978-0547258553)

by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The Silenced - (ISBN: 0060784628)

by James Devita

Activities for this Theme

Listen to some stories told by survivors and workers at the Hurricane Katrina site.


Make and decorate a friendship survival kit.


Listen to stories told by Holocaust survivors.


Make your own “school survival kit” using these suggestions for students in grades K-12. What else would you add?


Martha Stewart helps campers prepare for being away from home with a summer camp survival kit.


Interview a relative or other older acquaintance who might have survived a war or imprisonment experience. Find out what their survival tips are. Create a video of the interview. Share the video with other family members on YouTube. 


Plan to improve your mental and physical survival skills for an emergency wilderness survival challenge.