I haven’t had much that’s coherent to say recently. I’ve been pretty involved in my own personal journey. But I think about this blog a lot and why I started it.
I see kids hurting all around me. Because I dissociate, I can’t remember most of the hurt that I felt as a kid, but deep down, I know there was a lot.
I wish I could do more to keep all the kids I know safe and happy and healthy. I wish I could do more to help the kids who have been hurt. I’d imagine this is at least part of what motivates a lot of us who chose to write for, teach, or otherwise work with children.
But theres only so much that any of us can do. So today, I have a list of books for survivors from The Plymouth Library which my friend Sarah Blake Johnson brought to my attention. Only some of the books directly deal with subjects that I tend to talk about on here: abuse, war, etc. But I think even the books about horrible futuristic societies would be helpful for a survivor. 1) because as I’ve said before I believe that fantasy is an important category of literature for kids in the early stages of working through what’s happened to them because it allows them to open up certain emotions and memories in a way that feels more distant from their direct experience. And 2) because in a way surviving one trauma is similar to surviving another. And kids can’t read enough books where kids triumph over the adversity in their lives.
So, without further adieu: books for survivors.
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak
A traumatic event in the summer has a devastating effect on Melinda’s freshman year of high school. (SLJ gr 8+)
Brown, Jennifer. Hate List
Sixteen-year-old Valerie, whose boyfriend Nick committed a school shooting at the end of their junior year, struggles to cope with integrating herself back into high school life, unsure herself whether she was a hero or a villain. (SLJ gr 8+)
Chalta, Thalia. Because I am Furniture
The youngest of three siblings, fourteen-year-old Anke feels both relieved and neglected that her father abuses her brother and sister but ignores her, but when she catches him with one of her friends, she finally becomes angry enough to take action. (SLJ gr 7+)
Crutcher, Chris. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
The daily class discussions about the nature of human-kind, the existence of God, abortion, organized religion, suicide and other contemporary issues serve as a backdrop for a high-school senior’s attempt to answer a friend’s dramatic cry for help. (SLJ gr 7+)
Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey
In the journal she is keeping for English class, sixteen-year-old Tish chronicles the changes in her life when her abusive father returns home after a two-year absence. (SLJ gr 7+)
Pearson, Mary. A Room on Lorelei Street
To escape a miserable existence taking care of her alcoholic mother, seventeen-year-old Zoe rents a room from an eccentric woman, but her earnings as a waitress after school are minimal and she must go to extremes to cover expenses. (SLJ gr10+)
Prose, Francine. Bullyville
After the death of his estranged father in the World Trade Center on 9/11, thirteen-year-old Bart, still struggling with his feelings of guilt, sorrow and loss, wins a scholarship to the local preparatory school and there encounters a vicious bully whose cruelty compounds the aftermath of the tragedy. (SLJ gr 5-8)
Van Draanen, Wendelin. Runaway
After running away from her fifth foster home, Holly, a twelve-year-old orphan, travels across the country, keeping a journal of her experiences and struggle to survive. (SLJ gr 6-8)
Werlin, Nancy. Rules of Survival
Seventeen-year-old Matthew recounts his attempts, starting at a young age, to free himself and his sisters from the grip of their emotionally and physically abusive mother. (SLJ gr 9+)
SURVIVING WAR, GENOCIDE AND SLAVERY
Bagdasarian, Adam. Forgotten Fire
In 1915, Vahan Kenderian’s life of privilege is shattered when family and friends disappear or are shot before his eyes in the Armenian Genocide.
Chotjewitz, David. Daniel, Half Human: The Nazis Come to Power
In 1933, best friends Daniel and Armin admire Hitler, but as anti-Semitism buoys Hitler to power, Daniel learns he is half Jewish, threatening the friendship even as life in their beloved Hamburg, Germany is becoming nightmarish.
Draper, Sharon. Copper Sun
Two fifteen-year-old girls–one a slave and the other an indentured servant–escape their Carolina plantation and try to make their way to Fort Moses, Florida, a Spanish colony that gives sanctuary to slaves.
Ellis, Deborah. The Breadwinner
Because the Taliban rulers of Kabul, Afghanistan, impose strict limitations on women’s freedom and behavior, eleven-year-old Parvana must disguise herself as a boy so that her family can survive after her father’s arrest.
Ellis, Deborah. I Am a Taxi
Diego’s parents have been wrongfully jailed for drug smuggling. While they serve their 16-year sentences, 12-year-old Diego lives in the women’s prison with his mother and sister and earns money as a “taxi” running errands for the prisoners. When his friend convinces him to work for men involved in cocaine manufacturing, things go horribly wrong.
Gleitzman, Morris. Once
After living in an Catholic orphanage for nearly four years, a naive Jewish boy runs away and embarks on a journey across Nazi-occupied Poland to find his parents.
Jansen, Hanna. Over a Thousand Hills I Walk with You
Before one fateful April day, Jeanne lived the life of a typical Rwandan girl. She fought with her little sister, went to school, and teased her brother. Then, in one horrifying night, everything changed. Political troubles unleashed a torrent of violence upon the Tutsi ethnic group. Based on a true story.
Matas. Carol. In My Enemy’s House
When German soldiers arrive in Zloczow during World War II, a young Jewish girl must decide whether or not to conceal her identity and work for a Nazi in Germany in order to survive.
Mead, Alice. Girl of Kosovo
Although Zana, an eleven-year-old Albanian girl, experiences the turmoil and violence of the 1999 conflict in her native Kosovo, she remembers her father’s admonition to not let her heart become filled with hate.
Orlev, Uri. Run Boy Run
Srulik escapes from the Warsaw Ghetto and must survive throughout the war in the Nazi-occupied Polish countryside. Based on a true story.
Roy, Jennifer. Yellow Star
From 1939, when Syvia is four and a half years old, to 1945 when she has just turned ten, a Jewish girl and her family struggle to survive in Poland’s Lodz ghetto during the Nazi occupation.
Schmidt, Gary. Mara’s Stories: Glimmers in the Darkness
Each evening, in one of the barracks of a Nazi death camp, a woman shares stories that push back the darkness, cold, and fear, bringing hope to the women and children who listen.
Spinelli, Jerry. Milkweed
Captures the hardships and cruelty of life in the ghettos of Warsaw during the Nazi occupation of World War II, through the eyes of a Jewish orphan who must use all his wits and courage to survive unimaginable events and circumstances.
Zusak, Marcus. The Book Thief
Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel–a young German girl whose book stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.
SURVIVING DANGEROUS AND ALIENATING FUTURE SOCIETIES
Bacigalupi, Paolo. Ship Breaker
In a futuristic world, teenaged Nailer scavenges copper wiring from grounded oil tankers for a living, but when he finds a beached clipper ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl.
Bodeen, S.A. The Compound
After his parents, two sisters, and he have spent six years in a vast underground compound built by his wealthy father to protect them from a nuclear holocaust, fifteen-year-old Eli, whose twin brother and grandmother were left behind, discovers that his father has perpetrated a monstrous hoax on them all.
Halam, Ann. Dr. Franklin’s Island
When their plane crashes over the Pacific Ocean, three science students are left stranded on a tropical island and then imprisoned by a doctor who is performing horrifying experiments on humans involving the transfer of animal genes.
Lowry, Lois. The Giver
Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives.
O’Brien, Robert C. Z for Zachariah
Seemingly the only person left alive after the war, a young girl is relieved to see a man arrive into her valley until she realizes that he is a tyrant and she must somehow escape.
Pfeffer, Susan Beth. The Dead and the Gone
After a meteor hits the moon and sets off a series of horrific climate changes, seventeen-year-old Alex Morales must take care of his sisters alone in the chaos of New York City.
Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Life as We Knew It
Through journal entries sixteen-year-old Miranda describes her family’s struggle to survive after a meteor hits the moon, causing worldwide tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.
Rosoff, Meg. How I Live Now
To get away from her pregnant stepmother in New York City, fifteen-year-old Daisy goes to England to stay with her aunt and cousins, with whom she instantly bonds, but soon war breaks out and rips apart the family while devastating the land.
Shusterman, Neal. Unwind
In a future world where those between the ages of thirteen and eighteen can have their lives “unwound” and their body parts harvested for use by others, three teens go to extreme lengths to uphold their beliefs–and, perhaps, save their own lives.
White, Andrea. Surviving Antarctic Reality TV 2083
In the year 2083, five fourteen-year-olds who were deprived by chance of the opportunity to continue their educations reenact Scott’s 1910-1913 expedition to the South Pole as contestants on a reality television show, secretly aided by a Department of Entertainment employee.
SURVIVING DISEASE, SHIPWRECKS, PLANE CRASHES, THE ELEMENTS
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Fever, 1793
In 1793 Philadelphia, sixteen-year-old Matilda Cook, separated from her sick mother, learns about perseverance and self-reliance when she is forced to cope with the horrors of a yellow fever epidemic. (SLJ gr 6-10)
Carter, Alden R. Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Although neither fifteen-year-old Mark Severson nor his diabetic cousin Randy are looking forward to the canoe trip that is a family rite of passage, they begin to enjoy themselves as they make their way through Minnesota’s lake country, until the trip becomes a fight for survival. (SLJ gr 7+)
Collison, Linda. Star-Crossed
Having been discovered as a stowaway as she tries to reach Barbados in 1760 to claim her father’s estate, teenaged English orphan Patricia Kelley struggles to survive by learning to be a ship’s doctor and by disguising herself as a man when necessary. (SLJ gr 9+)
Fama, Elizabeth. Overboard
Escaping from a sinking ferry in the waters off Sumatra, fourteen-year-old Emily fights for survival for herself and a young Indonesian boy, who draws courage from his quiet but firm Islamic faith. (SLJ gr 5-8)
Farmer, Nancy. A Girl Named Disaster
While journeying to Zimbabwe, eleven-year-old Nhamo struggles to escape drowning and starvation and in so doing comes close to the luminous world of the African spirits. (SLJ gr 6-9)
Hausman, Geral & Loretta. Escape from Botany Bay: the True Story of Mary Bryant
In 1791, after being transported to Australia in the first shipment of convicts, Mary Bryant, her husband, two children, and seven other convicts, unable to endure the terrible conditions of the penal colony, organize a daring escape in an open boat. (SLJ gr 7+)
Hobbs, Will. Far North
After the destruction of their floatplane, two teenage boys, a Texan and a Dene, struggle for survival in the wilderness along the South Nahanni River. (SLJ gr 5+)
Hobbs, Will. Wild Man Island
After fourteen-year-old Andy slips away from his kayaking group to visit the wilderness site of his archaeologist father’s death, a storm strands him on Admiralty Island, Alaska, where he manages to survive, encounters unexpected animal and human inhabitants, and looks for traces of the earliest prehistoric immigrants to America. (gr 5-9)
Hokenson, Terry. The Winter Road
Seventeen-year-old Willa, still grieving over the death of her older brother and the neglect of her father, decides to fly a small plane to fetch her mother from Northern Ontario, but when the plane crashes she is all alone in the snowy wilderness. (SLJ gr 8+)
Lawrence, Iain. The Cannibals
Together with assorted criminals, Tom Tin and his friend Midgely escape the ship taking them to serve their terms in Australia and head for a Pacific island, forgetting Tom’s father’s warnings about headhunters and cannibals. (Sequel of The Convicts) (SLJ gr 5-9)
Lester, Julius. Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue
Emma has taken care of the Butler children since Sarah and Frances’s mother, Fanny, left. Emma wants to raise the girls to have good hearts, as a rift over slavery has ripped the Butler household apart. Now, to pay off debts, Pierce Butler wants to cash in his slave “assets”, possibly including Emma. (SLJ gr. 6-0)
London, Jack. White Fang
Half wolf, half dog, White Fang struggles to survive in the Alaskan wilderness with both man and wolf against him.
Marsden, John. The Dead of Night
Six determined Australian teenagers try to find their missing friends while continuing to resist the enemies who have invaded their country. (Sequel to Tomorrow, When the War Began) (SLJ gr 6-10)
McGaughrean, Geraldine. White Darkness – 2008 Printz Award Winner
Taken to Antarctica by the man she thinks of as her uncle for what she believes to be a vacation, Symone–a troubled fourteen year old–discovers that he is dangerously obsessed with seeking Symme’s Hole, an opening that supposedly leads into the center of a hollow Earth. (SLJ gr 9+)
Mikaelson, Ben. Touching Spirit Bear
After his anger erupts into violence, Cole, in order to avoid going to prison, agrees to participate in a sentencing alternative based on the native American Circle Justice, and he is sent to a remote Alaskan Island where an encounter with a huge spirit bear changes his life. (SLJ gr 5-8)
Seven high school students are stranded at their New England high school during a week-long blizzard that shuts down the power and heat, freezes the pipes, and leaves them wondering if they will survive. (SLJ gr 7-10)
Sedgewick, Marcus. Revolver
Finland, 1910: Fifteen-year-old Sig is shocked to see a hole in the frozen lake outside his family’s cabin and to find his father’s corpse nearby. Why did Einar steer his dog sled across the lake instead of taking the safer land route? Sig’s sister and stepmother go for help, leaving Sig alone with Einar’s body in the cabin. Soon after, an armed stranger barges in, demanding a share of Einar’s stolen gold. (SLJ gr 7+)
Smelcer, John. The Trap
In alternating chapters, seventeen-year-old Johnny Least-Weasel, who is better known for brains than brawn, worries about his missing grandfather, and the grandfather, Albert Least-Weasel, struggles to survive, caught in his own steel trap in the Alaskan winter.
Smith, Roland. Peak
14-year-old Peak Marcello attempts to be the youngest person to reach the top of Mount Everest.
Torrey, Michele. Voyage of Ice: Chronicles of Courage
All Nick ever wanted to be was a whaling captain, like his father before him. So when his older brother Dexter signs aboard the Sea Hawk, Nick goes too. But life at sea is very different from what either Dexter or Nick expected and the captain is cruel and dangerous. When an awful turn of fate leaves them stranded in the harsh Arctic winter, they encounter the toughest battle of all–and this one is for their very survival.
And after looking over the list more closely, I’d personally add in the category of “Surviving Abuse”:
- Dancing on the Edge by Han Nolan
- The Dollmage by Martine Leavitt
- Chime By Franny Billingsley
- Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz
- And The White Darkness also applies in this category
What books would you all add to this list?