Middle Grade Survival Nonfiction

Let’s face it. Survival stories are high drama, high adventure, high entertainment. Everyone, including kids, loves a good survival story. No one knows this better than Tod Olson. He has taken survival nonfiction to the next level. His Lost series is second to none for easy narration packed with details. He currently has four books in the series. Three are highlighted here. Once you’ve tackled those, get started on the rest of this A-list of real people facing the biggest challenges of their lives.

Lost in Outer Space: The Incredible Journey of Apollo 13 by Tod Olson

In 1970 three astronauts were blasted into space for what America hoped would be another exciting moon landing. While in route, an explosion left the Apollo 13 spacecraft severely disabled. The mission to the moon had to be aborted in favor of a new mission, repair the leak and get back to Earth.

Lost in the Amazon by Tod Olson

In 1970 LANSA flight 508 outbound from Lima, Peru flew into a severe thunderstorm. Juliane Koepcke’s seat was ripped out of the plane and plunged over half a mile into the Amazon rainforest. Unbelievably she survived the crash, only to be stranded in a place few humans inhabit. She walked for over a week and a half with infected wounds, no food, and dangers all around.

Lost in the Antarctic: The Doomed Voyage of the Endurance by Tod Olson

Near the start of World War I, British explorer Ernest Shackleton was eager to cross Antarctica. Mid route, his ship, Endurance, became trapped in ice and eventually sunk. The men set out across ice and water before finally landing at an uninhabited island. Shackleton and five men continued for another 800 miles, while the men left behind prayed they would return.

Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale (Graphic Novel)

In 1846 the Donners and Reeds formed a wagon train heading to California. Bad luck, bad advice and bad decisions plagued them the entire way. A new route that promised to be a shortcut was the opposite. They arrived at the Sierra Nevada mountains as winter was setting in. They became snowbound with poor shelter and a rapidly diminishing food supply. Only half of the original 90 survived.

Lost on a Mountain in Maine by Donn Fendler

Donn Fendler was 12-years-old when he decided to run ahead of his group while hiking on Mt. Katahdin, Maine. Fog settled in and he lost the trail. With no food, shoes, or pants, he did what he had learned in the Boy Scouts and followed a creek. On the 9th day, barely able to walk, he spied a cabin across the river and waited to be saved.

Dasher Five-Two by Scott O’Grady

In 1995, Scott O’Grady was a U.S. Air Force pilot patrolling the no-fly zone over Bosnia when his plane was hit by a Serbian missile. He managed to eject and land unharmed in enemy territory. For nearly a week he stayed hidden during the day and made slow advances at night, all the while evading the enemy and hoping to make radio contact with the U.S. military. 

Bound by Ice by Sandra Neil Wallace

In 1879 the U.S.S. Jeannette and her crew were bound for the North Pole. At the request of the U.S. Navy, Captain De Long took a detour to scout for a missing vessel. The delay caused his ship to get bound in ice. After a year, it succumbed to the pressure, and the men began a long trek over land and sea. One group found a settlement, but the other men were left wandering and starving.

A Storm Too Soon (Young Readers’ Edition) by Michael J. Tougias

In 2007, three men set out in a 47-ft. sailboat from North Carolina with the goal of crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Out of nowhere, a storm grew to hurricane strength, tossing the boat in waves that peaked at 80 ft. The boat struggled, then sank, just before the men escaped into a life raft. They didn’t expect a Coast Guard helicopter to take on the huge storm and save their lives.

Left for Dead by Pete Nelson

In 1945, after delivering the atomic bomb to a small US base in the south Pacific, the USS Indianapolis was struck by a Japanese torpedo. As it sank, nearly 2000 Navy crew members were thrown into the ocean and pushed to the limits of sanity, dehydrated and attacked by sharks. Fifty years later, 11-year-old Hunter Scott learned their captain was found negligent and set out to clear his name.


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