Action Summer Reads For Catholic Kids: The "I Survived" Books By Lauren Tarshis
I like to investigate books popular among kids at our public library. When I took home
I Survived Hurricane Katrina, one of the volumes in the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis, I was impressed:
On August 28, 2005, the day Katrina is approaching, eleven-year-old Barry Tucker, the book's fictional child hero, is oblivious of the disaster that is about to strike his hometown of New Orleans. Barry's mind is occupied with excitement over a comic book he has written and illustrated together with a friend. The boys are about to submit their story about Akivo, the super hero they created, to a contest. The arrival of the super hurricane breaks into Barry's world requiring him to take on the role of a real life hero. His family fails to escape the city, their house is flooded, Barry is separated from his parents and his little sister Cleo. Thankfully, he survives and is reunited with his family.
Kids love action stories. The great benefit of a story about a natural disaster is the built-in suspense. Having thus secured the readers' attention, the author takes advantage of this attraction to write about virtuous behavior.
The disaster forces Barry to find in himself the powers he had attributed to his fictional super hero Akiko so much admired by his little sister Cleo.
His love for his family keeps Barry from despair. In his darkest hour, he adopts his jazz musician father's technique of dealing with fear: singing the song Blueberry Hill .
When Barry encounters Cruz, a dog he believes to be dangerous, in the flood, he succeeds in overcoming his fear out of pity for the helpless animal. His concern for the dog helps him forget his own misery and helps him persevere until his rescue.
Barry finds courage, love, optimism, pity and perseverance inside himself during his trial in the hurricane.
Unfortunately, I Survived Hurricane Katrina is written from a secular point of view without any reference to faith. As a parent, you could point out how fortunate we are to be aware of Our Lord watching over us in times of trouble and also that many believers who lived through Hurricane Katrina found support in faith and prayer. You could also talk about Barry displaying Christian virtue even though he may not be aware of the fact.
The 21 books of the I Survive series are a great history resource with disasters ranging from historical periods as early as Pompeii to modern times. The book I Survived Hurricane Katrina ends with two supplementary chapters giving lots of background information: “After The Storm: Questions about Katrina” and “Facts About Hurricane Katrina”. History becomes so much more accessible to children when they are transported directly into the events described in these books. Most of the disasters also lend themselves to the study of geography.
The books are advertised for grades 3 to 4 but as a parent, homeschooler or teacher you may find them relevant for even older readers. These books are great for boys!
Here is a list of the books available in the series:
I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912
I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916
I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005
I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941
I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906
I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001
I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863
I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011
I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944
I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, A.D. 79
I Survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871
I Survived the Joplin Tornado, 2011
I Survived the Hindenburg Disaster, 1937
I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980
I Survived the American Revolution, 1776
I Survived the Children's Blizzard, 1888
I Survived the Attack of the Grizzlies, 1967
I Survived the Battle of D-Day, 1944
I Survived the Great Molasses Flood, 1919
I Survived True Stories: Five Epic Disasters
I Survived True Stories #2: Nature Attacks!
I Survived True Stories #3 Tornado Terror,
True Tornado Survival Stories and Amazing Facts from History and Today