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Exploring History's Disasters: A Review of the "I Survived" Series by Lauren Tarshis

Updated: Jun 27

If you haven’t read any of the books in the “I Survived” series, I encourage you to check them out. Author Lauren Tarshis has found a great way to strike a delicate balance between education and entertainment. The series bridges the gap between picture books and more advanced reading materials, making it an ideal choice for readers who are seeking engaging stories with historical depth, yet who may not be ready for the complexity of novels or classics. They especially appeal to reluctant readers because their topics are some of the most significant disasters in history, all through the eyes of children who lived to tell the tale.


There are some amazing standout features of the "I Survived" books and their ability to engage young readers in historical events in a relatable and accessible way. First, the illustrations are beautiful.


The cover illustrations are so captivating that they practically leap off the shelf, beckoning readers with an irresistible invitation: "read me." The interior illustrations are just as stunning and really add to the story. Not all of the illustrations are depictions of a scene in the story though. There are helpful illustrations such as maps, photographs, newspapers, and more. Each one contributes to the power of the story.



Furthermore, by centering each story around a child protagonist, Tarshis provides a lens through which young readers can empathize and connect with the events unfolding on the pages. Whether it's surviving the sinking of the Titanic or enduring the horrors of the 9/11 attacks, these stories transport readers back in time and immerse them in the experiences of those who lived through these harrowing moments.


Tarshis is committed to historical accuracy and each book is meticulously researched, drawing on historical records and firsthand accounts to paint a vivid picture of the time period and the events that shaped it. But what truly elevates the series is Tarshis's storytelling that is engaging for her younger audience. She seamlessly weaves together historical facts with heart-pounding action and suspense, keeping young readers on the edge of their seats from beginning to end.


Tarshis uses a cool “formula” for telling her tales. In most of the books, the main character survives the disaster because he or she remembers important lessons from another source. It might be a series of stories he or she remembers from a grandparent, or it might be information he or she remembered from reading about their favorite hero from history. The point is, by adding a series of memories to the main character’s tool belt, she also weaves extra learning into the story. For example, our hero during the San Francisco earthquake remembers several stories about how his grandfather survived seemingly random events. The events, however, are true events from history and subtly provide even more educational information. In the book about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, the main character relies upon the things he read about his favorite magician. Again, through those memories, the hero knows what action to take to survive, but it also educates the reader on other significant historical supporting data. These elements add depth and richness to the reading experience.



Furthermore, the educational value of the series extends beyond the pages of the story itself. Each book is supplemented with a wealth of additional material, including photographs, maps, historical records, and scientific information. These resources not only enhance the reading experience but also provide valuable insights into the historical context and scientific principles underlying each disaster.


I admit that I like some of the books more than others and you and your children will, most likely resonate with some more than others, too. Just make sure you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Keep reading because most of them are well worth it.


One theme that is in many of the books is the issue of bullying. Through the disaster, and through the kindness shown by the main character to the bully during the disaster, the relationships between the two often changes and is improved. In many cases, we, the readers, get to see the bigger picture as to why the bully behaves the way he does. In some cases, this bullying theme is believable, and in some cases, it feels more formulaic. However, one thing I respect about Tarshis’s storytelling is the way that she shows how disasters change people (and even societies as a whole).


My final thought on the series goes back to my earlier note that your children will almost certainly like some of the books more than others. Avid readers will probably think them too short. Reluctant readers will probably appreciate the length and will feel a sense of accomplishment by finishing a whole book by themselves. But, with their manageable length and engaging storylines, the "I Survived" books are the perfect gateway for young readers to explore the world of historical fiction. The abundance of action and adventure ensures that readers are captivated from start to finish, while still providing ample opportunities for learning and reflection. It is a great tool to promote literacy and a lifelong love of reading.


I’ve listed some of my favorites from the series below, but don’t be afraid to explore other titles. They are great supplemental readers for any era of history that coincides with the disaster.


Happy Reading!









 

Note that as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.




The pictures in this review are taken from the "I Survived the Galveston Hurricane, 1900" which is linked below along with several other favorites.



You can also purchase several different sets of the "I Survived" series if you want to build your collection faster and maybe save a little money. The images below show the books in each set.


Volumes #1- #10 Volumes #11 - #20 Complete Set 23 books



 

Don't forget to check out my debut historical fiction novel. I wrote The Freedom Chain for my own children during our homeschool study of ancient Rome. It's an Amazon best-seller and is a great addition to your family library.


Cassia, a young slave in the household of Marius Luciano, is devastated when her mother is arrested for her Christian faith. Unless Master Marius can somehow change the mind of Proconsul Pliny, Cassia’s mother will die. To get your copy, click this link: The Freedom Chain.

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