Two on an Island by Bianca Bradbury

The author does not have a personal website and there are no book trailers online. This book was published in 1965. This is a link to a page list of her books.

Summary: This is the story of a brother and sister who take their dog on a quick daytrip to a sandbar island. They do not leave a note behind for their grandmother (who is not expecting them to arrive for a visit for several days). Their boat is swept away and the siblings must cooperate to survive.

Personal Reaction: I agree with most other reviewers who shared that this was one of our favorite books as an elementary school child. Now in my 40’s, I can recall how suspenseful this survival story was for me way back when I had read the book. As soon as another reviewer mentioned the tomato juice and pineapple juice, I could instantly remember my reaction to that scene in the book. Wonderful read.

Curriculum or discussion topics: boating safety, survival tips, sibling rivalry

Connections to other books: Hatchet by Paulsen, Island series by Korman, The Box-Car Children by Warner, My Side of the Mountain by George, The Swiss Family Robinson by Wyss, Lost in the River of Grass by Rorby, Storm Runners by Smith, Red Midnight by Mikaelsen (for gr7+); Elite Forces Survival Guides by Wilson, Survive Alive series by Champion; SOS: Stories of Survival by Butts

Items to display with book: stuffed animals (German Shepherd, rat, crab); photo of sandbar island, rickety fishing shack; toy helicopter

Food items connected to story: Milk, tomato juice, oatmeal cookies, bananas


Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby

author’s website                  fan video book review

Summary:  Sarah is new to her school and very left out. During an Everglades field trip, she receives an offer from local boy (Andy) to take her on an airboat ride, so she lies to her teacher to get out of a morning tour and the two teens take off on their own. When the airboat sinks, they are miles from help and must walk until they find it.

Personal Reaction: I think I’ve found my SSYRA winner. Survival story is perfect.  The duck addition to the plot adds heart – I was more worried for “Teapot” getting eaten than the main characters. Surprise character cameos at the end – I loved that book too!

Classroom use: Excellent choice for Florida units (ecosystems, survival, etc.) whether Science, Social Studies or PE. I even think that Home Ec or Food & Nutrition classes could get in on the unit and talk about wild foods (cattails and sawgrass hearts are edible)

Related books: Everglades River of Grass by Douglas; Sawgrass Poems by Asch; A Land Remembered by Smith; Lostman’s River by DeFelice; Welcome to the River of Grass by Yolen; biography of Marjory Stoneman Douglas; guide book to the Everglades like Paddling the Everglades Wilderness Waterway

Realia: bug spray, stuffed duck toy or photo of mallard duck & ducklings; alligator head; photos of Everglades, airboats (or toy model), Burmese pythons (especially this one), backpack, rubber boots, bandana, empty Gatorade bottle; bowl of minnows; cattails and sawgrass

Food for book parties: Spam, pumpkin bread, canned chili, canned fruit, Gatorade, leather belt!

Wind by Roland Smith (Storm Runners, book 1)

(Book 1 – Wind, book 2 – the Surge, book 3 – Eruption)

Author’s website with link to Storm Runners online game   and  author video/trailer

Summary: Chase is dropped off with a family friend at their Florida “farm” ( with circus animals: elephant, large cats, etc.) while his father travels to nearby St. Petersburg to  help people prepare for Hurricane Emily. Chase and two friends are stranded when the hurricane shifts course and takes aim at his bus ride home.

Personal Reaction: The book is short and keeps the suspense moving with each chapter given a time stamp. Book 1 only runs through the hurricane as it arrives and hovers (the eye of the storm) and the sequels tackle the storm as it departs. I have a real issue with alligators, and this book really gives me the willies because the kids are forced to deal with gators in several ways. I don’t mind making sure kids understand the seriousness of a hurricane, but I hope this doesn’t give younger kids nightmares or make them feel they have to carry a “go-bag” every day.

Points for discussion with children or topics for study: Hurricane safety, natural disaster preparedness; teamwork

Connections to other books? non-fiction about hurricanes or hurricane safety (Florida’s Hurricane History by Barnes, or SAS Urban Survival Handbook for those who want to be Chase); Hurricane Song by Volponi gr 8+, Escaping the Giant Wave by Kehret gr 5+

Realia: flashlights or headlamps, batteries, rain poncho, mylar blanket, GPS unit, satellite phone, Florida hurricane tracking maps, stuffed animals or figurines, power tools, circus flyers, athletic trophies or medals (swimming, track), school bus model, backpack, lightning bolt earring

Food items connected to story: energy bars, coffee & doughnuts

Review based on audiobook format.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

I have had two girls tell me this was the “best book ever.” Starts out with a STUPID premise. The moon gets hit by a big asteroid and moves closer to the earth (enough to make it visibly larger within a few minutes — and then stops??) causing tsunamis and later volcano eruptions everywhere plunging the earth into a perpetual winter. The family starves slowly and is nearly wiped out by flu. Yes, if you can get past the premise, the drama of watching those you love and everyone else you ever knew die is a slow horror. I was surprised that the storyline did not include what I feel would be inevitable experience for the main character’s family, either as victim or aggressor: looting and violence, pitting neighbor against neighbor. However, mention is made that its not safe for girls to go anywhere alone and a high school friend basically sells herself to a man for food for her family. But the end, to me, was just as unsatisfying due to its improbability. I had a 6th grade boy fall in love with the series, but he said that it did give him bad dreams. Grades 7 and up.    Author’s blog

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

Date reviewed:4/1/03          Grades 6-8       IL  12+

Awards: YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, ALA – 2002, Florida Sunshine State Award – 2004

Summary: Cole tries to avoid going to jail (for beating up a schoolmate so badly that he suffers permanent damage) by participating in a Native American community sentence called Circle Justice. He doesn’t intend to serve his punishment – to remain isolated on an island for a year. He finds that he cannot escape the island. When he threatens a bear and the bear fights back, Cole’s dying wish is to live! But how to live, when there’s nothing to live for?

Personal Reaction: FANTASTIC! If you liked Hatchet, you’ll like this! I was really into this story because it highlights the Native American attitude of connection between all things, but it offers no easy way out for Cole to suddenly “go native” or solve his problems. I think this book would be an excellent class novel, especially for students in middle and high school who know no other way except fighting. All this – with NO PROFANITY!

Any Cautions:  Yes – Cole’s violence and near-death experience are graphic

Points for discussion with children:  Anger management, Native American culture

Possible classroom uses: Gosh, I think that Circle Justice could be a way to go within the classroom for handling conflicts, so a teacher could start off the year by reading this book before introducing discipline steps.

Connections to other books? Hatchet by Paulsen for survival fiction. Holes by Louis Sachar for juvenile delinquency theme. The Talking Earth by George for Native American sacred-earth culture.

Realia: woodcarvings, totem pole, boulder (Papier-mâché), stuffed mouse, photographs of bears, Alaskan Tlingit Indian resources (photographs, maps), Native American blanket

 Food items connected to story: hot dogs, salmon, Snickers candy bar