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Sunday, October 20, 2013

I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011 by Lauren Tarshis (book #8)

The "I Survived" series is nonstop action with a focus on natural disasters. The protagonist in this story involves Ben who is dealing with the tragic death of his dad in a car accident. He goes to Japan with his mom and younger brother to visit an uncle when an earthquake and tsunami hits their town. The family is separated and Ben doesn't know if they are alive. He has some harrowing escapes from being drowned or crushed by debris but remembers what his father taught him about survival skills. His dad was a pilot in Afghanistan whose plane was shot down and survived a week in the mountain wilderness with a broken ankle and no food or water. The lessons he taught Ben not only helped him make life-saving choices while dealing with the disaster, but it also helped him move forward in his grief of losing his dad.

This story is only 85 pages and with the main focus surrounding the action and adventure of the earthquake and tsunami. Roughly 10 pages in the back give some facts about the disaster and a couple of pages suggest websites and books for further research on the topic. The writing is tight and the third-person limited point of view allows the reader to get involved with the internal struggles of the character over the death of his father. Because the story is so short this is a good choice for simplicity of plot; yet conveying some character depth. The subplot involving Ben's dad and how he was trained as a soldier by the United States Air Force in survival and combat skills was not so detailed as to slow down the plot but an interesting addition to the disaster at hand. A detailed teacher resource guide is at: http://www.laurentarshis.com/teaching-resources.

The story mentions the nuclear power plant but the focus is on the earthquake and tsunami. The power plant disaster is mentioned more in detail in the section of nonfiction facts titled, "Triple Disaster" at the end of the book. The rising action with episodes of people fleeing from the surge of water is described as humans being "swallowed" as they tried to run to higher ground. The deaths are not dwelled on or described in details so it shouldn't scare readers and seems age-appropriate. The author doesn't skirt the issue that there were many deaths, but it isn't the thrust of action scenes. Instead the story line follows Ben's survival skills and bonding with his family after the disaster. A good read aloud. 

Fountas & Pinnell: R
4 Smileys

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