If you are looking for books like Hatchet for 5th-graders on up, we’ve got the list for you. Check out these jaw-dropping, breath-holding, heart-stopping survival books for kids!
Survival books for kids captivate readers!
Kids love books like Hatchet.
You know the ones.
The stories that make your heart race. Those that take your breath away as you race through the pages, hanging on to your book with white knuckles. Stories with dangers lurking at every corner as kids try desperately to survive against the odds.
Survival books for kids have forever captivated children. These are the books that allow children to think about the what-ifs. What if I was stranded in the woods, alone, with only the clothes on my back and the backpack in my hand? What if I left my home, fled for safety, and lost my family on the way?
Books like Hatchet inspire the imagination
There are so many different types of survival stories, and books like Hatchet let our young readers imagine what they would do if they found themselves alone and cut off from the world.
Would they make it?
Do they have the necessary survival skills?
Could they get by foraging for food in the wild?
These edge-of-your-seat survival books for kids give them a chance to explore; to ask these challenging questions and let them ponder how they would handle these seemingly impossible stories. So grab these stories, settle in, and prepare to be hooked until you turn the final page. Enjoy!
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RELATED: If you want to know about the best books for 6th graders, be sure to check out this list!
Frequently asked questions
If your reader loves books like Hatchet, the stories on this list will grab them right from the start! Some of our favorite books like Hatchet include Alone, by Megan E. Freeman, Refugee, by Alan Gratz, and Across the Desert, by Dusti Bowling, all of which are featured below.
You know your child best! Some of these stories may be frightening for kids, depending on their unique sensitivities. I suggest doing a bit of research and finding reviews on particular books of interest if your child gets nervous, scared, or anxious easily. These books are not for every reader! Though I love survival stories for kids now (as an adult!) I was not able to read them as a child. You will be the best judge for your reader.
Absolutely! Check out this Iist of the best books for 5th graders!
Our favorite books like Hatchet
In this suspenseful novel in verse, 12-year-old Maddie and her friends come up with the perfect scheme for a secret sleepover at her grandparent’s summer apartment. But when her friends have to cancel last minute, Maddie ends up at her grandparent’s home alone – and she wakes up to a world that has been utterly abandoned by society. Her hometown has been evacuated, and she is living in a nightmare with no one to rely on except a Rottweiler and a whole lot of books. Maddie eventually learns to trust her own instincts and ingenuity, creating unique ways to survive in a deserted world. But will she be alone forever, or will she eventually be reunited with her family? This is one of our favorite books like Hatchet, and it’s especially perfect if your reader likes dystopian fiction!
Three seemingly separate stories merge in beautiful ways in this brilliant book. Josef is a Jewish boy living in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994. Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. All three kids are driven from their homes due to extreme danger, and all embark on unimaginable voyages toward safety and freedom. Though the stories shared many similarities, the uniqueness of each journey was made evident through the author’s meticulously researched details. This is a must-read survival book for kids to learn about world history, provide windows into the harrowing experiences so many children face, and recognize that, despite our differences, we all long for the same things: safety, security, and a welcoming homeland in which to establish our roots.
At age 12, Jolene is forced to take care of herself because of her mother’s painful addiction. Jolene is lost and lonely, finding solace in live streamer Addie Earhart’s video adventures in her ultralight plane. When Addie, live on video, crashes one day, Jolene knows she was the only witness. Thus, she is determined to save her friend. But can Jolene survive a trek through the desert? Jolene’s story is one of mental and physical survival. Can we ever truly save others? What if we need help ourselves? How do we reclaim our lives after suffering from significant trauma? This mesmerizing survival book for kids will resonate with any reader who has ever felt alone and uncertain (basically each and every one of us!)
WOW. I’m not typically a fan of sci-fi or dystopian fiction, but this Newbery award winner blew my mind! Steeped in Mexican folklore, this is the story of Petra Pena, a young girl with dreams of becoming a great storyteller like her grandmother. There’s just one problem: Earth has been destroyed by a comet. Several hundred people have been selected to journey and create life on a new planet, and they are tasked to carry on the human race as well. No problem, right? Wrong. When Petra wakes after 300 years to discover she is the only one who remembers planet Earth, the hope of our future rests on her shoulders. Can a child prevent the sinister Collective from taking over? Can she alone carry the stories of our past? Astonishing, unique, and a stunning ode to storytelling and the power of words. This book like Hatchet is one of our favorite books for tween girls!
It’s been two years since a global pandemic left the world in shambles. In these post-apocalyptic days, there are few survivors. Gabe has found himself living on an island, in a mansion with twenty others who also made it through the tumultuous time and found one another. On Gabe’s day to look for survivors, he discovers Relle and her dog alone in the woods and brings her to live with them. Relle changes the island and its inhabitants, infusing everyone with hope, and even planning a talent show for entertainment. But Gabe doesn’t understand- why have a talent show when the world has ended and the people they love are gone? When disaster strikes on their island and despite his many fears, Gabe must set out in search of help and more survivors. Will he make it back to those he’s come to love? With heart, hope, and even a bit of romance, this book like Hatchet is a great read!
This fabulous novel, told from dual perspectives, shares the stories of two children in Sudan. In 1985, Salva’s village erupts with war. He flees, leaving everything he knows behind, becoming one of the lost boys of Sudan as he seeks safety and covers the African continent on foot, escaping danger at every turn. In 2008, Nya walks two hours to and from the well to fetch water, twice a day, every day. Her life revolves around water, whether she is walking eight hours a day or being uprooted when the water eventually dries out. Though distinct in time, Salva and Nya’s stories intersect in a remarkable way. This survival book for kids is based on a true story, and it’s one your readers will carry with them long after the final page has turned.
Addy’s parents were killed in a horrible fire, and she has since lived with her grandmother. Many years later, her grandma enrolls her in a wilderness summer program, where she is to meet five other Black kids for several weeks out west. The kids learn survival skills- how to hike, how to start and safely put out fires, how to set up camp – and as they learn these skills, they learn about each other, too, developing friendship and companionship. When on a hike and a devastating forest fire breaks out, Addy must face her chilling past and try to lead her new friends to help and safety. This is a compelling story of race and climate change that will leave your heart racing as you fly through the pages. If your reader loves books like Hatchet, this is a winner!
Centered around the Korean War, this is the story of 12-year-old Sora and her family who live in North Korea under an iron set of rules. They must attend Communist meetings, and they can’t travel without a permit or speak critically of the government. The government is always watching. When war breaks out between North and South Korea, Sora’s family flees, leaving their home and everything they know. They begin walking hundreds and hundreds of miles to Busan, a South Korean city. When a bomb strikes, Sora and her younger brother suddenly find themselves alone, facing the biting cold, frostbite, hunger, and enemies without their parents to guide them. Will they ever make it to Busan? And if they do, will their family even be there? Check out this link for our full review of Brother’s Keeper!
The year is 1947. India, no longer ruled by the British, has been divided into two countries, Pakistan and India, which has created significant discord between Hindus and Muslims. This leaves twelve-year-old Nisha, half Indian and half Muslim, distraught. Who is she, and where does she belong? When Nisha’s Indian father decides Pakistan is no longer safe, Nisha and her family flee, becoming refugees overnight. Told entirely in letters to the Muslim mother she never knew, Nisha’s story is riveting, nuanced, and oh-so-compelling, especially for children struggling to understand who they are, where they fit in the world, and how to move on when both home and heart are ripped in two. An accessible, historical masterpiece that I fell head over heels in love with from the very first page.
The Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys is a dark and crumbling building jutting up from the ocean. When Jonathan Grisby arrives, he’s willing to accept any and all punishment, as he knows he deserves it for his past actions. Yet, just as he begins to get settled into his new routine at the school, a freak accident occurs and leaves the boys with no adult supervision. The boys find themselves free on the island. But being free can be dangerous, especially when Jonathan’s ghosts threaten his very safety and keep him imprisoned. Can Jonathan come to terms with his past sins and lead his friends to safety? This book like Hatchet is unforgettable, and you’ll be hooked from the start!
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Lief is an orphan, living in a small fishing camp. When a deadly plague arrives at the camp, Lief is forced to flee in a small canoe. He follows the shore, heads north, and battles one obstacle after another as he finds himself and his heart in the ocean. As he searches for food, safety, and shelter, Lief discovers delight amidst the danger, learning every moment from the nature and wilderness that surrounds him. Nordic mythology is hinted at throughout this masterful story, the last ever written by Paulsen, the author of Hatchet and the master of survival books for kids.
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Ahmed leaves with his father. They flee a life of suffering and desperation in Aleppo, Syria, leaving in a dinghy on a cloudy, moonless night. But his father doesn’t survive the dangerous journey, and Ahmed is left alone. When he arrives in Brussels, he is lonely, scared, and bordering on hopeless. But when he discovers a boy named Max, he may find the key to his survival — and a new friend, too. Can the two boys defy the odds together? This is a survival story for the times – not just because Ahmed survived a perilous voyage as he flees from danger and injustice, but because he must also learn to survive, alone, in a city that wants nothing to do with him.
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Jocelyn and Alex are best friends. Well, at least they used to be. So when their families come together for a joint family trip in the woods, Jocelyn has high hopes that the two will reunite. Yet, Alex seems off, and Jocelyn’s hope is waning. When the two find themselves on a rafting trip, everything goes wrong, especially when the girls’ tube tears and leaves them not just stranded, but hopelessly, devastatingly alone. With only their bathing suits, water shoes, and the items inside their wet backpack, they spend days and nights lost in the woods and must figure out how to come together and mend their friendship if they want to survive.