“ Hardcover: 144 pages / Publisher: Chronicle Books / Published: 1 Sep 2011 „
My sons go through phases with reading - one week they are reading all fiction titles, the next week they want books about "real things". As a child, I always preferred fiction, but studies show many boys do prefer non- fiction and I have found this to often be true with my own children. I think a combination of the two is really essential for developing literacy, and as a home educator without access to a decent library I feel that it is even more important to provide a good variety of several types of reading material . I saw a brief snippet for a give away for this book in a child's magazine - but as the magazine in question ( Aquila) does not accept any outside advertising there really was not any information on the book provided. Still, I quite like the magazine and would expect even a contest prize from this company to be highly educational - so I looked it up online - found a copy at Amazon and ordered one.
Suvive- O- Pedia is put together as a survival hand book, and as far as I know the information in it is all correct, but thankfully the odds of the average British child being subjects are incredibly slim. Attacks by crocodiles, lions, tigers and bears (Oh My!), poisionous spiders and Komodo dragons are all extremely unlikely in Belfast. For the most part this is just light hearted entertainment -- with a very good dose of boy appeal. this book has just enough danger to make it exciting - while the remoteness of most of these disasters occurring here means it will not be frightening to most children.
While it remains extremely doubtful that this book will ever save your child's life, or provide real assistance in a life and death situation, there are some survival tips here that do apply to the average British child. In particular - I found the sections on electricity, lightning, flu pandemics, floods and mobs very helpful and felt that these did provide real and useful information in these cases. The area we live in is not prone to flooding, but a small river path near the park is, and I felt there was very useful safety information in this book, although my children do not go to this area alone yet. In some cases I added additional information, unique to our environment, but overall I found the information informative and useful as well as entertaining. I did like the fact that the flu pandemic was not presented as terrifying, but did encourage basic hygiene. My children on the other hand liked the photographs of the H1N1 virus the best and were very interested to find out what the little blighters look like.
My sons are ages 4 and 7 and both really enjoyed this book - although I believe the recommended age level for this is a bit higher. Personally, I would put this as ages 8+, but feel it could be good fun for younger children if if a parent will be reading. Even if the child does have the ability to read this book on their own before age 8 - I would suggest a parent reading it with them or at least as well, as there are some topics that might worry a very young child reading this alone. For the most part, my children were unfazed by this - as the really frightening events are things that do not happen here. The one exception was the section on asteroids. Personally, I would have rather they left this section out. Most children are intelligent to know that they could not "ride out and impact winter" underground with massive supplies of food. I really skimmed over this section and said that scientists can predict when an asteroid will come close many years beforehand and if one was coming to close they would knock it out of the way with explosions as such. I did read this book before reading to my children and thankfully had magazine article showing how an asteroid might be diverted. Would it work? Who knows by why frighten children unnecessarily with an extremely unlikely event? The only other areas I could see which might be a cause for concern for some children is the segment on air plane crashes, but this is not at all frightening, stating that most people do survive and airplane crash. The information like duck and cover can be useful for other types of accidents as well.
My sons found articles like how to survive the running of the bulls amusing as thankfully there is no mention of the animal cruelty involved. In many of these cases the obvious survival technique of not being stupid enough to try it in the first place outweighs the survival advice given in the book - but children do find people being stupid amusing. They also really liked the section on the electric eel - which led to all sorts of discussions and an Internet search on dangerous creatures in the Amazon river and the obvious conclusion that we would prefer to do our swimming in swimming pool. The elevator survival section was also quite good and did interest the children - in spite of the fact that we very rarely use an elevator, and never more than 3 floors. They were amazed to learn that a woman survived a 75 story drop when an airplane crashed into the the Empire State Building in 1945. They also really enjoyed gorillas, killer whales, sky diving, spelunking and tornadoes.
Some of the topics they found less interesting included how to survive in the Antarctic or stranded on an iceberg. I think my son was probably right when he said if you were lost in the Antarctic - without dogs, food and supplies you'd be dead pretty quickly no matter what you did. Tips like drinking plenty of hot cocoa wouldn't really work, the only way to survive the Antarctic is proper preparation - and once again not getting yourself in stupid situations in the first place.
One subject I really wish they had included, but was left out was fire. Fire poses far more risk to the average child than everything else in this book combined. I think a two page addition on how to survive a house fire would have really added value to this book, but while we were discussing all the different types of accidents - I brought up fire safety myself.
Each topic is presented as a two page spread, with quite a lot of illustration including drawings, but with colour photographs as the primary means of illustration. The text is short and at time humorous, if you happen to enjoy gallows humour - which we do. All of the topics are in alphabetical order, making it easy to find a specific topic. Although I don't expect children to ever use much of what they read here in terms of survival, they do learn quite a bit about different parts of the world, storms and weather, animals and more. At the same time, this is the type of book that will encourage many reluctant readers to pick up a book and just the thing to get boys reading.
This book is currently only available in hard back and is a sturdy well bound book with thick glossy pages. The cover is a lovely foil print with a shark which catches the light nicely and makes this book very attractive to children. Amazon lists this as 144 pages, but the book is laying open in front of me now and the last page is 142. Not that 2 pages more or less make much of a difference. A new copy will cost you £7.58 from Amazon. I believe I paid roughly half that price for a used copy. The author has also written a similar book for adults called: Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. I have not read this myself, so cannot comment but if you are looking for more a grown up version there are several reviews on this site. I have taken a quick peek at the Amazon preview page though, and I have noted the adult version lacks the colour photographs, which I feel would take quite a bit from the book.
I do have a few niggles with the book, but overall it was entertaining and educational. My sons enjoyed reading it and have looked through it from time to time since. I also feel that this would make a great theme for creative writing - making our own survival book, and plan to start that in the new year. I think my biggest reason for giving this 5 stars is just that it is different from all of our other books. My children really do enjoy novelty in a book, and so many books are really quite similar. I believe the larger the variety of things to read about, the more likely children are to read, and books like this might catch the interest of a child who isn't usually interested in reading.