________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 4 . . . . October 12, 2007


SOS: Stories of Survival: True Tales of Disaster, Tragedy, and Courage.

Ed Butts.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2007.
120 pp., pbk., $16.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-786-9.

Subject Headings:
Child disaster victims-Juvenile literature.
Disaster victims-Juvenile literature.
Courage-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Elizabeth Larssen.

**** /4


Shortly after 7:30 Bustami felt an unusual movement in the sea beneath him. Less than half an hour later, he watched in amazement as the water rushed back from the shore so suddenly that the fish were left flopping around on the bare seabed.

This phenomenon was happening at places all along the coast and around islands such as Sri Lanka. Unaware of the danger, men and boys ran out with pails and sacks to gather up the unexpected bounty. Most of these people lived in poverty, and an opportunity to collect a lot of fish quickly seemed too good to pass up.

But on one beach in India, a fisherman named Chellappa knew something was wrong. "I heard an eerie sound that I have never heard before," he said later. "It was a high-pitched sound followed by a deafening roar. I told everyone to run for their life."


Ed Butts' SOS Stories of Survival: True Tales of Disaster, Tragedy, and Courage offers a riveting collection of historical events for young children. Some of the more recent stories, such as Hurricane Katrina, may be easily recognizable for Butts' audience, but others, like the Triangle Fire, will not. Whenever possible, Butts turns the focus on the children and their families who survived the disaster. His choices provide a good mix of Canadian and international content, including tragedies such as the Halifax Explosion and the tsunami of 2004. Black and white photographs, copies of historical documents and drawings accompany the text. While most children would use this resource for school assignments, reluctant readers who enjoy adventure or stories of disaster may be tempted to read additional chapters in Butts' offering.

     The book is divided up into 13 exciting tales of disaster and, of course, young survivors. The historical events covered range from the 19th century to the recent past. At the conclusion of each chapter, Butts includes a short note with an interesting fact about the event – for example, the conclusion of "The Children of Yangcheng" notes that a film was made based on the tragedy. Events in SOS: Stories of Survival include:

  • The sinking of the Asia
  • The Jonestown Flood
  • The Springhill Mine Disaster of 1891
  • Mont Pelée
  • The Frank Slide
  • The Triangle Fire
  • The Halifax Explosion
  • The Laurier Place Fire
  • The Newfoundland Tsunami
  • The Children of Yangcheng
  • Chernobyl
  • The Tsunami of 2004
  • Hurricane Katrina

     At my local library, we often receive requests from children for books on fairly recent disasters like Hurricane Katrina, and until now, we had to point them towards age-appropriate online resources. Butts' work nicely fills a gap in our collection.

     SOS: Stories of Survival is an excellent resource that should be considered both by public and school libraries.

Highly Recommended.

Elizabeth Larssen recently completed her MLIS at the University of British Columbia and works in a public library outside of Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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