Monday, May 2, 2016

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday – LOST IN THE BACKYARD

I really like survival stories so I really enjoyed this book! It’s another of the nominees for the 2016 Silver Birch Fiction Awards from the Ontario Library Association.

Flynn hates the outdoors. Always has. He barely pays attention in his Outdoor Ed class. He has no interest in doing a book report on Lost in the Barrens. He doesn't understand why anybody would want to go hiking or camping. But when he gets lost in the wilderness behind his parents' friends' house, it's surprising what he remembers—insulate your clothes with leaves, eat snow to stay hydrated, build a shelter, eat lichen—and how hopelessly inept he is at survival techniques.

Lost in the Backyard was written by Alison Hughes and published by Orca Book Publishers  in 2015.

My Take:

Flynn was an interesting character, who’d much rather be playing a video game than tromping around in the woods.  I was really pulled into the story by his thoughts and the character voice. Even though it becomes a life or death situation, there’s a lot of sarcastic humor in this fast-paced novel. I really like how he surprised himself with what he remembered, and how he didn’t give up, despite his predicament.

For writers:  This is a great example of an adventure story with a first-person narrator. It’s short, so easy to analyze the plot. What stands out the most for me is the main character’s voice – it’s very realistic and engaging.

Opening Line:

“I am lying alone in the dark forest, dying.”


“I realized with a start that out here in this bleak wilderness, I was not some cool kid in slightly battered Nike Air Force 1s. I was meat.”

“I found a small clearing on the bank and forced myself to do the basketball defense drill I usually despised. It got us sweating hot in a hurry in a gym. Why wouldn’t it warm me up on the bank of a freezing river in the middle of a barren forest?”

“Sound just disappeared in the forest, like a stone thrown into a lake. I thought fondly of the coyotes; at least they shook the place up a bit with their nightly howl fests.”

Other Info:

Alison Hughes lives in Edmonton. She’s written two other middle grade novels (so far):

Poser, about a boy trying to hide is secret career as a model

On a Scale From Idiot to Complete Jerk, about a boy and his science project about jerks.

Here’s a quick video review from YA Librarian Mary in One Minute For Books:

Teaching Ideas:

Discuss: What were Flynn’s biggest mistakes? How did he overcome the challenges to survival?

Create a “map” of the story, showing where Flynn encountered his obstacles.

Read another survival story (see this list of Alternatives to Hatchet for other options). Compare some of the obstacles and skills the main characters used for survival.


  1. Sounds like a great read. And it's a benefit that writers can learn from studying the plot.

  2. Survival stories intrigue me. I'm a big fan of HATCHET, so I'd probably like this too. Interestingly, my sons are video gamers who are not fond of the outdoors or outdoor survival books!


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