Monday, May 18, 2020

THE DISASTER DAYS by Rebecca Behrens - A typical babysitting experience suddenly becomes a test of survival

I love survival stories and this one turned out to be really exciting! I’m really looking forward to the author's next adventure, Alone in the Woods, coming out in the fall of 2020. This author also writes historical middle grade and I'm looking forward to checking it out when I get a chance.

Description from the publisher:

Hannah Steele loves living on Pelling, a tiny island near Seattle. It's a little disconnected from the outside world, but she's always felt completely safe there.

Which is why when she's asked one day to babysit after school, she thinks it's no big deal. Zoe and Oscar are her next-door neighbors, and Hannah just took a babysitting class that she's pretty sure makes her an expert. She isn't even worried that she left her inhaler at home.

Then the shaking begins.

The terrifying earthquake only lasts four minutes but it changes everything, damaging the house, knocking out the power, and making cell service nonexistent. Even worse, the ferry and the bridge connecting the kids to help―and their parents―are both blocked. Which means they're stranded and alone... With Hannah in charge, as things go from bad to dangerous.

The Disaster Days by Rebecca Behrens was published by Sourcebooks in 2019.

Why you want to read this book…

It’s an exciting story where three kids are put in the middle of a disaster, when an unexpected earthquake strikes. There’s an interesting twist to the story, because the main character, Hannah, is babysitting two younger kids when the earthquake hits. The kids are cut off from parents and any kind of phone communication, forcing Hannah to rely on her sense of responsibility and her problem-solving skills to help them survive. Aftershocks, injuries and Hannah’s own asthma condition add to the drama. If you love survival stories, this book is a must read!


Nothing was remarkable that morning, except the postcard-perfect view of Mount Rainier. Most of the time, clouds and fog hid it, but the volcano was always there, watching us, even when we couldn’t see it. We forgot that we were living right on top of a fault zone.

If you’re a writer…

You might be interested in studying the plot complications the author dreams up for these kids who are basically stuck in the same setting for much of the story, as well as how she ramps up the tension. Hannah’s internal thoughts and worries all seemed so appropriate for her age, which might help writers who need a mentor text for a kid stuck in a life-threatening situation. 

If you’re an educator…

This is a good story for a read aloud or a comparative book study with other kinds of disaster stories. Some ways to use this book in your classroom:
- create a “disaster” book display with a place for students to share their thoughts on how they are different, which they liked best, etc.
- read in conjunction with non-fiction projects on the earth and earthquakes to spark ideas for studying how people are affected by changes in the earth
- encourage writing about “your worst experience” as a journal writing activity or theme for a class book

If you’re looking for another great list of middle grade books to read, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on Greg Pattridge's blog.


  1. I love you how included the opening lines. I'm interested in reading it just to see what tension builders she used! Thanks for sharing!

  2. This sounds like an nerve-wracking, exciting story! I'm curious to see how Hannah manages to keep the kids safe through such an awful situation. Thanks for the great review!

  3. Sounds like an exciting story. And it's possible because there are islands off of Seattle. Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. With lots of hours of babysitting neighborhood children as a tween and teen, I can relate to this main character. Thanks for giving me an exciting summer read to add to my TBR list on this MMGM!

  5. I do like a good survival story where kids have to problem solve and find their way through a difficult challenge. This book intrigues me. Thanks for the suggestion.

  6. I enjoy these type of survival stories. Such a great plot line to have the kids separated from the adults in their life. Might make a good read-aloud, too. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.

  7. I have read a lot of survival stories for middle grade kids. Disaster Days sounds like a hit! I am already curios about what will happen. Thanks for sharing. :)

  8. I loved this book. It is one of the best survival stories I've read. Glad to see the word being spread. Thanks for your thoughts.

  9. Disaster Day sounds so interesting. And I liked how you broke the plot and dissected the story for writers.


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