Lost in the Pacific, 1942: Not a Drop to Drink by Tod Olson

8 men struggle to survive when they’re lost at sea in this “drama in real life” story for middle grades.
Lost in the Pacific, 1942: Not a Drop to Drink (Lost #1) by Tod Olson. Scholastic, 2016. 176 pages.
Reading Level: Middle grades, ages 10-12
Recommended For: Middle grades (ages 8-12) and up
NOTE: Lost in the Pacific is a featured book in our Summer Reading Challenge, “Hope on the Horizon.”
In 1942, the Pacific Ocean was a dangerous place to be stranded, particularly if a group of Americans was anywhere near Asia. And yet, that is precisely what happened: a group of men flying an urgent mission of encouragement to the troops stationed in Asia ran out of fuel in the midst of a vast expanse of ocean. A war hero was on board, flying into combat zone expressly to boost morale. Navigation was a bit more primitive in the 1940s, the Pacific Ocean doesn’t have many landmarks, and the men overshot their goal. As they used up their last fuel, the pilot made a desperate decision: land the plane on the water after gathering up lifeboats and any supplies in the plane.
Eight men. Three inflatable rafts. Sixty-eight million square miles of ocean. What will it take to make it back alive?
This is WWII history that flies under the radar. Back stories for the men are explored with photographs and plenty of quotable material. The author provides an excellent author’s note detailing how someone goes about reconstructing a story like this from scattered reports and diary entries. But the strongest notes in this quickly moving “drama in real life” narrative are the camaraderie of the men (and their struggles to remain friendly as their situation turned more dire), their spiritual hunger and eventual conversions (for several), and the subtle allusions to the effectiveness of prayer. This not a “Christian” story, per se, but the men’s faith is matter-of-factly mentioned, and it is hard not to see the work of Providence in the ending of the story. As with any war story, some scenes can be intense, but this particular narrative is milder than most and a great fit for readers who enjoy dramatic survival stories.
Cautions: War violence and extreme danger
Overall Rating: 4
Worldview Rating: 4.25
Artistic Rating: 3.75
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