Claws of the Crocodile by Bear Grylls
Mission Survival series. Random House, 2013. ISBN
(Age: Year 3+) Beck Granger is just thirteen years old but, as the son of Special Operations Directors for the environmentalist direct action group Green Force, he knows more about surviving in harsh conditions and climates than most people would learn in a lifetime. In this adventure, Claws of the Crocodile set in the Kimberley region of Australia, Beck goes in search of an Aboriginal elder whom he met as a young child and who has a precious USB stick with evidence that the earlier disastrous contamination of an area of the Kimberley was caused by the cut corners and slipshod methods of the multi-national company behind the project. Beck has a personal interest in finding Pindari because finding him might provide the clues and evidence for his parents' deaths. Accompanied by his friend Brihony Stewart and two citified Aboriginal men, he ventures into the hostile outback on this new mission.
This is a grand story told in the fashion of ye olde Boys' Own Adventure - the action starts on the first page and doesn't let up till the last. Written by Bear Grylls, known around the world via his television series as an outdoorsman and survivor, this is a tale that captures its audience from the beginning and keeps going. While some of it may seem a bit far-fetched from the adult reader's perspective, it works very well for its younger audience with lots of information about survival embedded in the story as well as explicit advice at the end. Grylls is well qualified to share his knowledge having served 21 years in the British SAS, being appointed as the youngest ever Chief Scout to 28 million Scouts worldwide and one of the youngest to reach the summit of Everest. The adventures he leads people on have raised huge amounts of money for children around the world. As you read you get a real sense of the author knowing what he is talking about - he has walked the walk.
That said, this story with its Australian connection, would make a great read-aloud introduction to a unit on survival exploring needs vs wants and the minimum requirements to be taken for any expedition into the bush, even just an afternoon walk. With Australia's bushfire season a regular threat such knowledge needs to be part of any family's fire plan, but even more than that it could lead into a worthwhile investigation of all our emergency services, professional and volunteer, and what they do for us. Perhaps it might even lead to some new recruits for the service most applicable to your area!
Claws of the Crocodile is just one of a series written for the Year 3+ brigade. Others, each with a different geographical setting, include Gold of the Gods (The Colombian Jungle); Way of the Wolf (Alaskan Mountains); Sands of the Scorpion (the Sahara); Tracks of the Tiger (Indonesian Wilderness); and Strike of the Shark (The Caribbean Sea). This is a series that will not only appeal to those who love the outdoors, but it may tempt those indoor-lovers out there.