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Disasters: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about disasters?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to disasters. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about disasters.

Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

When it comes to children’s stories about disasters, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like Big Frank’s Fire Truck to popular sellers like I’m Brave!.

We hope this list of kids books about disasters can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

Firefighters' Handbook
Written & illustrated by Meghan McCarthy
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Do you have what it takes to be a firefighter? From attending the Firefighter Academy to training with a team, there are many things you have to accomplish before becoming a firefighter! Learn the tools firefighters use, the kinds of trucks firefighters drive, and the dangerous situations they find themselves in as they put their lives on the line to help others in this charming picture book from the author of Pop: The Invention of Bubble Gum.

Otis and the Kittens
Written & illustrated by Loren Long
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

On the farm where Otis the tractor lives, it hasn’t rained in a long time and farmers all over the valley have grown anxious with water in such short supply. One hot afternoon, when Otis and his friends are resting beneath the shade of the apple tree, Otis spots something moving down in the valley—an orange tabby cat headed straight for the old barn. But then Otis sees something else that causes his engine to sputter . . . a swirl of smoke coming from the same barn. A fire!

As Otis races toward the fire with his friends in tow, he spots the tabby cat mewing in alarm. Otis rushes inside to discover the source of the cat’s worries–her little kittens are perched up on the hayloft, scared. Otis never hesitates. Yet even after he delivers a tractor full of kittens safely outside, their mama remains upset. Re-entering the burning barn, Otis discovers why: one tiny kitten, still too scared to move. With a friendly chuff, Otis coaxes her down and she scampers out the door. That’s when the floor collapses with a CRASH, trapping the tractor. Now Otis, the friend everyone can count on, must count on his friends.

Told with a sense of play and devotion, this is a heartwarming tale that reminds readers that sometimes even those who we count on to help us need a little help themselves. From the creator of Otis, Otis and the Puppy, and the illustrator of The Little Engine That Could and Of Thee I Sing by President Barack Obama.

Firefighters A to Z
Written & illustrated by Chris Demarest
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8

A 2001 Children’s Literature Choice Every day, brave firefighters come to our rescue. When the fire alarm sounds, men and women put on their uniforms, slide down the firehouse pole, jump in their big red trucks, and rush to save our lives. From the minute the fire alarm rings, the day of a firefighter is filled with adventure — and danger. Wherever there is a fire, we can be sure that firefighters will always be there!

Titan and the Wild Boars
Written by Pathana Sornhiran and Susan Hood & illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Don’t miss the breathtaking true story of the international rescue of the Wild Boars soccer team from a flooded cave in Thailand! One afternoon, eleven-year-old Titan, his friends from the Wild Boars soccer team, and their coach rode their bikes to explore local caves. They crawled through the narrow tunnels in the dark to reach the center of the cave. When they turned to go home, heavy rains had flooded the tunnel. They were trapped! With rising waters and monsoon season upon them, time and oxygen were running out. The world watched with bated breath as rescuers from around the globe joined forces to try to free the boys. After eighteen harrowing days, in an unprecedented effort of international teamwork, they were finally saved. Award-winning author Susan Hood and journalist Pathana Sornhiran based this picture book on Sornhiran’s first-hand reporting of the event, and Dow Phumiruk’s beautiful illustrations bring the story to life. The book also includes a timeline and back matter with additional resources.

Tomie Depaola's The Quicksand Book
Written & illustrated by Tomie dePaola
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Funny and informative—and on a really cool topic. This is TOMIE DEPAOLA nonfiction at its best. A match of humor and information in which Jungle Girl lands in the quicksand and Jungle Boy offers advice and information about quicksand, rather than rescue her. This being DEPAOLA, the tables are turned until Jungle Boy has to take his own practical advice about quicksand while Jungle Girl gets her revenge.

  • Firehouse! - Edward and his cousin Judy come for a visit to the firehouse and learn how everything works with some unexpected results.

  • Big Frank's Fire Truck - Young readers are introduced to the daily work of firefighters and fire safety as Big Frank and the rest of his crew race to the scene of an accident, inspect a local store, work at the firehouse, and fight a brush fire. Original.

  • A Whale of a Time: A Bindi Irwin Adventure - A fast-paced adventure series featuring the Jungle Girl herself! The stories are inspired and co-created by Bindi Irwin, daughter of the iconic wildlife expert Steve Irwin. The series features the characters of Bindi, her brother Robert, mother Terri, and the Australia Zoo. Bindi takes a pair of troublesome twins on a thrilling whale-watching trip. It’s going great until one of the twins spots a bright flare in the sky. They race to the scene and find a crashed boat! Can Bindi help stop the boat from spilling oil and save the nearby sea creatures from danger?

  • Luis and Tabitha - Luis is an alley cat who has everything figured out . . . until he meets Tabitha, a beautiful indoor cat. Separated by a tragic glass door, Luis will do anything to be with Tabitha—even brave the dangers of a fire. With adorable illustrations and undeniable style, Luis and Tabitha is the story of two star-crossed kitties who prove that true love conquers all.

Penguins Don't Wear Sweaters!
Written by Marikka Tamura & illustrated by Daniel Rieley
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

You may have seen the cute pictures of penguins wearing sweaters—but did you know why they were wearing them? Debut author Marikka Tamura answers this question in this colorful, kid-friendly book that is told simply and charmingly. Penguins love the sea. Happy in the dark blue water. But what is this? One day something is floating in the water. Dark. Gooey. Oily . . . When the penguins become coated in an oil spill, many Big Boots arrive. The humans want to help the cold, greasy penguins, so they knit sweaters to keep them warm. The Big Boots mean well, but . . . penguins don’t wear sweaters! So after a good, soapy scrub, the penguins dive back into the deep blue sea, happily dressed only in their own penguin feathers.

Pete the Cat: Firefighter Pete
Written & illustrated by James Dean
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

When the fire alarm goes off, it’s Pete the Cat to the rescue! This fun 8x8 storybook includes over 30 groovy stickers. In Pete the Cat: Firefighter Pete from New York Times bestselling author and artist James Dean, Pete and his classmates are excited about their field trip to the firehouse. They get to slide down the pole, meet all the brave firefighters, and even try on their helmets and gear. But when the alarm goes off, it’s time for Pete to jump on the fire truck, grab the hose, and help the firefighters save the day!

I'm Brave!
Written by Kate Mcmullan & illustrated by Jim McMullan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

For fans of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Steam Train, Dream Train comes the perfect noisy addition to this hilarious read-aloud series from the popular creators of I Stink!, and I’m Dirty!—now a streaming animated series!

I’m Brave! is the most irresistible addition yet to Kate and Jim McMullan’s hilarious read-aloud series: a fire truck.

He’s a big red engine With a siren, A horn, A tank full of water, And a whole lotta hose!

He’s a good-lookin’ fire truck, And he’s brave, too. When the alarm sounds Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeoooooooooo He’s gotta drive through Smoke and heat Straight to a blazing fire!

Honk! Honk!

Firestorm!
Written by Joan Hiatt Harlow
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Twelve-year-old Poppy is an orphan living in a bad neighborhood in Chicago, pick pocketing so that she has a place to sleep at night. Justin’s world couldn’t be more different—his father owns a jewelry store—but when he and Poppy meet, they become fast friends, thanks in part to Justin’s sweet pet goat. Through their friendship, Poppy realizes that she doesn’t want to be a thief anymore and she begins to feel like she may have a place with Justin’s family. But when Justin makes an expensive mistake at his father’s store, Poppy is immediately blamed. In response, she flees . . . right into the Great Chicago Fire. Poppy and Justin must rely on their instincts if they are going to survive the catastrophe. Will anything be left when the fire finally burns out?

On the News
Written by Jillian Roberts
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

On the News gently introduces young children to the realities of natural disasters, terrorism and other forms of tragedy. In age-appropriate language and tone, Dr. Roberts explains what tragedy is, the feelings it may create and how to manage those feelings. She also emphasizes the good that can come out of tragedy, looking at how people help one another in caring, compassionate and heroic ways. The book’s question-and-answer format will help parents have a meaningful conversation about these difficult topics with their children and equip them to better handle questions that arise when children are exposed to the news. The World Around Us series introduces children to complex cultural, social and environmental issues they may encounter outside the comfort of their homes, in a way that is straightforward and accessible.

  • Little Cloud: The Science of a Hurricane - This STEM-based picture book follows the origin of a hurricane, from a little cloud to a life-threatening storm. Follow our little cloud on an adventure through the sky and learn the science behind how it transforms from a simple cumulus cloud to a full-blown hurricane. Beautifully detailed illustrations from award-winning artist Julie McLaughlin integrate science with storytelling. Children will enjoy finding new gems of information even after several reads, thanks to a whimsical and rich layout. And meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe weaves a comprehensive narrative about a powerful weather system that’s so compelling readers won’t even realize they are on their way to becoming budding meteorologists.

  • Disasters - A history of 10 well-known disasters—from the great Chicago fire to Hurricane Katrina—explores the causes and effects of the devastation as well as with the power of humankind to persevere in the face of adversity.

  • Hurricanes! (New Edition) - Imagine a force that can toss boats around like toys, wash away bridges, create waves as high as eighteen feet, and change the shape of a shoreline. With fierce winds and torrential rains, hurricanes can do all of these things. In this newly revised edition, GAIL GIBBONS introduces readers to the concepts of hurricane formation, classification, weather preparedness, and the ever-evolving technology that helps us try to predict the behavior of these powerful storms. Extensive updates include refined definitions for hurricane-related vocabulary, updated information about the wind speeds that define hurricane categories, information on emergency preparedness, and more. As these weather disturbances become more frequent and more powerful, Hurricanes is the perfect introduction for children to this important and timely topic.

  • Sinking the Sultana - The worst maritime disaster in American history wasn’t the Titanic. It was the steamboat Sultana on the Mississippi River—and it could have been prevented.

Big Top Burning
Written by Laura A. Woollett
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

The fire broke out at 2:40 p.m. Thousands of men, women, and children were crowded under Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s big top watching the Flying Wallendas begin their death-defying high-wire act. Suddenly someone screamed “Fire!” and the panic began. By 2:50 the tent had burned to the ground. Not everyone had made it out alive. With primary source documents and survivor interviews, Big Top Burning recounts the true story of the 1944 Hartford circus fire—one of the worst fire disasters in US history. Its remarkable characters include: Robert Segee, the fifteen-year-old circus roustabout and known pyromaniac; and the Cook children, Donald, Eleanor, and Edward, who were in the audience when the circus tent caught fire. Guiding readers through the investigations of the mysteries that make this moment in history so fascinating, this book asks: Was the unidentified body of a little girl nicknamed “Little Miss 1565” Eleanor Cook? Was the fire itself an act of arson—and did Robert Segee set it? Big Top Burning combines a gripping disaster story, an ongoing detective and forensics saga, and World War II-era American history, inviting middle-grade readers to take part in a critical evaluation of the evidence and draw their own conclusions.

Rising Water
Written & illustrated by Marc Aronson
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

The incredible true story of the twelve boys trapped with their coach in a flooded cave in Thailand and their inspiring rescue.

On June 23, 2018, twelve members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach were exploring the Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand when disaster struck. A rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them as they took shelter on a shelf of the dark cave. Eight days of searching yielded no signs of life, but on July 2 they were discovered by two British divers. The boys and their coach were eventually rescued in an international operation that took three days. What could have been a terrible tragedy became an amazing story of survival.

Award-winning author Marc Aronson brings us the backstory behind how this astounding rescue took place. Rising Water highlights the creative thinking and technology that made a successful mission possible by examining the physical, environmental, and psychological factors surrounding the rescue. From the brave Thai Navy SEAL who lost his life while placing oxygen tanks along the passageways of the cave, to the British divers that ultimately swam the boys to safety, to the bravery of the boys and their coach, this is the breathtaking rescue that captivated the entire world.

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