Life As We Knew It

Book Review by Kathy Lamb KozenskiLifeKnewIt

Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer

Publishing Information:  Scholastic, Inc., 2006. ISBN 13: 978-0-545-03971-0 and ISBN 10: 0-545-03971-1; about $5.00 paperback.

Theme:  natural hazard, science fiction, apocalyptic

Number of Pages:  337

Target Audience:  middle school and high school students (well-read upper elementary students, too)

Brief Description:  What happens when an asteroid hits the moon and sends it closer into Earth’s orbit?  Catastrophic gravitational changes lead to wave and tidal changes, massive shifts in plate tectonics causing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, severe climate shifts result from atmospheric changes, and much more in terms of the environment.  Imagine all of these impacts on humans and Earth’s creatures.  Lack of safe and solid transportation routes leads to no food at the grocery stores.  Broken water, gas, electrical, and energy lines leads to no fresh water and fluctuating or no energy.  A young teenage girl, Miranda, must become creative to help her family to survive.  Her resiliency and perseverance are admirable.

Major Points:  The natural systems of the Earth are all interconnected.  Humans are closely tied to those systems. Human/Environment Interaction are key to survival. Natural Hazards are an unavoidable fact of life at this point in time.  Poverty, hunger, care and compassion.

Your Opinion: I thoroughly enjoy these types of post-apocalyptic stories.  What choices do the characters make?  What choices would I make IF something like the scenario really happened?  Would humanity totally deteriorate or would people really help one another?  IF you do not like extreme stories where survival can be brutal, you would not like this book.

Ideas for use in the Classroom:

  • The book ties naturally with middle school Earth Science and Physical Geography Academic Standards: natural hazards.  Preparing the students prior to reading the book by reviewing about the Earth/Sun relationship, gravity, tides, continents/tectonic plates, and climate invigorates the students to better understand the story: cause and effect.
  • A Teacher’s Guide is available for the book.  See reference below.
  • Create an Emergency Preparedness Plan for the school/neighborhood/community addressing the issues that Miranda faced.  Utilize IndianaMap as a research tool to find imagery and data about your community:  natural resources, population density, roads…  Research the county’s real Emergency Preparedness Plan that should be publically available.  Invite a disaster preparedness expert into the classroom.  Participate in an annual disaster training day: volunteers play victims (broken legs, concussion…) usually sponsored by IN Emergency Management, FEMA, or Salvation Army.
  • Students should create education outreach mechanisms about their findings and solutions and share these materials with the local City/County Council, families, school principals, business leaders, and elected officials.
  • Identify the location of the story. Analyze world maps for a discussion about tsunami, volcanic, and earthquake devastation probabilities.  Discuss food and poverty. What does it really mean to be hungry?  To have very little access to food?  After the book is read, have the students attempt (depending upon dietary and health needs) to eat very little for a day or two; discuss physical feelings and happenings, then, discuss emotional and mental feelings and happenings; imagine this for weeks, months, years, lifetimes.


  • The Dead and Gone, Book 2 (ISBN-10: 0547258550, ISBN-13: 978-0547258553)
  • The World We Live In, Book 3 (ISBN-10: 0547550286, ISBN-13: 978-0547550282)
  • The Shade of the Moon, Book 4 (ISBN-10: 0544336151, ISBN-13: 978-0544336155)
  • Teacher Guide by Novel Units, Inc. … New ways to teach reading, writing, and the love of literature (ISBN-10: 1608787087, ISBN-13: 978-1608787081; about $10.00 via Amazon)