Life or Death: Surviving the Impossible


When the stakes are high, survival is remote, and the path ahead is riddled with pitfalls, what does it take to beat impossible odds? More than 40 riveting – and true – stories of people who turned the tables around and triumphed in the end.


Nominated, 2015-16 Hackmatack Children's Choice Award
Recommended, Best Books 2014, Canadian Children's Book Centre


"...the fast-paced stories are so full of exciting events that readers will be sure to quickly read the book from start to finish!"
                                                                                                                                           CM Magazine

"A great read for middle-graders interested in adventures stories...With its accessible language and high-interest subject matter, Life or Death has the right combination of action and educational value to satisfy young readers and the adults in their lives."
                                                                                                                                             Quill & Quire



Hurled from the plane, Juliane Koepcke saw the jungle whirling toward her

To this day, Juliane Koepcke remembers the exact moment the plane exploded. It was around 1:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, 1971. She was seventeen years old, one of 92 passengers aboard a turboprop L-188 Electra. Juliane was sitting beside her mother in a row of three seats near the back. They were flying to Pucallpa, Peru, to join her father, who ran a wildlife research station there.

Thirty minutes into the one-hour flight, the plane entered a pitch-black cloud. Lightning flashed. The plane shook. Luggage fell out of overhead compartments. For ten terrifying minutes, the plane bucked the storm. And then Juliane saw a blinding white light along the right wing . . . heard her mother saying, “Now it’s all over” . . . people screaming . . . engines roaring . . . Seconds later she heard nothing but the sound of wind whistling in her ears.

Suddenly Juliane was outside the plane, still strapped to her seat, flying upside down in a free fall. She wasn’t scared, just numb. She felt the seat belt pressing into her stomach. She saw the Amazon jungle — like “green cauliflower” — rushing toward her. Then she blacked out.

When Juliane woke up, it was morning. She was lying under her seat in the jungle. She wasn’t strapped in any longer, and it was raining. She had no memory of the impact or what followed — just hazy recollections of the whirling plunge. Somehow she must have woken up earlier though, she realized, and released her seat belt to crawl under the seat, probably to get out of the rain.

Gone was her mother who had been sitting beside her. Gone, too, was the heavy-set man who had occupied the third seat near the aisle. There was no sign of anyone else. No bodies, no wreckage from the plane, just dense foliage all around.

Juliane’s head ached. So did her shoulder. Her right eye was swollen and gashes ran along her arms and legs. Later Juliane would find out that she had broken her collarbone and suffered a concussion, but in the jungle that day she felt little pain, just confusion. As her thoughts cleared, truth hit home. Through some miracle, she had survived a 3000-metre free fall. Now she was alone.

Juliane tried to walk but, overcome by dizziness, she blacked out. For much of that day and night she drifted in and out of consciousness. Finally she felt strong enough to crawl.

She had no idea where she was. Other than a small bag of candy found among bits of debris on the ground, she had no food or supplies. She had lost her glasses and one of her sandals, and she was wearing only a short, sleeveless mini-dress. In a daze, she searched for wreckage, for some sign of life. “Hello. Is anyone there?” she called over and over....


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