MAY 20:

  • Happy birthday Shirley Rousseau Murphy (Joe Grey Cat Mystery series), Carol Carrick (Patrick’s Dinosaur), Carolyn Croll (What Will the Weather Be? ), Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House series), and Caralyn Buehner (Snowmen at Night).
  • It’s the birth date of Sorche Nic Leodhas (1898-1987), Always Room for One More, and Don Lawson (1917-1990), An Album of the Vietnam War.
  • In 1609, Shakespeare’s sonnets are first published in London. Read Under the Greenwood Tree: Shakespeare for Young People edited by Barbara Holdridge, illustrated by Robin and Pat DeWitt, and Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets, compiled by Paul B. Janeczko.

In May, the Association of American Publishers celebrates Get Caught Reading Month—publicity for the event includes posters of famous people  each absorbed in a good book. Certainly, any book featured on the Almanac over the past year would be great to be caught reading. But I’d like to showcase a series that not only engages readers in one book, but in seven.

Long before Suzanne Collins made dystopic fiction popular for teens with The Hunger Games, Australian writer John Marsden produced the internationally bestselling Tomorrow Series, beginning with Tomorrow, When the War Began.  I first started reading the saga as editor of the Horn Book in 1995 and have been intrigued ever since. When the books first appeared, they were significantly different from anything else available for teenagers. Now they would be ideal for any reader eleven through fourteen who wants to think about the world gone awry in the future.

Marsden’s premise for the series is both brilliant and chilling. Ellie and six of her school friends—all teenagers—manage to convince their parents to let them camp out in the wilderness. They have the necessary survival skills, and the Australian bush has been a second home for them. Ellie narrates the story, stating at the beginning that she will not shy away from the truth. A week later when the group returns, they find parents and pets dead, the town empty, and their country invaded during World War III by an enemy who remains unnamed. Since they are alive, they realize they should go into hiding and discover what is happening. They all change during the course of the narrative: they fall in love; they find new meaning for their lives; and Ellie must kill two men.

With new paperback covers, the series mirrors the contents of contemporary movies and fiction for young readers. A thoughtful book as well as an adventure-packed one, Tomorrow, When the War Began helps young readers consider what they would do in a time of war. Once readers fall under the spell of the series, they often gobble up one book after another.

For some reason that I have never understood, the series is not as well known in the United States as it is around the world. So you and the young readers in your lives may well have missed it. If you have, pick up the book and get caught reading this month!

Here’s a section from Tomorrow, When the War Began:

The dogs were dead. That was my first thought. They didn’t jump around and bark when we drove in, or moan with joy when I ran over to them, like they always had done. They lay beside their little galvanized iron humpies, flies all over them, oblivious to the last warmth of the sun. Their eyes were red and desperate and their snouts were covered with dried froth.



Originally posted May 20, 2013. Updated for .

Tags: Adventure, Dystopia, Survival
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Tomorrow, When the War Began


  1. Catherine says:

    I haven’t heard of this series, but I know our seventh graders will love it. Thank for sharing!

  2. G. Perry says:

    Got it ordered. Can’t wait.

  3. Sarah says:

    The tomorrow series got me hooked as a teenager, it is still the series that I recommend most to our students. We are lucky that it is also a text taught in New Zealand high schools. Once you have devoured this series, seek out John Marsden’s other novels, they are brilliant, gritty and keep the reader coming back.
    Thanks for sharing Anita

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