The Life Savers {Free eBook & Activities}

Summer is a great time to review water safety. One unique way to do this is through fictional stories. The Life Savers by James Otis is A Story of the United States Life-Saving Service, the precursor to today’s Coast Guard.

The book begins with the history of the development of the U.S. Life-Saving Service beginning with an organization of the Massachusetts Humane Society in 1786. The purpose of the organization was to help those suffering shipwreck off of the Massachusetts coast. Small boat stations were established along the coast, a few vessels were added to aid in assistance, but it wasn’t until 1847 that Congress funded lighthouses with facilities for aiding those shipwrecked. Eventually the service grew and became strictly regulated with specific procedures in place for aiding maritime disasters.

The Life Savers provides a detailed view of how the service worked — through a fictional account of a boy and his dog, the only survivors saved from a wreck at sea. As Benny spends his days at the station, he and Fluff become rather adopted by the men in the service. He learns to help them in their work — Fluff playing an important role, as well. Eventually Benny becomes one of the life savers himself.

Though generally an exciting read, some may find it slow where the author goes in to exacting detail of what to do in life-saving situations. If that is the case, just skip those obvious detailed instructions and move on and enjoy the story!

Great summer read…and it’s free!

Free eBook


You’ll find resources to help below.

  • Learn more about the U.S. Life-Saving Service.
  • Learn more about the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Explain a few of the differences between the two.
  • Learn more about lighthouses.
  • Use a map of the Atlantic coast to locate some of the stations.
  • Narrate one of the missions Benny is sent on.
  • By the time the book is finished, Fluff is very well described. Draw a picture or illustration of Fluff.
  • Review water safety.
  • James Otis authored dozens of historical fiction titles. Create an author notebooking page.

Further Investigation

History of the USLSS
Background from the U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association.

Daily Station Life
Description of the routines and drills from the U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association.

Photo Gallery
Lots of photos of the stations, boats, and drills from the U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association.

United States Coast Guard
Timeline showing the changes throughout the years.

Activity: Compare & Contrast

Activity: Compare & Contrast
Tools for comparing and contrasting the U.S. Life-Saving Service and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Learn About the U.S. Coast Guard {Free Coloring Book}
Great way to learn what the Coast Guard does.

Children’s Activity Book
Cute 8-page download.

The Life Savers

The Life Savers by James Otis
Paperback version for those interested.

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

Little Kinnakeet Lifesaving Station
National Park Service lesson plan with historical background information, mapping activities, and photo analysis and discussion.

Lighthouses {Free Unit Study}
Free unit from Home School Enrichment Magazine.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: A Unit Study

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: A Unit Study
Our own unit with lots of water safety resources.

Printables & Notebooking Pages

Eastern United States
PAT map for mapping the location of some of the stations.

Drawing & Writing Notebooking Paper {Free Download}

Drawing & Writing Notebooking Paper {Free Download}
Simple paper with room for illustrations at the top and writing below for narrating one of Benny’s missions, drawing an illustration of Fluff, and reviewing water safety as mentioned in the suggestions.

Author Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for creating an author page for James Otis.

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