When you think back to your youth, what favorite things come to mind? If you’re like many, you remember the thrill of going to the library and checking out a book you were eager to read. Whether you’re a youngster, a senior, or you land in between the two extremes, there really is nothing like holding a book in your hands and turning the pages to see what will happen to your favorite and most detested characters next.
As a parent, you probably want your kids to fall in love with reading just like you did when you were their ages. You can help your kids crush on reading throughout their lives by introducing them to children’s adventure books at a young age. Adventure books for kids rock because they inspire children to embark on their own imaginary and real-life adventures, introduce them to faraway lands, and free their imaginations from pre-conceived notions and fears.
Although today’s children may prefer to consume adventure books in the form of audiobooks or by using their tablets instead of reading a physical, handheld tome, their preferred consumption style will not limit the potential impact the books will have. While your kids may prefer to consume books with electronic devices as they age, it’s still advisable for the youngest of readers to start their literary journey with an age-appropriate board book.
Even if your child’s first book is one of the many kid-friendly picture books that are available on Amazon or barnesandnoble.com, it’s still a critical first step in your child’s possible lifelong love affair with reading. And it’s an exciting one!
Whether you have tweens or toddlers, you might be curious about the best children’s adventure books to help your kids develop a courageous spirit and become avid readers. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered in this regard with our curated list of gripping adventure books for kids.
20 Children’s Adventure Books
1. Adventures from Scratch: Family Edition
Adventures from Scratch offers a collection of adventure books for adults and children. While grown-ups may prefer Adventures from Scratch: Date Edition during times when their kids are visiting friends or their grandparents, families will enjoy the family-oriented version of the book.
Adventures from Scratch: Family Edition includes more than 50 enjoyable and exciting activities that children will want to do with their parents! It inspires kids to be adventurous without forcing them to act alone. Kids can test boundaries and discover new things as they complete challenges with their family members in a safe environment.
By introducing your children to adventures in an environment where they feel supported and protected, they’ll develop the confidence to be adventurous on their own as they enter adulthood. This tactic may also increase the likelihood that your kids will tell you about their adventures because the challenges you complete as a family will help establish strong lines of communication and a sense of teamwork among your family members.
Every scratch-off challenge in Adventures from Scratch: Family Edition is fun to take on. The adventures can often be completed with items you already have on hand. In addition, the challenges are adaptable enough for your family to do at home or a vacation destination.
If you want a book that inspires adventure in kids of all ages, the family adventure book by Let’s Roam should be at the top of your must-get list of books.
2. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
Born Robert Leslie Carroll Conly, the author of this book was best known among children’s books’ enthusiasts as Robert C. O’Brien. O’Brien’s classic book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was published in 1971, and the book earned O’Brien a coveted Newbery Medal the following year.
An enduring favorite among children and adults who remember the book from their childhood, this story describes the plight of widowed mouse Mrs. Frisby who must get her family out of Mr. Fitzgibbons’ garden and to their summer residence or face certain death. The yearly trek is made complicated, however, because Mrs. Frisby’s youngest son, Timothy, falls ill with pneumonia and can’t be moved.
Luckily, Mrs. Frisby encounters a group of highly intelligent and capable rats called the Rats of NIMH. The rats develop a wildly clever solution to Mrs. Frisby’s dilemma. In return for saving her family, Mrs. Frisby performs a laudable service for the band of rats.
O’Brien’s untimely death in 1973 is one of the unfortunate events that normally prevent a wonderful book like this one from having a sequel. Fortunately, the literary bug bit one of O’Brien’s children, Jane Leslie Conly. O’Brien’s daughter penned two sequels to the author’s original book, “Racso and the Rats of NIMH” and “R-T, Margaret, and the Rats of NIMH.” Both of Conly’s books are worth checking out.
3. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Written by Rudyard Kipling well over a century ago, The Jungle Book is as relevant today as it was when it was originally published in 1894. This book recounts the experiences a young orphan boy named Mowgli has growing up in the jungles of India.
Mowgli grows up among a pack of wolves, befriends exotic animals like panthers and bears, and ultimately hunts a man-killing tiger known as Shere Khan. The book’s compelling characters, brilliant yet digestible language and quick pace make it one of the books you’ll want your kids to read aloud so everyone can feel the thrill of Mowgli’s unfolding adventures.
The Jungle Book is a great pick for middle-grade readers between the ages of eight and 12 years old. If your goal is to inspire adventure among your children, consider this classic adventure story a must-read for your brood.
4. The Heroes of Olympus Series by Rick Riordan
This series is one you’ll want to get in hardcover form so that it can be passed from generation to generation of young readers. There are five books that chronicle the adventures of Percy Jackson, his co-adventurers, and some key Olympians plucked from mythology. The books included in this intriguing series include:
- The Lightning Thief
- The Sea of Monsters
- The Titan’s Curse
- The Battle of the Labyrinth
- The Last Olympian
As your kids age, they can read more of Rick Riordan’s work as the bestselling author also scripted the Kane Chronicles and the Heroes of Olympus. When your children become adults, they can enjoy Riordan’s multi-award-winning mystery series, Tres Navarre.
5. The Harry Potter Collection by J.K. Rowling
The fantastical Harry Potter book series penned by J.K. Rowling tells the ongoing tale of young wizard Harry Potter and his associates as they attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and battle the dark lord Voldemort. From Harry himself to his friends Ron and Hermione, the school’s headmaster Dumbledore and professor Snapes, and many more, Rowling created unforgettable characters who left powerful impressions on readers.
When they were new releases, these children’s adventure books were met with eager, zealous anticipation from readers who simply couldn’t wait to get their hands on the next edition. Many people would line up outside bookstores the day before the novels hit store shelves to increase the chances that they’d get their hands on a sought-after hardcover or paperback.
In the years that have passed since J.K. Rowling released the last book in the series, her Harry Potter books have continued to be sold as individual graphic novels and as boxed sets. We strongly encourage you to get a boxed set so your kids won’t have to wait to move on to the next novel. These books are so captivating that waiting for the next edition proved tortuous for many as the books were originally released one by one years ago.
While J.K. Rowling has been the subject of some public scrutiny in recent months due to some unfortunate public comments, her beloved novels remain popular among young readers and older bibliophiles in equal measure. Here are the books that are part of the author’s cherished series, with each one beginning with “Harry Potter and the…”:
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
If your kids get into the series, consider treating them to the following books that the characters presumably had access to in the Hogwarts library:
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- Quidditch Through the Ages
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard
It’s worth noting that all the books about the young wizard were made into wildly popular movies starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and other big names. Although the films are wonderful, the chapter books are even more compelling.
6. The Hatchet Series by Gary Paulsen
With award-winning books like The Winter Room and Dogsong on his resume, it’s no wonder that Gary Paulsen earned the Edwards Award from the American Library Association for his lifetime achievements in kid-friendly literature. Among the great books Paulsen has scripted over the years are the works that are part of the revered Hatchet series.
This mind-blowing series follows Brian Robeson, a thirteen-year-old who’s left to fend for himself after a plane crash leaves him stranded in the Canadian wilderness with a torn windbreaker and a hatchet his mother had, thankfully, given him as a gift. To survive, the young teen must put away the harsh feelings he has about his parents’ divorce and use his knowledge, courage, and will to live to escape his harrowing predicament.
Five must-read books make up the Hatchet series, and they include the following titles:
- The River
- Brian’s Winter
- Brian’s Return
- Brian’s Hunt
7. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is a prolific author of children’s books who’s worked with several illustrators on titles that include Fortunately, The Milk, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, and Coraline, among others. A midgrade book that’s a great pick for kids in the fifth and sixth grades, The Graveyard Book is a story Gaiman wrote that’s become more successful than anyone could have dreamed. A modern classic, The Graveyard Book is the only book that has earned a Newbery medal as well as a Carnegie medal.
On its surface, The Graveyard Book is a seemingly doomsday tale of a boy whose physical body is dead, but whose spirit is being raised in a cemetery by ghosts and a paranormal guardian who hails from neither the world of the living nor the realm of the dead. Nobody Owens, referred to as Bod in the book, navigates adventures in the graveyard as he matures under the watchful eyes of ghosts, ghouls, and his attentive guardian.
To avoid being threatened by Jack (or worse), the man who slew his body, Bod can’t leave the cemetery. Given his boundaries, Bod must contend with the evil Sleer and other ghastly characters within the confines of the graveyard.
Recommended by many teachers, The Graveyard Book is available as a 10th-anniversary edition. It’s worth getting a copy of that edition for your kids because it includes bonuses, such as:
- A forward prepared by Margaret Atwood
- Formerly unpublished sketches by the book’s illustrator
- Copies of handwritten drafts by Gaiman
- Gaiman’s acceptance speech when he received the Newbery medal
8. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Thanks to works like Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo has become one of the most beloved authors of children’s books in the United States. This story tells the tale of Opal Buloni, a young girl who’s just 10 years old. On a summer day, Buloni goes to a local grocery store to pick up some supplies. Buloni proceeds to return home with a dog in her wake.
After the dog enters the young girl’s life, things start to happen. Buloni begins to make friends at long last. She also musters up the courage to ask her dad about her mother, who abandoned them when Opal was just three. Eventually, Buloni realizes that nearly all the things that happen over the course of the season are because of her newly found, adventurous canine companion Winn-Dixie.
Born in Philadelphia but raised in the south, Kate DiCamillo currently lives in Minneapolis where she writes two pages per day, five days a week. Thanks to her dedication to writing kid-friendly books, DiCamillo has written other compelling works, which include:
- The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
- The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread
- The Beatryce Prophecy
- The Rising Tiger
- The Magician’s Elephant
- Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
- The Mercy Watson series
9. Whispering Alaska by Brendan Jones
A middle-grade book that’s a fantastic pick for tweens and young teenagers, Whispering Alaska is a must-read for youngsters grappling with grief or change. This beautifully written book follows two twin girls and their father as they bravely move from Pennsylvania to Alaska after the death of the girls’ mother.
As the twins settle into a new normal, they fall in love with the natural beauty that surrounds them. Tension soon takes over the girls’ new hometown, however, as the local adults find their livelihoods are threatened. Josie and Nicky are among the young townspeople who step up in a courageous attempt to save their community and all its natural wonders.
Author Brendan Jones knows Alaskan life well as he lives a subsistence lifestyle in an Alaskan community. Jones’ knowledge rings true, particularly as he tells readers about the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest. In fact, the storyteller’s detailed description of the forest is so encapsulating, your kids may swear they can hear the trees whispering, and they might embark on a real-life adventure to do just that when they’re older.
10. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
Available as an audiobook, a paperback, and a hardcover, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. E Frankweiler follows Claudia and her miserly brother Jamie as they run away from home and take refuge in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. As they settle into living at the prestigious museum, the siblings tour the museum with other visitors during the day and sleep in an opulent 16th-century bed at night.
The kids’ daily adventures in the museum provide a glimpse of some true wonders through the curious eyes of children. Things take a turn, however, when Claudia discovers she and her brother can’t return home until they find out who made a newly received statuette the museum had recently taken in. If it weren’t for the statue’s former owner Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Claudia and James may have been stuck at the museum for the rest of their lives.
A Newbery medal winner, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a story of childhood angst, adventurous rebellion, and familial love that’s as heartwarming as it is humorous and entertaining. It’s also a book that pre-teens and teenagers will be hard-pressed to put down.
11. The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon by Mini Grey
While The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon by Mini Grey isn’t based on a true story, it is a play on the nursery rhyme that goes “hey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle.” That means it’s a love story that starts with the dish and the spoon running away together. During the Great Depression, Dish and Spoon make a killing as vaudeville stars. It doesn’t take long for the duo to lose their fortune and wind up in debt to a gang of nefarious characters appropriately known as evil knives.
With a nod to Bonnie and Clyde and a taste of The Perils of Pauline, The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon is a clever lesson that will teach readers that crime doesn’t pay and that love is powerful enough to conquer all challenges and challengers.
This children’s adventure book is a wonderful choice for readers in kindergarten through the third grade. At just 32 pages in length, the book is short enough for kids to read aloud in a single evening depending on how well-developed their reading skills are.
12. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
First published in 1959, My Side of the Mountain is loosely based on the author’s childhood experiences. As a kid, George enjoyed nature. Encouraged to be an independent, free-spirited child by her parents, George ran away from home at one point in her young life to attempt to live in the outdoors. Similar to many other kids who try to do the same, George returned home about 40 minutes after she initially ran away.
George used her brief experience as a runaway as fodder for the fictional tale of Sam Gribley. Unlike the author herself, Gribley succeeds in his quest for independence and self-reliance when he leaves home as a young boy to live in the Catskill Mountains. Gribley’s survivalist adventure is told in the first person through the character’s journal entries, illustrations, and notes.
The unconventional story starts in the middle. With no choice but to stay inside his treehouse during a storm, Gribley reflects on what has led him to this moment in the story. Once readers are caught up, they follow Gribley through the rest of his adventure, which eventually draws to an end when his entire family relocates to live with him in the mountains. While Gribley is initially opposed to his family’s move, he accepts their presence since he’s still a minor and his parents are required to watch over him until he’s at least 18.