When you are looking for some good adventure books for kids, you can't go wrong with the titles on this list!
These adventure books are for middle grade readers, primarily kids ages 8-13, but some are also suitable for ages 7 and up. The stories are exciting, packed full of twists and turns, and take readers on a white-knuckle journey of discovery. No boring books, here!
Adventure books are great for kids because the fast-paced action draws readers in quickly, keeps them reading, taps into their imagination and gives them the opportunity to explore new places and empathize with characters.
A good adventure book involves a high-stakes quest or journey into unknown territory that leads to a resolution or discovery involving the protagonist's emotional or ethical development. Fortunately, adventure novels come in all lengths and genres so every child can find something that fits their particular taste. Use the table of contents to jump ahead to exactly what you are looking for.
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Funny Adventure Books
Wild Ride by Keith Calabrese
Fasten your seatbelts! After her older brother takes their parents 1964 Mustang convertible on a joyride and it gets impounded, 12-year-old Charley and her friends have to rescue him from his predicament. But when they find a kidnapped accountant and a pair of thugs in the trunk, things really start to move fast! Spyware, selfish billionaires, high speed chases and save-the-world stakes keep the plot moving at a brisk pace with lots of laughs and clever protagonists. Ages 10 and up.
The Last Kids on Earth (series) by Max Brallier
This very popular series was made into a show for Netflix. After the Monster Apocalypse, Jack and his middle school sidekicks set out to fight zombies. Illustration-heavy, silly humor and fast-paced hijinks make this a good adventure series for readers who get bored easily. Ages 8 and up.
Indiana Bones (series) by Harry Heape
Aisha and her sidekick, a talking dog named Indiana Bones, travel to Egypt to find the a treasure once belonging to a French knight known as the Lonely Adventure. Aisha's father is a famous archeologist and her dog came from a magic portal! There is fun wordplay, a wry narrator, and all the elements you expect from a hilarious archaeological treasure hunt. Ages 7 and up.
The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleishman (1987)
This short, award-winning novel is an amusing and fast-paced adventure, Jemmy serves as the palace whipping boy, receiving the punishments meant for a spoiled, bratty prince. When Prince Brat decides to run away, Jemmy follows and the two are captured by villains who are fooled into thinking Jemmy is the real prince. In their attempt to escape the villains, both both boys learn much about each other. Ages 8 and up.
The Explorers: The Door in the Alley (series) by Adrienne Kress
We had a good time reading this adventure book out loud. 12-year-old Sebastian's adventure begins with a pig in a teeny hat. It then continues as he enters The Explorer's Society and learns of a missing key and Filipendulous Five, a group of mysterious explorers. He teams up with Evie, an orphan who just so happens to have a grandfather connected to the Filipendulous Five. Together they set out to solve the mystery of what happened, evading bad guys and finding clues. The narration is full of fun wordplay, a little bit of cheeky snark and clever footnotes! Ages 8 and up.
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
When Dad steps out for some milk from the corner store he encounters a group of aliens who demand that, as a representative for all mankind, he surrender. He refuses and then gets sucked into a fantastical time-traveling adventure involving a hot air balloon ride with a stegosaurus, wampires (sic), pirates, the aforementioned aliens, and not a small amount of lunacy. Through it all, he maintains a firm grasp on the milk and in the end is, fortunately, able to return in time for his children to enjoy their breakfast cereal. This is a short novel and suitable for kids ages 7 and up.
The Perilous Princess Plot (Buckle and Squash series) by Sarah Courtauld
Don't be alarmed if you hear uproarious giggles coming from your child's room while they read this book. Hard-working, practical Eliza and her dreamy, prince poster-collecting sister, Gertrude, are total opposites. When Gertrude goes off one day to find a prince and instead gets captured, her sister heads out to rescue her. Ages 7 and up.
Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans by Russell Ginns
When Samantha's uncle leaves her a red umbrella with a mysterious message, she is convinced that her uncle is in danger and she sets out to find him. Like many other adventure books, this one is filled with curious secret passage ways, dangerous people and white-knuckle suspense. It is also filled with humor and a strange trash-covered ninja. Ages 8 and up.
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (series) by Christopher Healy
Fans of fairy tale adventures will enjoy this cheeky and humorous story about the "Prince Charmings." The princes, who now have actual names, have been turned out by their princesses for various reasons of unsuitability. They band together in an effort to prove themselves worthy by defeating Rapunzel's witch. The feisty princesses also make an appearance and by the end of the book it is impossible not to laugh out loud at the lovable foolishness of the princes' exploits. Great fun. I HIGHLY recommend the audiobook! Ages 8 and up.
The Last-Last-Day of Summer (series) by Lamar Giles
This is one of the quirkiest books I have ever read aloud and my fourth grader absolutely loved it. Cousins Otto and Sheed live in a Virginia county known for strange happenings. Together they have worked to solve many mysteries but this is the last day of summer and they are not ready for it to be over. They encounter a mysterious man with a camera that stops time and that's when the weirdness really begins! Zany, imaginative, not-a-little-bit-surreal, yet still thoughtful. Ages 8 and up.
The Legend of Greg (series) by Chris Rylander
A great adventure for kids who want to laugh out loud while reading. After Greg drinks a weird tea brought back from Norway by his father, he discovers he's a Dwarf and his best friend is an Elf. Then, a Bro-Troll kidnaps his father, and Greg learns of a whole new underground, magic world. Not only that, the reassertion of magic into the world might just mean the end of technology! Ages 8 and up.
MORE: Funny Middle Grade Books
Fantasy and Sci-Fi Adventures
The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat
Twelve-year-old Sai is an assistant to Paiyoon, a master mapmaker in Mangkon, a Thai-inspired fantasy kingdom. Sai is hiding her less-than-aristocratic ancestry. To prevent her secret from being revealed on her 13th birthday, Sai sails with Paiyoon on a ship bound for the Sunderlands in pursuit of treasure. Spellbinding. Ages 9 and up.
Etta Invincible by Reese Eschmann
Themes of communication, loss and family enrich this inclusive adventure story. 12-year-old artist, Etta, is learning about Ménière’s disease, the possible cause of her Quiet Days. Her adventure begins with a mystery surrounding a lost dog, a magical train and mysterious weather patterns. Along with her neighbor, Eleazar, Etta must draw upon her inner strength and overcome her fears to solve the mystery. Ages 9 and up.
The Adventurers Guild (series) by Zack Loran Clark
Zed and Brock, who would have preferred to join more profession-based guilds, are instead conscripted in the adventurer's guild, a ragtag group of humans and sprite-creatures that must guard the city against dangers. Their initiation into the guild is to spend the night outside of the city walls, a daunting prospect. I like the way the narrative shifts between the third person and first person recounting of the action, it keeps the reader on his toes! Highly suspenseful. Ages 8 and up.
The Map to Everywhere (series) by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis
The opening chapter is intensely suspenseful; what a way to get kids sucked into a book! Two worlds collide when Fin, a master thief in a magical pirate world, meets Marrill, a "normal" girl who boards a ship in a mirage in an Arizona parking lot. The two join up in a multi-world quest to find two parts of a famed pirate map that Fin thinks might help him find his mother. Age 8 and up.
Aru Shah and the End of Time (series) by Roshani Chockshi
I love how Roshani Cockshi's Pandava series uses Hindu mythology to take readers on a fantastical journey. Aru has a tendency to stretch the truth, and while she is spending the school holiday at the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture (her mother is an archeologist), her classmates dare her to prove her claim that the Lamp of Bharata is cursed. What happens next involves frozen classmates, the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, a demon and the Kingdom of Death! Ages 9 and up.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (series) by Grace Lin
Minli sets out on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon and change her family's destiny. Along the way she is accompanied by the Jade Dragon and her journey is filled with twists and turns of fate. Lin deftly weaves together Minli's quest, her father's stories and wonderful illustrations to create a memorable tale. Don't forget the companion books, Starry River of the Sky and When the Sea Turned to Silver. Ages 8 and up.
Time Traveling with a Hamster by Ross Welford
Al Chaudhury gets a letter and a hamster from his deceased father. The letter tells him to find his father's time travel machine and go back in time to avert a disaster. A fun and suspenseful read. Ages 10 and up.
Magic Marks the Spot (series) by Caroline Carlson
No adventure books list would be complete with a pirate tale or two. Hilary wants to be a pirate. Unfortunately pirates don't take young ladies into their ranks and she is sent off to finishing school, instead. With the help of her gargoyle (a gargoyle!) she escapes and runs off to join the ship, "the Terror of the Southlands." From then on it is a non-stop treasure seeking adventure. This book has loads of humor, quirky characters, a dynamic heroine, and all the qualities of a fantastic swash-bucking read. Ages 8 and up.
The False Prince (series) by Jennifer A. Nielsen
The kingdom is in turmoil and a nobleman is determined to pass off an unknown orphan as the missing prince. He brings three boys to train at his estate, promising that the one who best completes the test will have a new life as the ruler. Readers will find themselves constantly on their toes as to the outcome and a surprise twist will leave kids eager to read the next books in the series. Ages 9 and up.
The Blackthorn Key (series) by Kevin Sands
This is an incredibly suspenseful and action-packed upper middle grade series. Christoper, an orphaned apprentice in 17th century London, must solve a complex puzzle surrounding the recent rash of murders of apothecaries. Despite the seriousness of the plot, the well-drawn characters provide some humor. Ages 9 and up.
The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz
Multiple narrators describe the adventures of several children and their (potentially) holy dog. This book is an amazing mix of morality tale and puzzling mystery, set in the 13th century. Jeanne with her psychic visions, Willian, a biracial Muslim monk with superhuman skills, and Jacob, a Jewish boy fleeing his destroyed village who has healing powers, come together for an adventure that enriches their lives, as well as the lives of the readers. Ages 9 and up.
The House of Arden by E. Nesbit
Edred and Elfrida Arden are the heirs to Arden Castle, and just before he turns 10, Edred becomes Lord Arden. However, he won't inherit the missing fortune unless he finds it before his birthday. The siblings set off on a time traveling adventure to find the treasure. Edred and Elfreda squabble like normal siblings and a grouchy magical creature, Mouldiwarp, adds a quirky touch to this fun tale. Ages 8 and up.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
The Protectorate has always sacrificed a baby to keep the witch in the forest at bay. Little do they know the witch has been saving the babies all these years. One year the witch decides to raise the baby herself, and inadvertently fills her with a fierce and strong magic. As the girl grows older and comes into her magic, a man in the Protectorate vows to find and vanquish the witch, revealing the truth about both the Protectorate and the witch. Ages 9 and up.
The Fog Diver (series) by Joel Ross
In a world where a deadly fog covers most of the earth, the population lives high on the mountains. A boy named Chess, with fog in eyes, has the uncanny ability to survive in the fog. He and his friends scavenge for goods from past worlds by diving off a floating boat. They are determined to save their adoptive mother, who is suffering from fog sickness, but Lord Kodoc is on the hunt for Chess, whose abilities he both fears and desires for his own purposes. This may all sound very melodramatic, but it makes for a very exciting story. Don't miss the sequel, The Lost Compass. Ages 8 and up.
The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials Trilogy) by Philip Pullman
Two kids, Lyra and Will, cross parallel universes in a world where their souls (for lack of a better word) exist outside of their bodies as animal companions. A true modern classic. Ages 9 and up.
The Vengekeep Prophecies (series) by Brian Farrey
Jaxter Grimjinx is the eldest son in a family of thieves. When a trick goes bad and magical misfortunate starts to rain down on the city, Jaxter sets off to find the ingredients to counteract the spell. This is a great book full of interesting characters, magical moments and lots of suspense. I raced through this series, as did my son! Ages 9 and up.
The Barren Grounds (The Misewa Saga series) by David A. Robertson
Morgan and Eli are Cree children living with White foster parents in Winnipeg. They feel the cultural disconnect between their living situation and their cultural ancestry. After an argument with their well-meaning but misguided foster parents, the two find solace in the attic where Eli's drawing becomes a portal to Askí, a wintery world where time passes differently (yeah, I thought of Narnia, too). In Askí, they meet Ochek, a hunter along with Arik the squirrel, and together they set out to save the Misewa community. Ages 10 and up.
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Jones wrote loads of fantasy novels and you might recognize the title of this one because it was made into a successful animated movie. However, it’s such a captivating book, don’t limit yourself to the film version. Young Sophie is transformed into an old woman by The Witch of Waste and the only way to break the spell is to seek out the Wizard Howl in his bizarre moving castle. Ages 8 and up.
The Apothecary (series) by Maile Meloy
The action is set in 1952 against the backdrop of the cold war. In London, 14-year-old Janie befriends Benjamin, the son of a mysterious apothecary. Benjamin wants to be a spy and enlists Janie in his efforts. When his father disappears, Janie and Benjamin get caught up in a plot involving a magical book called the Pharmacopoeia, spells which allow humans to turn into birds, Russian spies, and unbelievable potions. I couldn't put it down! Ages 10 and up.
The Mark of the Thief (series) by Jennifer A. Nielsen
This incredibly thrilling trilogy is packed full of action, with twists lurking at every turn of the page. Nic and his sister are slaves in mines just outside of Ancient Rome. When Nic discovers an ancient bulla that once belonged to Julius Caesar, the bulla infuses him with a power. He becomes both a target and a pawn in a political conspiracy. This is a excellent selection for kids who like mythology and will appeal to readers who thrive on stories about the takedown of sinister government powers. Ages 10 and up.
Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (series) by Carlos Hernandez
My son listened to this on audiobook and loved it! He was alternating between gasping and laughing. Salvador Vidón is the new kid, but is also an unusual kid because he is able to open portals into alternate universes with his mind. He meets Gabi Reál who is a bit suspicious of his explanation about the mysterious things that happen when he is around. This is a really fun book, with lots of fast-paced action and crazy humor. Highly recommended! Ages 8 and. up.
Healer of the Water Monster (Series) by Brian Young
Nathan is trying to avoid spending time with his dad's new girlfriend, so instead of heading to Las Vegas with his father, he convinces his divorced parents to let him visit his grandmother on the Navajo reservation. In the desert, Nathan encounters Pond, an ailing water monster from the Navajo Creation Story. From there, Nathan begins his epic adventure into the Navajo Third World with the help of the Holy Beings. Young intriguingly blends together Diné mythology and the contemporary world. Fantastic. Ages 9 and up.
The Demon Sword Asperides by Sarah Jean Horwitz
Third person narration alternates among several viewpoints, one being the thoughts and snarky humor of the sword itself! The demon sword, Asperides, has been hoping to spend the rest of eternity in retirement, but is called to present itself to the hopeful knight, Nack. Nack is trying to win back the respect of his family and sees the sword, which he believes to be an angel blade, as his salvation. Asperides has his own agenda, not least of which is thwarting the mission of an evil, undead villain who just happens to be his former master. A gripping and magical adventure. Ages 9 and up.
A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet series) by Madeline L'Engle
This classic series hardly needs an introduction. Meg Murry's father has gone missing so she, her brother Charles Wallace, and a friend, Calvin O'Keefe, go on an incredible journey through space and time in hopes of rescuing him. Ages 8 and up.
The Unwanteds (series) by Lisa McMann
My son loved this series. Every year, in the authoritarian country of Quill, 13-year-olds are sorted into categories according to their abilities. The artistic children, or "Unwanteds" are sent away to their deaths. This year, Alex is separated from his twin, Aaron. Aaron goes off with the Wanteds to university but Alex heads off to what he thinks is his doom. However, after he passes through "the Purge," he discovers that, instead of meeting his end, he finds himself in Artimé, a place where creativity and magic are nourished. However, war breaks out between Quill and Artimé, and the brothers are pitted against one another. Ages 10 and up.
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (series) by Kwame Mbalia
Tristan Strong is grieving the loss of his best friend and reluctantly headed for Alabama to stay with his grandparents. While tussling with a strange creature he punches a tree, opening up a passage between his world and MidPass. Adventures and struggles follow as Tristan meets persons and creatures from African-American and West African myth and folklore. Young readers who love epic adventures, wily foes and heroic legends will love this tale. Highly recommended. Ages 9 and up.
Eagle Drums by Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson
I love any book rooted in folklore, and this is no exception. In this page-turner, Hopson tells the Iñupiaq Messenger Feast origin story. Piŋa has grown up with the knowledge that his two brothers vanished on the mountain which he must now climb to collect obsidian. On the mountain he meets the eagle god, Savik, who presents him with an impossible choice. Pinja chooses to become Savik's captive, setting him on a journey that is terrifying but teaches him valuable lessons. Ages 8 and up.
Voyage of the Frostheart (series) by Jamie Littler
I read aloud this exciting tale of a brave boy who heads out on an adventure and my son was on the edge of his seat. Ash has the gift of song, which makes him an outcast in Fira, his adopted community. But he takes off on the Frostheart, a ship manned by an unusual group of people and creatures, in order to find out what happened to his parents. The crew of the Frostheart isn't afraid of his Song Weaving ability and it may even be the key to avoiding the wrath of the fearsome Leviathans. Ages 7 and up.
Windswept by Margi Preus
I have never met a Margi Preus book I didn't love. Preus draws upon Norse folklore and other fairy tales to create a wholly original story. In Tag's village, adults require that "youngers" stay indoors until they are 15-years-old, lest they disappear in the mysterious snow squalls that appear without warning. After Tag's three older sisters are "windswept," she is determined to venture outside and find them. She and a small group of other youngers set out to the mountains to find the lost children. Along the way, and with the help of the eccentric people she meets, Tag discovers strength she did not know she had. Marvelous. Ages 10 and up.
Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
A magical, mysterious, modern day Alice in Wonderland-like book. 12-year-old Alice is determined to find her father after he disappears from Farenwood. Alice is a bit of a misfit. In a world full of color, she has pure white hair and white skin, and she performs miserably at the magic competition, when all 12-year-olds are supposed to display their unique talent. After the competition, Alice and a boy, Oliver, set off on a topsy-turvy, inside-out and upside-down adventure into Furthermore to find and bring back her father. Ages 9 and up.
The Accidental Apprentice (Wilderlore series) by Amanda Foody
Mushroom farmer apprentice, Barclay Thorne, lives in Dullshire. He's a hard worker and tries to avoid trouble. One day he accidentally bonds with a wolfish Beast in the nearby magic forest. Lore Keepers, those that bond with magic animals, are reviled and the villagers run him out of town. His plan is to find a way to break the bond, but the journey helps him embrace his true self.
Dragons in a Bag (series) by Zetta Elliott
One day, Jaxon's mom leaves him in the care of Ma, a woman who he thinks is his grandmother, but who is actually a witch on a baby dragon delivery mission. Ma takes Jaxon on as her apprentice and they travel to a magical world. When they are set to return to Brooklyn, Ma is accidentally left behind and Jaxon enlists the help of his friends to take care of the baby dragons and rescue Ma. Ages 7 and up.
Mystery Adventure Books
Treasure Island by Jewell Parker Rhodes
A delightful reworking of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic adventure tale! After a mysterious captain at his mom's boarding house makes predictions that come true, Zane and his friends head to Manhattan to find treasure. On their skateboards, they follow clues on a map that take them to important historical sites. Their journey is filled with pirates, rival skateboards, riddles and danger! Ages 8 and up.
Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation (series) by Stuart Gibbs
Charlie Thorne is the world's youngest math and physics genius-thief. If that premise doesn't shout, "Page-turner!" I don't know what does. The CIA wants to prevent the evil group, the Furies, from getting their hands on a secret Einstein equation. They enlist Charlie in their mission, which takes her on a whirlwind, heart-pounding adventure. Ages 9 and up.
On the Blue Comet by Rosemary Wells
The Blue Comet is a magical train that takes children on unexpected adventures. The train crosses time and space, taking its riders back and forth between the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. You can only board the Blue Comet if you possess an intense need to escape your current situation. That's exactly what happens when Oscar witnesses a crime. He is transported through time and must find his way back again. Ages 10 and up.
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
Solveig and her brothers, along with berserkers set to protect them, wait anxiously through the winter, trapped in a fortress near snowy mountains and the frozen sea. While they wait for word from their father the king, it slowly becomes clear that someone amongst them is a traitor, but who? This is a thrilling mystery for kids who like stories that keep them perched on the edge of their chair in tense anticipation. Ages 9 and up.
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
Take an action packed adventure aboard a mysterious train. Will embarks on the maiden voyage of "The Boundless", a train with 987 cars! One of those cars contains priceless treasures that nefarious individuals would like to get their hands on. Will teams up with colorful characters in order to save the train and the treasure. Ages 9 and up.
The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity (Brixton Brothers series) by Mac Barnett
12-year-old Steve dreams of being a detective and has studiously read and re-read "The Baily Brothers Detective Handbook." He knows everything about solving crimes, which comes in handy when he finds himself thrown into the middle of an exciting mystery. Every book in the series has tons of adventure, twist and turns, loads of intelligent humor and a satisfying ending. Ages 8 and up.
I, Q (series) by Roland Smith
While on a music tour with his new, blended family, 13-year-old Quest is sucked into a world full of suspicions, bumbling agents, and secret identities. Quest uses his magician and tech skills to find out the truth and foil evil plots. Ages 10 and up.
Realism and Historical Adventure Books
Northwind by Gary Paulsen
Paulsen's survival story is set in an unspecified northern location in an unspecified historical period, but the setting is evocative of Norway in a pre-modern age. When a deadly illness sweeps through a ship crew's camp, young Leif leaves in a canoe with a few supplies. Instructed by one of the elders to voyage northward, he does so. As he travels, he learns self-reliance and revels in the solitude and natural world. Paulsen's beautiful prose sets the reader on a journey of struggle and triumph. Glorious. Ages 9 and up.
Wildfire by Rodman Philbrick
A heart-pounding adventure that is perfect for kids who like survival stories. A wildfire threatens the summer camp and when 12-year-old Sam runs back to get his phone, he is trapped by flames and smoke. In his quest to outrun the life-threatening flames, he gets lost and encounters Delphy and the two work together to escape. Your kids will not put the book down until they have reached the end. Philbrick's The Wild Series includes, Wild River. Ages 9 and up.
Lizard's Tale by Weng Wai Chan
In 1940 Singapore, Lizard went to live with his Uncle Archie after his parents died. However, when Uncle Archie disappeared unexpectedly, Lizard finds his way to Chinatown in Singapore, surviving by doing odd jobs. One of those jobs involves stealing a mysterious teak box and delivering it to a mysterious individual. When things don't go according to plan, Lizard is left with the box. He and his friend try to understand the mystery of the box, which somehow connects to the war, secret codes and the disappearance of Uncle Archie.
Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant
Farrant's marvelous novel reads like a classic. In 1919, 13-year-old Ben wants to find his adoptive brother, Sam, who disappeared in France during the First World War. Back in England, he meets Lotti, who is being looked after by her unsympathetic aunt and uncle. Lotti is about to be sent away to boarding school and so she and Ben decide to take the Sparrowhawk, a narrowboat that is Ben and Sam's home, across the channel to find Sam and Lotti's grandmother. On their journey, Ben and Lotti meet supportive adults who help them to their destination. The story is full of dynamic characters that pull at your heartstrings.
Brother's Keeper by Julie Lee
I could not put this book down. In 1950, as the border between North and South Korea is closing, 12-year-old Sora Pak and her family join the mass exodus out of the north. In the chaos, Sora and her younger brother are separated from the rest of the family. Sora is determined to continue on and make it down to a meeting location in the south, where she knows her family is headed. The journey is harrowing, her brother becomes sick, hunger is a constant and winter sets in. Lee based her impressive novel on the experiences of her mother. Ages 8 and up.
Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth
Find it: Amazon
How many books set in Tibet have your kids read? Well, here's the opportunity to change all that! Tash and her family live their lives, hiding their Buddhist faith from the Chinese soldiers that occupy her village in Tibet. But one day, the startling actions of a man disrupts the peace and Tash's parents are taken away. Tash, disguised as a boy and her friend, Sam, along with two goats, flee the village, making a harrowing journey across snow covered mountains. Intertwined with this page-turning adventure are questions about freedom, courage and the teachings of the Dali Lama. Terrific. Ages 10 and up.
The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts (series) by Avi
It's 1724 and Oliver's father has disappeared off to London to find Oliver's sister. To top it off the house is flooded and Oliver has no money. A series of events involving thieves, scoundrels, and very Dickensian characters sets Oliver on the road to London. The cliffhanger at the end of the first book will have your kids reaching desperately for the second. Both novels are fast paced, full of high suspense offer much food for thought. Ages 9 and up.
The Legend of Hobart by Heather Mullaly
I was not prepared for how much I would enjoy this short adventure novel! The charming, wry humor manages to be both hilarious and moving. Hobart dreams of going to the King's School for the Education of Future Knights. He doesn't have a sponsor to nominate him, so he sets out to prove his mettle by accomplishing some heroic deeds. He can't rescue any damsels, because they already know martial arts and can save themselves. Instead, he goes on a quest to slay a dragon. But the quest ends quite unexpectedly and Hobart's deeds have us all thinking profoundly about the nature of heroism. Quietly and humorously, wonderful. Also recommended as a read aloud. Ages 8 and up.
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
I could not put this book down! Nisha and her twin brother are half-Muslim, half-Hindu and live with their father in India just before the time of Partition. When word comes that their town is to become part of the new Pakistan state, Nisha, her brother, her Hindu father and grandmother must make the harrowing and dangerous journey to the Indian border. Each chapter is an entry in Nisha's diary as she leaves her comfortable life behind and struggles with her own questions of identity. Ages 9 and up.
Crispin: The Cross of Lead (series) by Avi
Set in the 14th century, this award-winning book is a page-turner! Asta's son doesn't have a real name, and he doesn't know who his father is. When his mother dies, he comes under the guardianship of Father Quinel, who gives him a cross of lead owned by his mother. But before Father Quinel tells him his paternity, the boy (now named Crispin) must flee. He goes on the run from the wicked lord who owns the village and a hair-raising adventure begins. Ages 8 and up.
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Set in 1832, this Newbery Honor book tells the absolutely riveting story of Charlotte, who sets out on a sea voyage from England to Rhode Island. Instead of being chaperoned by other families on the journey, she unexpectedly finds herself alone with the crew and becomes entangled in a nail-biting and dangerous adventure. Ages 10 and up.
Journey of the Pale Bear by Susan Fletcher
I loved this book, and not just because of a penchant for all things Scandinavian. Arthur, a boy living in Norway, runs away from his abusive stepfather and stepbrothers. He has a letter from his Welsh cousins, which he assumes is asking him to return to Wales and claim his birthright. Unfortunately, he can't actually read the letter. In the port town of Bergen he encounters a caged polar bear and two ruffians shove him in the cage. When Arthur soothes the bear, he is enlisted to accompany the bear on a ship to England, for the bear is a gift from King Haakon to King Henry. Hair-raising, heart-searching and page-turning adventure follows. The story was inspired by a 13th century "pale bear" who lived in the Tower of London menagerie, a gift from Norway. Ages 9 and up.
The Left-Handed Fate by Kate Milford
Lucy and Max are trying to put an end to the War of 1812 by assembling a mysterious and ancient engine. While they are on the ship, "The Left-Handed Fate," it is captured by the Americans and put under the command of 12-year-old, Oliver who must wrestle with the moral decision of becoming a traitor or putting the lives of others in jeopardy. Full of high adventure, treacherous journeys and suspenseful action, this book will keep your tween on the edge of their seat. Ages 9 and up.
Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
In 1841, 14-year-old Manjiro and 3 other men are stranded on an island off Japan during a fishing trip. Eventually they are rescued by an American whaling vessel but instead of returning to Japan, Manjiro travels with the captain, attends school in America, faces the prejudice that comes with being an outsider, and heads to California during the gold rush. At the time, Japan was cut off from the world, and no one was allowed back into the country after leaving, but Manjiro risks his life to return. Ages 9 and up.
Cast Off: The Strange Adventures of Petra de Winter and Bram Broen by Eve Yohalem
Find it: Amazon
In 17th Century Holland, Petra runs away from her abusive father and accidentally ends up as a stowaway on a merchant vessel headed towards the Dutch Indies. A mulatto boy, Bram, helps Petra to disguise herself as a boy and Petra uses her healing knowledge to help the ship's surgeon. She gains the trust of the crew but when they discover she is a girl at the same time a mutiny takes hold, both she and Bram find themselves in grave danger. This is an extremely suspenseful novel with vivid descriptions of life on a 17th century ship. Ages 9 and up.
Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson
14-year-old McKenna has Stargardt disease (a juvenile form of macular degeneration) but she's kept this hidden from her family because her sister has already lost her sight to the disease and McKenna doesn't want to lose her autonomy. She's hoping to keep her secret long enough to compete in a days-long dog sled race that raises awareness for Stargardt disease. Needless to say, this is a risky endeavor and Johnson's fast-paced, suspenseful book highlights the challenges McKenna faces, not just in the race, but as a teen learning how to identify as someone with a disability. Ages 10 and up.
Carbonel: The King of Cats (series) by Barbara Sleigh
Young Rosemary buys a second-hand broom and a cat at the market. At first it seems like it was a foolish purchase, but things are not always as they seem! The new cat turns out to be royalty! Rosemary and her friend, John, get caught up in an adventure and mystery in their quest to break the witch's spell. I discovered this book as an adult, thanks to the New York Review Children's Collection, which republishes lesser known classic gems. I would have adored it as a kid. Ages 8 and up.
The Sheep, the Rooster and the Duck by Matt Phelan
Kids will love this quirky historical fantasy that includes anthropomorphized animals alongside recognizable figures like Benjamin Franklin and Marie Antoinette. The action is set in 1783 after the launching of the first hot air balloon and the three animals who flew in the balloon continue their careers as spies. The story is great fun, with lots of adventure and humor. Some of the action is conveyed through Phelan's trademark graphite cartoon panels and the novel is short enough to please everyone. Ages 7 and up.
Catlantis by Anna Starobinets
Originally published in Russian, this feline adventure is kooky, funny and endearing, and totally unique. I read it out loud to my 8-year-old and he loved it. Baguette the cat must perform a heroic feat in order to get Purrina to agree to marry him. Baguette's grandmother is an oracle who reveals that he is part of a long line of special time-traveling cats. Baguette must travel back in time, find and bring back the Catlantic flower so every cat might again, have nine lives. Ages 7 and up.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien
Here's a classic book for every fourth grader! Mrs. Frisby must move her children to a warmer home for the winter. But her youngest, Timothy, is sick and she needs assistance. Mrs. Frisby enlists the help of a community of rats who have been bred in a lab to have superior intelligence. Winner of the 1972 Newbery Medal. Ages 8 and up.
Dominic by William Steig
This was one of our favorite read aloud books! Dominic is a dog who sets out to find adventure. Along the way he meets the Doomsday Gang, a band of ne’er-do-wells who are spreading havoc among the local population. Dominic easily foils the greedy gang and earns everyone’s awe and respect. His kindness towards towards others earns him a reward, which he spreads around to the less fortunate as he continues on his journey. Dominic has such a positive attitude towards life, your kids will be smiling from ear to ear while reading. Ages 8 and up.
Ragweed (series) by Avi
Ragweed follows the trials and tribulations of an adventurous mouse who sets out to see the world. Along the way he meets some super cool mice living the good life. Although there is the occasional encounter with a tricky kitty! Ages 8 and up.
A Wolf Called Wander by Roseanne Parry
At the age of two, Wander's pack is attacked by a rival wolf pack and Wander is separated from the rest of his pack. Unable to learn the fate of his family, Wander sets out on a journey of survival. The wolf narrates his own tale and–wow–is it fascinating. The book is full of observations about other wildlife, the impact of humans, and the perils of life as one of nature's most important predators. In the endnotes, Parry explains that she based her book on a real-life wolf that scientists had been tracking. Ages 8 and up.
Blue Mountain by Martine Leavitt
Find it: Amazon
This is the story of Tuk, a bighorn sheep who has a vision of a blue mountain. When the valley where his tribe feeds in winter grows bare and domesticated sheep bring disease, Tuk decides to lead his fellow bighorn to the blue mountain. Some are doubtful of Tuk's promise of success and stay behind, but the small group of travelers set out and traverse a path beset with predators and dangers. Tuk manages to outwit bears and wolves and lead his followers in his hero's quest. When they arrive at the blue mountain, Tuk turns back to fetch the rest of the herd. With its poetical text and interesting characters, Blue Mountain is a great read aloud. Ages 8 and up.
The Secret of Glendunny (series) by Kathryn Lasky
A superbly crafted tale full of secrets, ghosts, friendship and important lessons. In the 15th century, the beavers escaped extinction by absconding to Glendunny, a secret location in Scotland. Their survival depends on never being seen by a two-leg. However, Dunwattle is accidentally photographed and their secret is threatened. A great choice for readers who like Warriors and other animal fantasies. Ages 8 and up.
The Remarkable Rescue at Milkweed Meadow by Elaine Dimopoulos
Generation of bunnies have handed down stories and teachings about survival and now it's time for Butternut and her nine siblings to live by those life lessons. Butternut befriends Piper, an robin with a penchant for alliteration, and starts to question her family's stories. The two meet an injured fawn, a pushy blue jay and set out to cooperate on a rescue. I love the details about the natural world and the charming personalities of the anthropomorphized animals.
Graphic Novel Adventures
Silverwing (series) by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Christopher Steininger
This graphic novel adaptation lives up to Oppel's original novel. Shade, a young bat, is separated from the other silverwing bats during the winter migration. His journey is fraught with peril. Along the way, he meets other creatures, both winged and grounded, all of which are brilliantly brought to life with Steininger's illustrations. Ages 8 and up.
Barb the Last Berzerker (series) by Dan Abdo, illustrated by Jason Patterson
In this exciting adventure, Barb is the only one of her band of Berzerkers to escape capture by the evil Witch Head. Along with a Yeti named Porkchop, and the powerful Shadow Sword, she heads off to find the Northern Berzerkers so they can help her vanquish Witch Head. A great funny, fantasy graphic novel series! Ages 7 and up.
Blancaflor, the Hero with Secret Powers by Nadja Spiegelman, illustrated by Sergio García Sánchez
Blancaflor is no damsel in distress; she is the fearless rescuer of others! Inspired by Latin American folktales, this exciting graphic novel takes readers on a rollicking adventure when Blancaflor completes challenges in order to save the prince from an ogre. Ages 8 and up.
Lowriders in Space (series) by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raúl the Third
You might not think that a space adventure would easily combine with Chicano car culture. Well, you'd be wrong! Lowriders is great fun and has a good message about working together and friendship. Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria are a great team when it comes to fixing cars. Together they enter a contest to turn a hunk of junk into the best car in the solar system. A glossary in the back helps kids with the Spanish words sprinkled throughout the text. Ages 7 and up.
Compass South (series) by Hope Larson
Find it: Amazon
My son loved this graphic novel (and its sequel). In 1860, 12-year-old twins get caught while pulling off a heist. They are sent to New Orleans where Alex is kidnapped and put to work on a ship headed towards San Francisco. His sister, Cleo, stows away, hoping to find him. Like any good adventure at sea, there are pirates and treasure and battles. Great fun. Be sure to catch the sequel, Knife's Edge. Ages 8 and up.
Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 by Alex Alice
What if someone went to space in 1869? A year ago, Claire Dulac took a hot air balloon to the very edge of the stratosphere and disappeared. Now her husband and son have a clue that she may have survived. They go to see the King of Bavaria who wants to know more about aether, the substance that Claire was looking for. A little bit of steampunk and historical fantasy coupled with outstanding illustrations. My son gobbled it up. Plus, there is a sequel! Ages 8 and up.
Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack
I had heard a few good things about this series, so I took a leap and ordered it sight unseen for my son to keep him occupied during a trip. He loved it! The historical Cleopatra learns of a prophecy in which she is destined to save the galaxy. She is transported to a planet, far into the future and enrolls in school. She is a bit of a troublemaker, there is lots of action, a few laughs and extra amounts of fun. Ages 7 and up.
Giants Beware by Jorge Aguirre, illustrated by Rafael Rosado
Another favorite of my sons'! Claudette dreams of being a courageous knight and slaying a dragon. Her surly father, a blacksmith who lost his legs in a dangerous quest, doesn't want her to leave the village. With the companionship of her friend Marie and her brother Gaston, Claudette defies her father's wishes and heads out for adventure. The cast of characters in this series is incredibly lovable and quirky. Ages 7 and up.
Rapunzel's Revenge (series) by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Rapunzel takes ownership of her hair, frees herself, rejects the prince and goes on a quest to save her mother in the Wild, Wild West. Her sidekick is Jack—of beanstalk fame. Ages 9 and up.
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword (series) by Barry Deutsch
11-year-old Mirka is not interested in the stereotypical "female pursuits." For example, she is a terrible knitter. The book opens with Mirka trying to convince her stepmother that God must want her to make kitting mistakes. When you see what role knitting plays in overcoming the terrible troll, you will probably agree with Mirka's assessment. One day Mirka finds herself in a kerfuffle involving wrestling a pig (although no one believes her, and what is a pig doing in an Orthodox community, anyway, they all say) but that's just the beginning. Ages 8 and up.
Swan Lake: Quest for the Kingdoms by Rey Terciero, illustrated by Megan Kearney
In Bloom Kingdom, Princess Odette longs to study ballet, but a curse has caused her to take the form of a swan during the day. When she meets Princess Dillie (who has a prosthetic leg) of Rotbart Kingdom, the new friends decide to find a way to break the curse. During their adventure they are joined by Prince Siegfried of Montrose Kingdom who is on his own quest to prove that despite not living up to traditional masculine virtues, he is good enough to rule. Ages 9 and up.
The Runaway Princess (graphic novel) by Johan Troïanowski
I LOVED this princess graphic novel (originally published in French). Robin refuses to obey the princess rules of staying home and sitting quietly. She wants an adventure and by golly, she is going to have one, even if it means out-running her parents. Absolutely great fun. Ages 7 and up.
Fairy Tale Adventure Books
Hamra and the Jungle of Memories by Hanna Alkaf
Set in Malaysia during pandemic lockdown, Alkaf's engaging story follows the fortunes of 13-year-old Hamra. Hamra is at home, looking after her grandparents while her father works for an aid organization. Her grandmother has been starting to wander and have trouble with her memory and Hamra hopes a special fruit from the Langkawi jungle will help. When she picks the fruit, she angers the weretiger and must enter into a bargain that takes her on a difficult physical and emotional journey. Ages 9 and up.
Alliana Girl of Dragons by Julie Abe
After her father falls into the abyss, Alliana is forced to live with her stepmother and step-siblings, working in the family inn, run by her mean-spirited relatives. Alliana dreams of escaping and attending the Regional Ball where she might be chosen for the Royal Academy. She befriends a young witch, Nela Evergreen, and rescues a nightdragon hatchling. Together they take a risk that might help Alliana reach her dreams. Ages 9 and up.
Storybound by Marissa Burt
In the land of Story, kids go to school in order to learn their rôle, such as hero, or villain, or sidekick. But their way of life is disturbed when Una, a seemingly ordinary girl from the ordinary world drops–or rather, she is written in–into Story. Una, her new friends, Peter and Snow, must unravel the plot twists of the mystery of why she is there. Ages 8 and up.
The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King and a Pickpocket Squirrel by Susan Hill Long
This is a mystery adventure full of colorful characters, dastardly villians, intrepid maybe-maybe-not princesses and pickpocketing squirrels. Maggie, an orphan with a crooked leg, is horrified when her adopted guardian decides to marry her off to a wretched older man with terrible breath. Instead of complying, she pursues a vision she saw in a magic mirror. Several journeys are woven together in the tale, with everyone converging at the end. The book includes a map so readers can follow each character as they travel towards their destination. Ages 9 and up.
Half Magic (series) by Edward Eager
In this classic, magical adventure, a group of siblings discover a coin that grants only half a wish. The children must work together to make complete wishes and then navigate the unexpected outcomes. Delightful. Ages 7 and up.
Half Upon a Time (series) by James Riley
This the first book in a clever trilogy staring Jack, the son of "Jack of the Beanstalk" fame. Jack, firmly rooted in fairy tale world is trying to restore his family's good name when suddenly May, a "punk princess" with a cell phone falls from the sky. It turns out May's grandmother is Snow White and the two pair up to rescue the kidnapped grandma. Ages 8 and up.
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Edwards
Three siblings travel to a magical land with the help of their "scrappy caps" and a wise Professor. Along the way they meet some fantastical creatures, some of whom do not want them to arrive at their destination, but the supposed villain turns out not to be so menacing after all. Ages 8 and up.
Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde
Find it: Amazon
Princess Imogene's mother is making her read a horrid book titled, The Art of Being a Princess. When she wanders down to a pond, a frog convinces her to kiss him. The frog, however, not only does not turn into a prince (he turns into smart-aleck peasant), but the spell reverses and Imogene turns into a frog! The only way to turn back into a princess is to dupe someone into kissing her, thus casting the frog spell on another unsuspecting person. But Imogen worries about the ethics of that! I loved the way Imogene the frog gets taken on a hilarious adventure with a theater troupe, and the memorable and not-a-little bit crazy characters will keep you reading to the end. Ages 8 and up.
Jack: the Fairly True Tale of Jack and the Beanstalk (series) by Liesl Shurtliff
Like The Land of Stories, Shurtliff's series is rooted in traditional European fairy tales. Shurtliff's fairy tale reimagining draws upon both Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack the Giant Killer. Jack climbs up the titular plant to rescue his Papa, who has been stolen by the giants in the midst of a famine and ruled over by a greedy, gold-hoarding king with a chicken that lays golden eggs. Shurtliff's inventive twists and the way she weaves in references to popular fairy tales and nursery rhymes is ingenious. Ages 8 and up.