3 Must-Read Adventure Books for Daring Kids

Every child is born with a sense of adventure. Some kids keep their parents on edge by always looking for ways to take risks. You know the type – they’re the climbers, jumpers, and eaters of all things disgusting, just because they’re out to discover and explore. Others are less outwardly bold and daring, preferring instead to experience their own escapades and voyages vicariously. 

Wherever kids fall in this range of fearlessness, they will always enjoy a good age-appropriate book that is bursting with adventure. There are so many wonderful classic adventure stories to choose from (think Tom SawyerTreasure Island, and The Wind in the Willows), but lesser known gems may well become your child’s new favorite.

Navigating Early

by Clare Vanderpool

Thirteen-year-old Jack Baker’s story begins with tragedy. World War II has recently ended when Jack’s mother dies suddenly of a brain aneurysm. As his father is a captain in the Navy, Jack has not seen him since he was nine. The near stranger returns to Kansas from overseas just long enough to bury his wife and send his son off to boarding school in Maine, as he will be stationed nearby. 

Grief stricken by the loss of his mother, riddled with guilt because he had been angry with her the night she died, and tossed into a place and a way of life he knows nothing about, Jack is miserable. Then, he meets Early Auden.

On the surface, Jack and Early could not be more different. However, both have suffered significant losses and are dealing with grief, which provides a foundation for their unlikely bond. 

Jack joins Early on what he believes to be a delusional quest to prove that Early’s brother Fisher, a soldier reportedly killed in action in France, is not really dead. They face life-threatening perils while learning to cope with great loss, and discovering the importance of meaningful relationships.

Running Wild

by Michael Morpurgo 

Will’s mother decides a holiday to Indonesia is just what they need. The nine-year-old’s father was a soldier who was killed in Iraq and they are both grieving his terrible loss. While riding a trained elephant named Oona along the shore, something happens. Not only does Oona refuse to wade in the water at her trainer’s command, she suddenly takes off with Will clinging desperately to her back. 

The elephant has not gone mad and is not attempting to harm the boy. In fact, as she climbs a hill with Will, he witnesses the horror of the Boxing Day tsunami destroying the shore. Oona saved Will’s life, but now both of his parents are gone.

Will must find a way to survive in the wilderness. Oona becomes a sort of surrogate mother to him, and he’s taken in by a group of orangutans orphaned by black market hunters. 

After living for more than a year in the jungle and surviving capture by one of the criminal animal traffickers, Will encounters Doctor Geraldine. The scientist works alone in the jungle, trying to help save the threatened primates. Kids will be on the edge of their seats as they discover whether Will returns to civilization with the doctor and leaves his newfound family behind, or if he will find another resolution.

Sign of the Beaver

by Elizabeth George Speare

Twelve-year-old Matt James Halloway and his father are 18th-century settlers who build a log cabin together in the wilderness of the Maine Territory. When his father travels back to Massachusetts to collect his mother and sister, Matt stays behind to protect their new home and land.

On his own, the boy must learn how to adapt and survive numerous perils. When a swarm of bees attacks him, a man and a boy rescue him. He learns that the man is Chief Saknis, a Penobscot Indian of the Beaver clan, and the boy is the chief’s grandson, Attean. 

A friendship forms between the boys while Matt waits many months for his family to return. Matt teaches Attean to read English and Attean helps Matt learn how to hunt.

When the time comes for the tribe to move to a new hunting ground, Matt’s family has yet to arrive. When Chief Saknis offers Matt a place in the tribe, the boy must make a decision. Will Matt wait for his parents, who might never come, or will he embrace a new life that guarantees he will never be alone, but ensures he will never see his family again?

Children will be caught up in the suspenseful moments that Matt endures both with his father and friends and on his own. They will also likely learn about the lives of settlers and Native Americans in the 1700’s.

 These must-read books will satisfy the kids’ longing for adventure, and teach them lessons that they’ll carry with them for life. Which of these adventure books will your kids be reading? Share with us!

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Elodie Nilsson
We read a couple of other titles from Michael Morpurgo and they were great! War Horse and Elephant in the Garden were just beautiful.
Shirin Behnia
My son recently read a beautiful middle grade novel called 'Touching Spirit Bear' by Ben Mikaelsen. There are some strong concepts in there about violence, justice, and repentance. But it was a very beautiful and thought-provoking read. I highly recommend it!