Adventure books for kids are brilliant. We can all remember the first time we got into a really good adventure story – whether we navigated the Hunger Games with Katniss Everdeen, escaped the Shire with Bilbo Baggins or crossed the Great Lake to Hogwarts in a rowboat, early reading experiences help to shape who we become as adults.
The importance of reading for the development of a young mind really can’t be overstated. It expands a child’s vocabulary, boosts their creativity, and gives them a chance to view the world through the eyes of others, which, in turn, builds empathy – a crucial social skill many adults struggle with. What’s more, in modern times, reading gives children and young adults invaluable time away from their phones and other electronic devices, too much of which can be detrimental to their development and mental health.
Whether you’re looking for a good story to read to the young’uns or something they can pick up and read themselves, the below list of adventure books for kids will give you an excellent place to start. We’ve divided the list into age-appropriate sections, so you can find a fitting reading experience (always wise to double check ahead of purchasing, however!).
Adventure Books for Children
The Magic Key by Roderick Hunt
Excellent for readers aged four to nine, the Magic Key series of short books follows the lives of a group of children as they discover a magic key that transports them to different times, countries and even worlds.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
When a misbehaving young boy called Max is sent to bed without supper, he finds his bedroom transformed, and goes on an adventure with the creatures he finds in the strange land, who call themselves the Wild Things. It’s a fun story for young children, with themes of common moods experienced by young kids: frustration, fear, and boredom, topped off with a healthy dose of love.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
Perfect for young readers, Michael Rosen’s most famous children’s book tells the story of four siblings, their baby sister and their dog, who set out on a bear hunt, bravely soldiering on through various scary terrains. Until they meet the bear, that is, and run all the way home to hide beneath their duvet.
The BFG by Roald Dahl
One night, while looking out of the window of her orphanage, eight-year-old Sophie witnesses a giant with a trumpet walking down the street. This giant, named the BFG, or Big Friendly Giant, lives in a strange land and catches dreams with his instrument. Together, they head out on an adventure involving frobscottle, snozzcumbers, whizzpopping, and the Queen of England.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Little Prince, or Le Petit Prince in the original French, is the story of an aviator who crash lands in the Sahara Desert. There, the pilot meets a golden-haired boy who claims to be a prince from another planet. The boy tells the narrator of his travels across different planets, and the strange people he has met along the way. The Little Prince is loved by children and adults alike; an imaginative and moving story, it also contains poignant observations on the world and adulthood that will be felt by older readers.
Adventure Books for Young Adults
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
One of the most well-known adventure books for kids ever written, Mark Twain’s novel is written in simple English, although due to the age of the novel (it was written in 1876), some readers may struggle. The book focusses on fun-loving Tom Sawyer, as he gets up to mischief in the American south. Many scenes from the book have become classic literary tropes, including haunted houses, caves, pirates, and nighttime graveyards.
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Imagine a James Bond villain. Now, in your mind’s eye, shrink that Bond villain down to twelve years old, and you have Artemis Fowl. In a kid’s novel described by its author as ‘Die Hard with fairies’, criminal mastermind Fowl discovers fairies are real, and decides to attempt to kidnap one. What follows is a globe-hopping game of cat-and-mouse that goes far beyond the laws of physics.
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chockshi
When twelve-year-old Aru Shah lights a magic lamp in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, she accidentally releases the Sleeper, a demon whose sole intent is to awaken the God of Destruction. The only way to fix it? To find the protagonists of an ancient Indian poem, and travel with them through the Kingdom of Death.
Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang
Billy Chan’s parents send him to a summer camp in remote China, where along with his friends, he discovers an ancient secret: trapped in the earth beneath the camp are four dragons, imprisoned there for centuries. Together, the children and their new winged friends must stop a terrible and dangerous enemy.
The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton
Enid Blyton, who also wrote the Famous Five series, wrote this series set in an enchanted wood, in which grows a tree that reaches up into the clouds, and is so massive that there are houses built into it. One day three children who live nearby find the tree, and to their delight, discover that a different world awaits them each time they climb to the very top.
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Two revered fantasy and comedy authors teamed up for Good Omens, an action-packed novel about the impending end of the world, the great battle between Heaven and Hell… and the accidental misplacement of the Antichrist. The apocalypse has never been so silly.
The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling
If you’ve not already heard of the Boy Who Lived, you may well have had your memory hexed. The Harry Potter series is ubiquitous for a reason: the story of Harry Potter and Hogwarts, the wizarding school he attends, is as charming and enthralling as it is rich and creative.
The His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman
The first novel in the His Dark Materials trilogy, Northern Lights, is set in a world in which a person’s soul exists outside their body, in a physical form called a dæmon. The plot follows Lyra, an orphan from a parallel universe, as she and her dæmon unravel a mystery involving a mysterious substance called Dust – a mystery that leads them all the way to the North Pole, where armoured bears live. It’s rich, mend-bending stuff.
The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings novels may be more famous, but they’re not exactly easy reads – particularly the final instalment. The Hobbit, on the other hand, was written deliberately to be a children’s novel, meaning the prose is simple, and the novel’s length isn’t too intimidating. A classic fantasy adventure story involving wizards, trolls, dragons and great armies, a huge number of adventure stories today wouldn’t exist without the Hobbit.
Holes by Louis Sachar
Teenager Stanley Yelnats’s family is cursed with bad luck, dating back generations. So, when he’s wrongly accused of stealing and sent to a boot camp in the desert, it comes as no surprise. Along with other young offenders, he’s forced to dig holes every day in baking heat. It isn’t long before Stanley begins to suspect the evil camp wardens are searching for something; what he doesn’t realise is that the thing he’s digging for is linked to his family’s curse.
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Before it was made into a popular film animated by Studio Ghibli, Howl’s Moving Castle began as a novel. The story follows a girl called Sophie who is transformed by a witch into an old woman. In an attempt to lift the curse, she sets out on an adventure to a castle in the mountains owned by the mysterious and feared wizard, Howl.
The Hunger Games series by Suzanna Collins
Everybody loves an adventure through a dystopian future. In a USA divided into totalitarian districts, Katniss Everdeen, a teenager from District 12, is forced to compete in the Hunger Games – a yearly event, in which teenagers from each district compete in a battle to the death set in a giant artificial forest. In order to survive, there are alliances to be made, rules to be bent, and lives to be taken. Not since the Brothers Grimm has children’s entertainment been so dark!
The Chronicles of Narnia series by C S Lewis
The first novel in the series is The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, which chronicles the adventures of the four Pevensie children as they discover an entire magical world hidden inside a wardrobe – a world full of fauns, minotaurs, evil ice witches, Turkish Delight, and the talking lion Aslan. A favourite for generations of adventurous young adults.
The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis
Question: Is there any more immediate signifier of impending adventure than a pirate ship? Answer: no, there is not. In this fun, fast-paced novel, schoolgirl Marrill is accidentally transported to the Pirate Stream, a magical waterway that connects all existing worlds. Together with Fin, a thief from the pirate world of Khaznot Quay, they search for the one thing that can lead them home again: the Map to Everywhere.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Rioardan
The Lightning Thief is the first book in this series, which tells the story of Percy, a young boy tasked with travelling across the United States to catch a thief who has stolen a lightning bolt belonging to Zeus himself. All manner of mythological beasties stand in his way, and time is of the essence. As well as being a pacey read, this book is a great way for getting young readers interested in the Classics!
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell
All her life, Sophie has been told she was orphaned in a shipwreck. However, she’s convinced that her mother survived. On the run from the Welfare Agency who want to put her in an orphanage, Sophie takes to the rooftops of Paris, where she meets Matteo and his band of tightrope-running, sky-dwelling scallywags. Together, they endeavour to find Sophie’s mother once and for all.
A Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket
Remember what we said about the Hunger Games being dark? Scratch that. A Series of Unfortunate Events consists of thirteen novels that follow the three Baudelaire orphans as they try to escape the clutches of their evil, family fortune-seeking Uncle Olaf. Darkly funny, morally ambivalent and spookily Gothic, the series has a tone unlike any other.
Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy
Skulduggery Pleasant is a detective. Unlike most detectives, however, Skulduggery Pleasant is a skeleton held together solely by desire to exact vengeance on the man who killed him, four hundred years ago. After he saves the life of Stephanie Edgley, a young girl with mysterious powers of her own, the pair set out to save the world from an evil sorcerer, becoming tangled up with a host of weird and wonderful characters along the way.
The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
Three siblings, Jared, Simon and Mallory, discover a mysterious, hand-written field guide while exploring their new home, a run-down old mansion. The field guide, written by the mansion’s previous owner, contains a huge secret: that another world exists parallel to our own – one filled with magic and danger.
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
If you prefer your adventure stories set in the real world – not worlds inhabited by monsters and magic – Swallows and Amazons is just the ticket. Set in 1929 in the Lake District, the book tells the story of a group of children who spend their days sailing two dinghies to islands in the lakes, where they play make-believe and have adventures. The children divide themselves into two teams – the Swallows and the Amazons – and unite to battle against their grumpy uncle. It’s charming, wholesome stuff, and one of the all-time classic adventure books for kids.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island is one of the most famous adventure stories of all time. While the writing style may not be immediately familiar to young readers – it was first published in 1883, after all – with some patience and adult guidance, it makes for a hugely rewarding reading experience. Author Robert Louis Stevenson summarised the book neatly in a letter to a friend:
"If this don't fetch the kids, why, they have gone rotten since my day. Will you be surprised to learn that it is about Buccaneers, that it begins in the Admiral Benbow public house on the Devon coast, that it's all about a map and a treasure and a mutiny and a derelict ship... It's quite silly and horrid fun – and what I want is the best book about Buccaneers that can be had."