Talk to any parent, and you’ll hear a version of this same thing: “My children have too many distractions; they don’t like to read. How can I get them to read more?”
Most important, of course, is for you, as the parent, to model your own love of reading. Besides that, you need to surround your child with interesting, exciting, and relevant books. This is especially important for young boys – who are often less enthusiastic than girls about reading.
If that’s the case in your home, why not try some popular and time-tested adventure books? The sense of danger felt by the hero that’s present in every adventure book appeals to children in general, but to boys in particular.
Below, we’ll share the top 10 adventure books for children. One of them just might ignite your child’s love of reading! Let’s go!
What Is an Adventure Book?
Children’s literature is filled with mystery and magical books. What does a book need to have, however, to count as an adventure book?
In general, these books use a template many of us are familiar with: the hero goes on a quest, faces danger, and returns home braver, wiser, or richer.
Maybe that’s why these kinds of stories appeal to boys in particular. They allow a boy to undergo his own right of passage through the difficulties faced by the main character.
After all, in many cultures – but not ours – boys go through a painful or dangerous ritual to achieve manhood. Boys today can do this vicariously through an adventure tale.
Now let’s look at 10 books allowing boys (and girls) to have these experiences! Remember, it’s okay if you want to read these books as well. Parents also need their own adventure stories.
1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Maybe you remember having to read this book in school, but don’t let that dissuade you from encouraging your child to read it now. Aside from being one of the greatest American novels, Huckleberry Finn is also a fun adventure story with serious undertones.
Huck Finn escapes from his abusive father and finds safety on a raft with an escaped slave named Jim. Set in the South during Reconstruction, you can imagine not only the fun the two have but also the omnipresent danger they face.
The book isn’t entirely serious, though. Twain’s humor will engage even the most resistant reader while also presenting some serious moral lessons.
2. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
The Jungle Book is a collection of stories published originally in the 1890s. It has been adapted into many versions, including the well-known Disney film. But the original stories are worth reading nonetheless.
They center around a child, Mowgli, who was raised by wolves in a jungle somewhere in India. Without parents, Mowgli must ultimately defeat his enemies and make his way in the world on his own.
Anthropomorphic animals help teach him valuable lessons along the way. They also make the story more appealing to children.
3. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
Here is another book that has been overshadowed by its film counterpart. Encourage your child to read it anyway.
Old Yeller is set in Texas in the 1860s, which was a wild and untamed place. The main character is a 14-year-old boy named Travis. His father has to leave the family for a little bit, and Travis is left in charge.
A yellow dog appears out of nowhere to help Travis, and, while the book may seem to be about the bond between the two, it’s really a coming-of-age story. The sacrifice Travis has to make at the end of the book will bring even the most cynical reader to tears.
4. Tikta’ Liktak by James M. Houston
This book is based on a traditional Inuit-Eskimo tale. A young hunter is carried out to sea on an ice-floe.
He ends up on a deserted island, but after numerous trials, he returns home. Houston’s book includes many of his wonderful drawings. They help bring the story to life for young readers.
5. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
Here’s another book based on a true story. A young Nicoleno Indian girl gets left behind on an island off the coast of California. She ends up surviving there by herself for 18 years.
Don’t let the fact that the protagonist is a girl prevent you from giving this book to your son. The main character, Karana, is both fierce and strong, while also tender and compassionate. Both boys and girls will admire her ability to survive all by herself for so long.
6. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Set in the Yukon of Canada in the 1890s, the main character of this book is a dog named Buck. At the beginning of the story, he is a well-taken-care-of domestic pet living in California.
Sadly, though, he is stolen. Buck ends up as a sled dog in the Klondike region of Canada during the Klondike Gold Rush. In this harsh environment, Buck is forced to fight and dominate the other dogs to survive. By the end of the book, he emerges as their leader.
Through Buck, London explores our potential wildness. What boy doesn’t want to break free from the veneer of civilization? The Call of the Wild appeals to that almost universal desire and is one of the best adventure books for boys.
7. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Here is another riveting story of survival. 13-year-old Brian Robeson is flying from New York City to see his father in the Canadian wilderness when his plane crashes. His mother had given him a hatchet before leaving, and that’s all he has to survive on his own until he’s rescued.
It’s easy for boys to imagine themselves in Brian’s place, and wonder if they’d have what it takes to make it alone in the wilderness.
8. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Again, we have here a young boy who leaves New York City for the wilderness. In this case, though, the main character, Sam Gribley, takes off for the Catskill Mountains and lives off the land there by himself.
We’ve all had thoughts of running away from home. This story is about what might happen if we actually did it!
Sam not only makes it in his new wild home but, along with his pet falcon, succeeds there.
9. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Like Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows tells the story of a boy and his dog. In this case, his two dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann. The main character, Billy, hunts raccoons with these beloved coonhounds.
The trio is devoted to each other, but tragedy soon comes in the form of a mountain lion. Without giving too much away, let’s just say Billy learns valuable lessons about friendship and sacrifice.
10. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Our last book bases its story on Greek mythology. The hero, Percy Jackson, discovers that his father was Poseidon. He must travel on a quest across the United States to catch a thief who has stolen Zeus’ master bolt.
While on his quest, Jackson faces many mythological enemies, each of whom tries to prevent him from getting the master bolt back. The Lightning Thief makes use of ancient mythology to tell a modern quest story.
Discover the Best Adventure Books for Children
These are some of the best adventure books for children. Boys, in particular, will be inspired by these tales of hardship and survival.