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Adventure and Imagination: Books For Kids

In Lewis Carroll's timeless classic Alice in Wonderland, the Gryphon cries out to Alice, "No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time."

We agree with the Gryphon, let's get to the adventures! That's something we love most about children's books: they offer instant access to adventure. As Stephen King said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” One minute we're in our home on the couch, and a moment later we're journeying across the African savanna, exploring the world in a hot air balloon, or even rocketing through space. The possibilities for adventure are endless.

Here we've compiled a list of the best adventure books for kids. This list features adventure books of all sorts and for all ages (we've searched long and hard to ensure we have titles exciting for girls and for boys). There are books that involve mysteries, magic, and fantasy, or books about leaving home, journeys, and friendship. Some are classic stories you may recognize from your own childhood, while others are exciting new titles containing new adventures just waiting to be had. Some titles are even part of a series that might become a new treasured favorite for your kids or start a cherished tradition of reading aloud together.

The list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to around 2 or 3. Picture books are generally good options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary and early middle school age children. Within that range, some titles are best suited for 9 year olds and 10 year olds (around 4th or 5th graders) while others are better suited for 7 year olds and 8 year olds (around 2nd or 3rd graders). Still others are best for advanced readers approaching middle school age (11 year olds and 12 year olds). Each book includes age suggestions you can reference to guide your search. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid, and you can also use our table of contents to jump to particular topics you think your kid will enjoy.

We've kept you from the list long enough. As the Gryphon says, explanations take such a dreadful time. Let's get to the adventures! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland board book book
#1
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland board book
Written and illustrated by Alison Jay
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-2

Alice in Wonderland is now ready for the toddler crowd in this delightful board book edition of Lewis Carroll’s classic Introduce the youngest readers to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with this dynamic new edition. Board book favorite Alison Jay illustrates the novel’s most iconic moments in her distinctive crackle-paint style. Each scene is paired with a descriptive verb, making this high-action concept book perfect for sharing with little ones.

Lit for Little Hands: Peter Pan book
#2
Lit for Little Hands: Peter Pan
Written by J.M. Barrie, Brooke Jordan and illustrated by David Miles
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.” Join Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, and the Darling children on their epic adventure! Filled with interactive wheels and pull-tabs, and lavishly illustrated, Lit for Little Hands: Peter Pan is an unprecedented kid's introduction to J. M. Barrie's beloved classic novel. Unlike many board books that tackle the classics, Lit for Little Hands tells the actual story in simple, engaging prose. Gorgeous and whimsical illustrations transport the reader to Neverland, while tons of interactive elements invite kids to help Peter catch his shadow, battle swashbuckling pirates, and, of course, fly! Fans of the novel will be delighted by the book's attention to detail and clever use of original text and dialogue. And the book's super-sturdy board means everyone can enjoy this tale over . . . and over . . . and over again! You'll never have to grow up!

Day Dreamers book
#3
Day Dreamers
Written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

Emily Winfield Martin shows little ones that letting their imaginations run free will lead them into fantastical day dreams. Whether cloud-gazing or wandering through a museum, reading a book or playing in a tide pool, the children in this board book encounter magical creatures such as dragons, unicorns, griffins, and jackalopes.

Harold and the Purple Crayon book
#4
Harold and the Purple Crayon
Written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Essential Picture Book Classics—timeless stories for every child to treasure. "One night, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight." Armed only with an oversized purple crayon, young Harold draws himself a landscape full of wonder and excitement. Full of funny twists and surprises, this joyful story shows just how far your imagination can take you. Harold and the Purple Crayon has delighted readers of all ages for over fifty years.

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles book
#5
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The Whangdoodle was once the wisest, the kindest, and the most extraordinary creature in the world. Then he disappeared and created a wonderful land for himself and all the other remarkable animals -- the ten-legged Sidewinders, the little furry Flukes, the friendly Whiffle Bird, and the treacherous, "oily" Prock. It was an almost perfect place where the last of the really great Whangdoodles could rule his kingdom with "peace, love and a sense of fun"-- apart from and forgotten by people. But not completely forgotten. Professor Savant believed in the Whangdoodle. And when he told the three Potter children of his search for the spectacular creature, Lindy, Tom, and Ben were eager to reach Whangdoodleland. With the Professor's help, they discovered the secret way. But waiting for them was the scheming Prock, who would use almost any means to keep them away from his beloved king. Only by skill and determination were the four travelers able to discover the last of the really great Whangdoodles and grant him his heart's desire. Julie Andrews Edwards, star of stage and screen, has written a unique and beloved story that has become a modern classic. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles is sure to continue to delight readers everywhere. This edition includes a new foreword by the author.

  1. I Love You, Blankie - A flowing sail, a hot air balloon, a fluffy cloud, a glowing moon... with a little imagination, a blankie can be anything! This sweet and playful board book will encourage little ones to think big as they head off into dreamland. On each page, a young child uses his cozy yellow blankie in a new way, taking him everywhere from under the sea to high among the stars. As bedtime nears, the blankie turns into a balloon, a cloud, and a shooting star, eventually placing him safely into bed where he can keep dreaming and snuggling, too. Debut author Sheryl Haft and artist Jane Massey have crafted an adorable story around a universal bedtime theme. Featuring a soft padded cover, this is the perfect book to inspire sweet dreams.

  2. What To Do With a Box - If you give a child a box, who can tell what will happen next? It may become a library or a boat. It could set the scene for a fairy tale or a wild expedition. The most wonderful thing is its seemingly endless capacity for magical adventure, a feature imaginatively captured in cardboardesque art by Chris Sheban and rhythmically celebrated in this poetic tribute by renowned children's author Jane Yolen.

  3. Lit for Little Hands: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - "Curiouser and curiouser!" Filled with interactive wheels and pull-tabs and lavishly illustrated, Lit for Little Hands: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is an unprecedented kid's introduction to Lewis Carroll's beloved classic novel. Unlike many board books that tackle the classics, Lit for Little Hands tells the actual story in simple, engaging prose. Gorgeous and whimsical illustrations transport the reader to Wonderland, while tons of interactive elements invite kids to grow and shrink with Alice, pour the tea at a mad tea party, and more! Fans of the novel will be delighted by the book's attention to detail and clever use of original text and dialogue. And the book's super-sturdy board means everyone can enjoy this wonderful tale over . . . and over . . . and over again!

  4. There Is a Tribe of Kids - If Lane Smith's Caldecott Honor Book Grandpa Green was an homage to aging and the end of life, There Is a Tribe of Kids is a meditation on childhood and life's beginning. Smith's vibrant sponge-paint illustrations and use of unusual collective nouns such as smack and unkindness bring the book to life. Whimsical, expressive, and perfectly paced, this story plays with language as much as it embodies imagination, and was awarded the 2017 Kate Greenaway Medal.

Future Astronaut book
#10
Future Astronaut
Written by Lori Alexander and illustrated by Allison Black
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

Ground Control to Major Baby: Could you be an astronaut? Does baby have what it takes to become an astronaut? That's an affirmative, Houston! Discover all the incredible ways that prove baby already has what it takes to become an astronaut -- from growing healthy teeth to eating from plastic packs to working in small spaces. Includes lots of fun astronaut facts to help prepare little ones for takeoff! Future Baby is an adorable new board book series that takes a playful peek into an assortment of powerful careers and shows little ones how their current skills match up with the job at hand. With Future Baby, babies can be anything!

Can One Balloon Make an Elephant Fly? book
#11
Can One Balloon Make an Elephant Fly?
Written by Dan Richards and illustrated by Jeff Newman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Evan asks a simple question, “Can one balloon make an elephant fly?” At first, his mother is too busy to answer. But when she takes the time to play the game with her son…magic happens.

Maggie and Wendel: Imagine Everything! book
#12
Maggie and Wendel: Imagine Everything!
Written and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Illustrations and easy-to-read text portray a young brother and sister as they spend an afternoon imagining great adventures together.

Gulliver's Travels book
#13
Gulliver's Travels
Written by Jonathan Swift and illustrated by Francesca Rossi
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

A magnificently illustrated new edition of Jonathan Swift's classic novel--created just for children. Since its appearance in 1726, Gulliver's Travels has never ceased to fascinate readers. Designed for the early school years, this enchanting illustrated version takes the form of a travel journal, and features stunning large color illustrations and drawings. Kids will enjoy following Gulliver's adventures as he visits the land of Lilliput, inhabited by tiny people; Brobdingnag, where he encounters a race of giants; and other imaginary worlds.

MR Moon Wakes Up book
#14
MR Moon Wakes Up
Written and illustrated by Jemima Sharpe
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Mr Moon always sleeps. He naps during hide-and-seek, passes out on puzzles and dozes during adventure stories. But what would happen if Mr Moon ever woke up? Would he lead us to hidden, dream-like worlds, filled with fantastic friends and exciting games? And if he did, would we remember in the morning?

  1. Peter Pan - BabyLit is a fashionable way to introduce your toddler to the world of classic literature, and little ones will love Peter Pan: A BabyLit Adventure Primer. With clever, simple text by Jennifer Adams, paired with stylish design and adorable illustrations by Sugar's Alison Oliver, this book is a must for every savvy parent's nursery library. Collect all of the classic literature-inspired BabyLit primers!

  2. Polly Diamond and the Super Stunning Spectacular School Fair - Polly and her magic book, Spell, have all kinds of adventures together because whatever Polly writes in Spell comes true! But when Polly and Spell join forces to make the school fair super spectacular, they quickly discover that what you write and what you mean are not always the same. Filled with the familiar details of home and school, but with a sprinkling of magic, this book is just right for fans of Ivy + Bean, Judy Moody, and Dory Fantasmagory, as well for aspiring writers, who, just like Polly, know the magic of stories.

  3. This Book of Mine - This Book of Mine is a celebration of the power of reading, of the ways in which books launch our adventures, give us comfort, challenge our imaginations, and offer us connection. From new mothers to fantasy lovers, butterfly hunters to musicians, the diverse readers of This Book of Mine all share a common passion for their favorite books-whether freshly discovered at the library or bookstore or saved from childhood and reread across a lifetime. A unique gift for bibliophiles young and old, This Book of Mine trumpets a simple truth: A well-loved book in hand brings color to any reader's life.

  4. Alice in Wonderland: A Babylit Storybook - In Alice in Wonderland: A BabyLit Storybook, preschoolers can tag along on Alice's beloved adventure, meeting new friends and defeating powerful enemies. Easy-to-follow, engaging text combined with original quotes and beautiful artwork create a book to be treasured through childhood and beyond. Part of the BabyLit Storybook Series. BabyLit primers have become the chic, smart way to introduce babies to the most beloved and readable literature of our time. Gibbs Smith is now presenting a delightful collection of picture books, lovingly designed and crafted for young children. Each book retells a story from the literary canon, bringing a classic to life for an entirely new audience. After training as an editor in London, Mandy Archer went on to become the Head of Children's Books for BBC Worldwide, nurturing such characters as Wallace & Gromit, Bob the Builder, and the Teletubbies. Since then she has written many titles, ranging from board books for babies right up to teen fiction. Mandy lives in England. Annabel Tempest has illustrated everything from children's books and greetings cards to maps and packaging. She lives in England in Somerset.

Imagine That book
#19
Imagine That
Written and illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Beloved characters Hoot and Olive return in this beautiful picture book about imagination, rainy day adventures, and the spirit of friendship. Olive is a little girl with a big, bright imagination. Hoot is her stuffed-animal owl...and her best friend. The two love adventures of all sorts. But on the rainiest of days, there is only one thing to do: stay inside and imagine a whole new world. Just as they’re about to begin their adventure, Hoot makes a shocking discovery—his imagination is broken! Like the best of best friends, Olive comes up with some ideas to help him. But nothing is working: not the head unscrambler, the earmuffs, or the hypnosis. Just as the two are about to give up, Olive remembers the secret ingredient to imagination, and they give it one more try. Fans of Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin, George and Martha, and Frog and Toad are certain to fall in love with the next adventure in the Hoot & Olive series.

Snared: Lair of the Beast book
#20
Snared: Lair of the Beast
Written by Adam Jay Epstein
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Thanks to a crew of misfit treasure-seekers, Wily Snare has assumed his rightful place as King of Panthasos. Wily knew how to be a great trapsmith—devising and building various contraptions to keep plunderers at bay—but he has no idea how to be a good king. And he hasn’t escaped his past. Stalag, the Cavern Mage who once kept him locked away, is amassing an army of stone soldiers to seize the kingdom. Wily’s only hope is to tame a lair beast—the one creature that stands a chance against Stalag’s army. But first, Wily and his friends will need to survive the journey to the fabled “Below”—where the lair beast dwells. This action-packed fantasy adventure is filled with snappy dialogue, dangerous creatures, spirited adventure, and inventive magic to appeal to readers 8–12.

Zoe's Jungle book
#21
Zoe's Jungle
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

When Mama’s schedule and Zoe’s playtime collide, what's an explorer to do? A quest book, a sister story, and a race against the clock, Zoe’s Jungle is a heartwarming tale of adventure and imagination.

Imagine! book
#22
Imagine!
Written and illustrated by Raul Colon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

After passing a city museum many times, a boy finally decides to go in. He passes wall after wall of artwork until he sees a painting that makes him stop and ponder. Before long the painting comes to life and an afternoon of adventure and discovery unfolds, changing how he sees the world ever after.

Captain Jack and the Pirates book
#23
Captain Jack and the Pirates
Written by Peter Bently and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

The boys from King Jack and the Dragon are back in this swashbuckling pirate adventure with pictures by the New York Times bestselling illustrator of Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes Jack, Zack, and Caspar are building a ship—on the beach, out of sand. When they set sail on their imaginary adventure, Jack spies an enemy pirate ship nearby. They chase after the pirates, but a storm wrecks their ship and sweeps them up on a desert island. The island isn't totally deserted, though—their pirate enemies are there too. Just as the boys discover the pirates' treasure (an array of delicious desserts), the pirates (their parents) capture them. But these pirates are friendly—they're willing to share the treasure, and they throw in some ice cream just for good measure! Perfect for storytime read-alouds, this picture book is just right for fans of Three Bears in a Boat, How I Became a Pirate, and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.

  1. Red Wagon - A simple story about complex imaginations, now in board book! All Lucy wants to do is play with her brand-new, bright red wagon. But her mother has other plans for her-and the wagon. Lucy must go to the market and buy vegetables for dinner. Lucy doesn’t want to do chores! But she sets off for the market nonetheless, hauling her red wagon with her. Before long, her ordinary trip becomes a high-seas adventure, a ride through outer space, and a day at the circus. As long as she has her red wagon, not even chores can get in the way of Lucy’s fun. Renata Liwska’s vibrant art takes center stage in this imaginative book for the youngest of readers, just the way it did in her award-winning, New York Times bestselling titles The Quiet Book and The Loud Book!, both written by Deborah Underwood.

  2. Worlds Apart - Owen and Bethany try to find their way back to each other after the fictional and nonfictional worlds are torn apart in this fifth and final book in the New York Times bestselling series, Story Thieves—which was called a “fast-paced, action-packed tale” by School Library Journal—from the author of the Half Upon a Time trilogy. Bethany and Owen have failed. The villain they have come to know as Nobody has ripped asunder the fictional and nonfictional worlds, destroying their connection. Bethany has been split in two, with her fictional and nonfictional selves living in the separate realms. But weirdly, no one seems to mind. Owen—and every other nonfictional person—have lost their imaginations, so they can’t picture their lives any differently. Then Owen gets trapped in a dark, dystopian reality five years in the future, where nothing is needed more desperately than the power to imagine. Fictional Bethany is thrilled to be training with her father as his new sidekick, Twilight Girl—until she realizes that the fictional reality will fade away completely without the nonfictional world to hold it together. In this final installment of the genre-bending Story Thieves series, Owen and Bethany will be forced to risk everything to defeat Nobody and save multiple realities.

Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!