Adventure and Magic: 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.

Journey book
#1
Journey
Written and illustrated by Aaron Becker
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This is a beautiful wordless picture book following a young girl through her imagination to a world where things don’t always work out as she expects. She has to think fast, but with a little creative problem solving and a lot of imagination she’s able to discover just what she was looking for—a friend. A fresh take on a journey with elements vaguely reminiscent of Where the Wild Things Are and Harold and the Purple Crayon!

Follow a girl on an elaborate flight of fancy in a wondrously illustrated, wordless picture book about self-determination — and unexpected friendship. A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire? With supple line, luminous color, and nimble flights of fancy, author-illustrator Aaron Becker launches an ordinary child on an extraordinary journey toward her greatest and most exciting adventure of all.

Day Dreamers book
#2
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.

Inkheart book
#3
Inkheart
Written by Cornelia Funke
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Cornelia Funke, the enormously talented author of the international best-seller THE THIEF LORD, brings readers another spellbinding tale of adventure and magic. Meggie lives a quiet life alone with her father, a book-binder. But her father has a deep secret— he posseses an extraordinary magical power. One day a mysterious stranger arrives who seems linked to her father’s past. Who is this sinister character and what does he want? Suddenly Meggie is involved in a breathless game of escape and intrigue as her father’s life is put in danger. Will she be able to save him in time?

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix book
#4
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Written by J. K. Rowling and illustrated by Mary GrandPré
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

A special new edition in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, with a stunning new cover illustration by Caldecott Medalist Brian Selznick. There is a door at the end of a silent corridor. And it’s haunting Harry Potter’s dreams. Why else would he be waking in the middle of the night, screaming in terror? It’s not just the upcoming O.W.L. exams; a new teacher with a personality like poisoned honey; a venomous, disgruntled house-elf; or even the growing threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Now Harry Potter is faced with the unreliability of the very government of the magical world and the impotence of the authorities at Hogwarts. Despite this (or perhaps because of it), he finds depth and strength in his friends, beyond what even he knew; boundless loyalty; and unbearable sacrifice. This gorgeous new edition in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone features a newly designed cover illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Brian Selznick, as well as the beloved original interior decorations by Mary GrandPré.

The Secret of Platform 13 book
#5
The Secret of Platform 13
Written by Eva Ibbotson and illustrated by Sue Porter
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Odge Gribble, a young hag, accompanies an old wizard, a gentle fey, and a giant ogre on their mission through a magical tunnel from their Island to London to rescue their King and Queen’s son who had been stolen as an infant.

  1. A Visit to Fairyland - Are there fairies at the bottom of the garden? Laura thinks so—she has seen a little green door at the base of the willow tree, and thinks fairies might live on the other side. So she and her brother Daniel wait by the door, and sure enough, some fairies come out to greet them. Then they take them through to the other side, and so being Laura and Daniel’s adventures in Fairyland. Exquisitely detailed illustrations and an engaging story will delight children for hours on end.

  2. Finding Serendipity - When Tuesday McGillycuddy and her beloved dog, Baxterr, discover that Tuesday’s mother—the famous author Serendipity Smith—has gone missing, they set out on a magical adventure. In their quest to find Serendipity, they discover the mysterious and unpredictable place that stories come from. Here, Tuesday befriends the fearless Vivienne Small, learns to sail an enchanted boat, tangles with an evil pirate, and discovers the truth about her remarkable dog. Along the way, she learns what it means to be a writer and how difficult it can sometimes be to get all the way to The End.

  3. The Magical Ice Palace - Doodle Girl uses her magic pencil to create adventures by transforming doodles into fantastical lands, full of amazing animals! On their latest outing, Doodle Girl and her friends find a curly, curvy shape. What is it supposed to be? While trying to work it out, they find a sad, lonely mammoth high up on a mountain. What’s he doing there? Will Doodle Girl be able to help him? And what is the curly curvy shape going to be? Find out in this gorgeous picture book that inspires creativity and fun—and includes a giant, free doodling poster and stickers.

  4. Muddle the Magic Puppy Book 4: Rainforest Hide and Seek - Muddle is a naughty puppy who loves to go on magical adventures with his friends Ruby and Harry. He only has to jump into a puddle for the magic to begin. Ruby and Harry are amazed when Muddle whisks them away to a huge rainforest. But somebody is causing trouble, and for once it’s not Muddle! Things keep going missing and Muddle and the children need to find out the reason why!

Polly Diamond and the Super Stunning Spectacular School Fair book
#10
Polly Diamond and the Super Stunning Spectacular School Fair
Written by Alice Kuipers and illustrated by Diana Toledano
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

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.

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book book
#11
Polly Diamond and the Magic Book
Written by Alice Kuipers and illustrated by Diana Toledano
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

Polly loves words. And she loves writing stories. So when a magic book appears on her doorstep that can make everything she writes happen in real life, Polly is certain all of her dreams are about to come true. But she soon learns that what you write and what you mean are not always the same thing! Funny and touching, this new chapter book series will entertain readers and inspire budding writers.

Thisby Thestoop and the Wretched Scrattle book
#12
Thisby Thestoop and the Wretched Scrattle
Written by Zac Gorman and illustrated by Sam Bosma
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Thisby Thestoop, gamekeeper and unlikely hero, would do anything to save her home—even enter the Wretched Scrattle, a death-defying race through the Black Mountain. Don’t miss the second installment in this rollicking fantasy-adventure series by Zac Gorman, contributor to the hilarious Rick and Morty comic series, with illustrations from award-winning artist Sam Bosma. In the wake of their harrowing victory against the forces of the Darkwell, Thisby Thestoop, gamekeeper and sometime friend for all creatures gruesome, grotesque, and uncommon, has found herself in the usual position of running the Black Mountain dungeon. Under her watch, the resident monsters, from the hordes of merpeople to drooling trolls, are all well-fed, content, and far from the reach of other kingdoms—or so Thisby thinks. With unrest growing between the Kingdom of Nth and Umberfall, rumors of a conspiracy have caught the ears of the king. And control of the dungeon has been wrenched from the hands of those who have cared for it best. Wasting no time in ruining all of Thisby’s hard work, the royally appointed overseer throws the dungeon into chaos—the fire bats are out of their cave, the trolls are wide awake, and, most telling of all, the dire rats are acting strange. What’s worse is that every day more and more monsters—everything from tiny imps, to banshees, to a full-grown wyvern—are turning up dead and Thisby can’t discern any pattern to the fatal attacks. But there may be a way to put things back like they were—the Wretched Scrattle. Beginning in the very deepest tunnels of the dungeon, the Wretched Scrattle’s tournament victor will claim the ultimate prize of becoming the new Master of the Black Mountain. No one knows the dungeons quite like Thisby, and if she wins she’ll have it back to running like dünkeldwarven automata—that is, if she can make it out alive. Join Thisby on another adventure in the second book from the beloved fantasy-adventure series by master storyteller Zac Gorman.

Marigold Star book
#13
Marigold Star
Written and illustrated by Elise Primavera
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

From New York Times bestselling author-illustrator Elise Primavera comes an imaginative young middle grade fantasy adventure bubbling with wit and whimsy. Marigold Star is destined for greatness. Everyone in Bramblycrumbly thinks so, her parents and pet dragon included. There’s just one problem. Marigold can’t do magic! Then one day she tries a new spell written in a very old book. It’s called the Invis-O-Friend Spell, and it makes Marigold invisible to all but the friend who needs her most. To Marigold’s surprise, the spell works! But now there’s another problem. The spell sent Marigold to the human world. And to return home, she’ll have to befriend a host of human children who are struggling to make friends. Marigold will have to hurry, or the line between her magical world and the human one might crumble until she has no home left to go back to.

Nightfall book
#14
Nightfall
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A New York Times bestselling series A USA TODAY bestselling series A California Young Reader Medal–winning series

Sophie and her friends face battles unlike anything they’ve seen before in this thrilling sixth book of the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Keeper of the Lost Cities series.

Sophie Foster is struggling. Grieving. Scrambling. But she knows one thing: she will not be defeated.

The Neverseen have had their victories—but the battle is far from over. It’s time to change tactics. Make sacrifices. Reexamine everything. Maybe even time for Sophie to trust her enemies.

All paths lead to Nightfall—an ominous door to an even more ominous place—and Sophie and her friends strike a dangerous bargain to get there. But nothing can prepare them for what they discover. The problems they’re facing stretch deep into their history. And with time running out, and mistakes catching up with them, Sophie and her allies must join forces in ways they never have before.

In this spectacular sixth book in the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Keeper of the Lost Cities series, Sophie must uncover the truth about the Lost Cities’ insidious past, before it repeats itself and changes reality.

  1. The Shadow Thieves - Alli must risk everything to save her new family from a rogue organization that is threatening the Thieves Guild’s existence—and the lives of all its members—in this high-stakes sequel to Rules for Thieves.Alli Rosco, former orphan and thief, is free after her disastrous Thieves Guild trial, which left an innocent woman dead while Alli’s partner-in-crime, Beck, fled.Now Alli is getting more than just a fresh start: her long-lost brother, Ronan, has come forward to claim responsibility for her and let her live with him on a trial basis. They try to mend the rift that started when Alli was dropped off at the orphanage while Ronan became a lawyer in Ruhia. But as determined as she is to make things work, Alli can’t seem to stay out of trouble.To make matters worse, Alli finds a surprise guest on her doorstep one night: Beck.He’s on the run and brings news of the Shadow Guild, a rogue organization that is trying to overthrow the current king of the Thieves Guild. Their friends are in real danger. And Beck needs Alli’s help one more time to bring the Shadows down.Once again, Alli is forced to make a hard choice: save her friends, or lose her last chance to have a true family.

  2. Secret in the Stone - The second book in an enchanting fantasy series The Unicorn Quest, about a real-world girl and her sister in a land full of magic and strange creatures. Claire Martinson and her sister Sophie have decided to stay in Arden—the magical land they discovered by climbing up a chimney in their great-aunt’s manor. If what they’ve learned is true, the sisters are the last descendants of the royal family, and only a true heir of Arden—with magic in her blood—can awaken the unicorns. Since Sophie has does not have magic, the land’s last hope rests on Claire. The sisters journey to Stonehaven, a famed Gemmer school high in the mountains of Arden, so Claire can train in the magic of stone. As Claire struggles through classes, Sophie uncovers dangerous secrets about the people they thought they could trust. With Arden on the brink of crumbling, can Claire prove she is the prophesied heir and unlock the magic of the unicorns before it’s too late?

  3. Snared: Lair of the Beast - 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.

  4. The Lost Tide Warriors - The magic of Arranmore Island is threatened in Book 2 of Catherine Doyle’s highly acclaimed Storm Keeper series. There is magic deep within Arranmore Island, and Fionn Boyle is discovering how much it’s woven its way through generations of his family’s history. But Arranmore is in trouble; illness has swept across the land, giving rise to widespread fear and suspicion. Fionn wants to help, but the Storm Keeper magic passed down from his grandfather seems to have deserted him. When evil sorceress Morrigan’s soul stalkers return, Fionn must find a way to protect the island. But how can he call upon a vast number of ferocious sea creatures without any magic or the faintest idea of where to look for them? The race to save Arranmore has begun. This gorgeously written, magical tale of family, bravery, and self-discovery is perfect for fans of Orphan Island and A Snicker of Magic.

Boris and the Dumb Skulls book
#19
Boris and the Dumb Skulls
Written and illustrated by Frank Hinks
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Fed up of being bullied by the witch Griselda, Boris the Skull and the Dim Daft Dwarves decide to form a punk rock band and seek fame and fortune. But just before they leave for their first gig, two of Griselda’s dead ancestors break out of their glass tanks beneath the ruined tower.

Keeper of the Lost Cities book
#20
Keeper of the Lost Cities
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

At age 12, Sophie learns that the remarkable abilities that have always made her different from others actually identify her as an elf, and after being brought to Eternalia to hone her skills, she discovers that she has secrets buried in her memory for which some would kill.

The Wishbreaker book
#21
The Wishbreaker
Written by Tyler Whitesides
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Ace and Ridge are back to save their friend—and the world—in this sequel to The Wishmakers. Being a Wishmaker may be more trouble than it’s worth. Sure, you get a genie who can grant an unlimited number of wishes, but for each one you make you have to accept an awful consequence in return. Not to mention that you’re also given an impossible quest and only seven days to fulfill it! Despite all that, Ace and his genie, Ridge, managed to complete their last mission—but they couldn’t save their friend Tina from being abducted by a rogue genie who’s bent on using his limitless power to rule the world. To rescue her, Ace must reunite with Ridge to become a Wishmaker once more, and they’ll need to team up with the unlikeliest of new allies. It’s not every day you get a second chance to save the world, so Ace is determined to learn from his past mistakes and wish for the best, literally. Perfect for fans of Max Brailler, Adam Gidwitz, and Dan Gutman, this middle grade series is a wonderful mix of unpredictable magic, zany humor, and daring adventure. “An ingenious premise” raved Kirkus in a starred review!

Simon Thorn and the Shark's Cave book
#22
Simon Thorn and the Shark's Cave
Written by Aimee Carter
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Simon Thorn has only recently discovered that he’s an Animalgam—a member of a secret race of people who can shift into animals. Now, after years of being bullied, he has found a home where he truly belongs, at a secret Animalgam academy. But danger lurks around the corner . . . Simon’s evil grandfather, Orion, is bent on taking over the entire animal kingdom. He intends to gather the pieces of a terrible weapon that could shred the very foundations of their world. That is, unless Simon can find the pieces first. So when Simon’s dolphin Animalgam friend Jam is summoned home to the underwater kingdom’s headquarters, Simon sees an opportunity to secure another piece. But as soon as he and his friends arrive, their search is complicated by Jam’s strict family—and a potential traitor among their ranks. Can Simon locate the piece before the entire underwater kingdom is put at risk? With plenty of action and adventure and characters full of heart, the Simon Thorn series is perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and Brandon Mull.

Bad Mermaids: On the Rocks book
#23
Bad Mermaids: On the Rocks
Written and illustrated by Sibeal Pounder
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Smart, daring mermaid trio Beattie, Mimi and Zelda, along with Steve the talking seahorse, may have saved the Hidden Lagoon from danger once . . . But now they’re trapped aboard a spooky ship called the Merry Mary, which is heading for the legendary (and super fashionable) Crocodile Kingdom. Can they avoid a crab-tastrophe and swim against the tide to get back home? Meanwhile, on land, an ice-cream seller and gadget expert named Paris Silkensocks has uncovered a plot to destroy the mermaid world. Will she will be able to find and warn the mermaids of the impending danger before it’s too late? This second book in a hilarious paper-over-board series that?s The Little Mermaid meets My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish is filled with delightful black-and-white illustrations.

  1. Dragon Bones - Ten years after Alex and Aaron Stowe brought peace to Quill and Artimé, their younger twin sisters journey beyond Artimé in the second novel in the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling sequel series to The Unwanteds, which Kirkus Reviews called “The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter.” The Artiméans have suffered some devastating blows. After years of peace, the recent daring adventure of twins Thisbe and Fifer Stowe have brought about dire consequences. Thisbe has been captured, Fifer is injured, and Sky is lost at sea. The twins’ older brother Alex, head mage of Artimé, is paralyzed with fear of losing anyone else he loves. Fifer must convince him to finally trust her to help in the battle ahead now that their true enemy has been revealed. Meanwhile Thisbe is trapped underground in the catacombs, where the ancient dragon rulers are buried. Along with fellow prisoners, Thisbe’s job is to transport dragon bones from her crypt to the extracting room, where others extract the magical properties dormant in the bones. When it appears no one is coming back to rescue her, Thisbe must train in secret, trying to learn how to control her fiery magic and use it to escape. As her situation becomes more grave, she might even have to align herself with the ultimate evil. Unfortunately it’s a risk she has to take.

  2. A Box of Bones - Twelve-year-old Kallie despises nonsense. She believes there’s a rational explanation for everything, despite the good-natured prodding of her Grandpa Jess, who takes her to frivolous wastes of time like their town’s local Festival of Fools. There, Kallie meets a faceless man (must be some kind of mask) who gives her a strange wooden puzzle box (must be some kind of gimmick). Intrigued despite herself, Kallie sets to work on unlocking its secrets and…lets something out. From here Kallie’s life begins to entangle with another world, a world where Liah, a young bone carver, journeys with her master to sell wares to a wicked Queen. The sights, sounds, smells, and spells of Liah’s world are beginning to leak into Kallie’s, and if Kallie can’t decipher the meaning of her own story, “the end” might be far from happy.

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