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Obstacles And Adversity: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about obstacles and adversity?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to obstacles and adversity. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about obstacles and adversity.

Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

When it comes to children’s stories about obstacles and adversity, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like My Side of the Mountain to popular sellers like From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler to some of our favorite hidden gems like Bud, Not Buddy.

We hope this list of kids books about obstacles and adversity can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Written by E.L. Konigsburg
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

2017 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved classic From the Mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

In this winner of the Newbery Medal from E.L. Konigsburg, when suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere—to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and, preferably, elegant.

The Thief Lord
Written by Cornelia Funke & illustrated by Christian Birmingham
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The enchanting international bestseller with bonus back matter and a beautiful new cover!

Two orphaned brothers, Prosper and Bo, have run away to Venice, where crumbling canals and misty alleyways shelter a secret community of street urchins. Leader of this motley crew of lost children is a clever, charming boy with a dark history of his own: He calls himself the Thief Lord.

Propser and Bo relish their new “family” and life of petty crime. But their cruel aunt and a bumbling detective are on their trail. And posing an even greater threat to the boys’ freedom is something from a forgotten past: a beautiful magical treasure with the power to spin time itself.

Bud, Not Buddy
Written & illustrated by Christopher Paul Curtis
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

The Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award-winning classic about a boy who decides to hit the road to find his father—from Christopher Paul Curtis, author of The Watsons Go To Birmingham—1963, a Newbery and Coretta Scott King Honoree.

It’s 1936, in Flint Michigan. Times may be hard, and ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud’s got a few things going for him:

  1. He has his own suitcase full of special things.
  2. He’s the author of Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself.
  3. His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue: flyers advertising Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression!!!!!!

Bud’s got an idea that those flyers will lead him to his father. Once he decides to hit the road to find this mystery man, nothing can stop him—not hunger, not fear, not vampires, not even Herman E. Calloway himself.

AN ALA BEST BOOK FOR YOUNG ADULTS AN ALA NOTABLE CHILDREN’S BOOK AN IRA CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARD WINNER NAMED TO 14 STATE AWARD LISTS

“The book is a gem, of value to all ages, not just the young people to whom it is aimed.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“Will keep readers engrossed from first page to last.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred

“Curtis writes with a razor-sharp intelligence that grabs the reader by the heart and never lets go. . . . This highly recommended title [is] at the top of the list of books to be read again and again.” —Voice of Youth Advocates, Starred

Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity: A Tale of the Genius Ramanujan
Written by Amy Alznauer & illustrated by Daniel Miyares
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

A young mathematical genius from India searches for the secrets hidden inside numbers — and for someone who understands him — in this gorgeous picture-book biography.

A mango . . . is just one thing. But if I chop it in two, then chop the half in two, and keep on chopping, I get more and more bits, on and on, endlessly, to an infinity I could never ever reach.

In 1887 in India, a boy named Ramanujan is born with a passion for numbers. He sees numbers in the squares of light pricking his thatched roof and in the beasts dancing on the temple tower. He writes mathematics with his finger in the sand, across the pages of his notebooks, and with chalk on the temple floor. “What is small?” he wonders. “What is big?” Head in the clouds, Ramanujan struggles in school — but his mother knows that her son and his ideas have a purpose. As he grows up, Ramanujan reinvents much of modern mathematics, but where in the world could he find someone to understand what he has conceived?

Author Amy Alznauer gently introduces young readers to math concepts while Daniel Miyares’s illustrations bring the wonder of Ramanujan’s world to life in the inspiring real-life story of a boy who changed mathematics and science forever. Back matter includes a bibliography and an author’s note recounting more of Ramanujan’s life and accomplishments, as well as the author’s father’s remarkable discovery of Ramanujan’s Lost Notebook.

  • Pilu Of The Woods - For fans of Hilda and the Troll comes PILU OF THE WOODS, a heartwarming and bittersweet story of friendship, loss, exploring complex emotions and finding your way home from debut creator Mai K. Nguyen. Willow loves the woods near her house. They’re calm and quiet, so different from her own turbulent emotions, which she keeps locked away. When her emotions get the better of her one day, she decides to run away into the woods. There, she meets Pilu, a lost tree spirit who can’t find her way back home—which turns out to be the magnolia grove Willow’s mom used to take her to. Willow offers to help Pilu, and the two quickly become friends. But the journey is long, and Pilu isn’t sure she’s ready to return home yet—which infuriates Willow, who’s determined to make up for her own mistakes by getting Pilu back safely. As a storm rages and Willow’s emotions bubble to the surface, they suddenly take on a physical form, putting both girls in danger… and forcing Willow to confront her inner feelings once and for all.

  • Under the Lilacs - From Ezra Jack Keats Honor winner E. B. Goodale comes a celebration of nature, family, and building our own hands-on adventures_—_perfect for any reader who has ever craved a bit of independence . . . In this lush and playful picture book from E. B. Goodale, illustrator of Windows, Kate feels ignored by her mother and sister and so decides to run away. In a neighboring yard, she builds a fort and enjoys a sense of independence—until she finds herself making room for her family in her new home . . . Under the Lilacs is the perfect celebration of striking out on your own—while still making room for everyone.

  • Beverly, Right Here - Revisiting once again the world of Raymie Nightingale, two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo turns her focus to the tough-talking, inescapably tenderhearted Beverly. Beverly put her foot down on the gas. They went faster still.
    This was what Beverly wanted — what she always wanted. To get away. To get away as fast as she could. To stay away.
    Beverly Tapinski has run away from home plenty of times, but that was when she was just a kid. By now, she figures, it’s not running away. It’s leaving. Determined to make it on her own, Beverly finds a job and a place to live and tries to forget about her dog, Buddy, now buried underneath the orange trees back home; her friend Raymie, whom she left without a word; and her mom, Rhonda, who has never cared about anyone but herself. Beverly doesn’t want to depend on anyone, and she definitely doesn’t want anyone to depend on her. But despite her best efforts, she can’t help forming connections with the people around her — and gradually, she learns to see herself through their eyes. In a touching, funny, and fearless conclusion to her sequence of novels about the beloved Three Rancheros, #1 New York Times best-selling author Kate DiCamillo tells the story of a character who will break your heart and put it back together again.

  • Waiting for Augusta - From the author of The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher and Nooks & Crannies comes a “whimsical, heartwarming,” (Kirkus Reviews) and profound tale of love, loss, and family. Eleven-year-old Benjamin Putter has a lump in his throat, and he’s certain it’s a golf ball. He knows it sounds crazy, but everything’s been topsy-turvy since his father died last month. And he doesn’t know how to fix it. Then, one day, something starts tugging at Ben, telling him to hurry to Augusta, Georgia—home of the most famous golf course in the world. Ben might be going a little crazy, but escaping Hilltop, Alabama, sounds like a darn good idea. (And just maybe it will make that lump go away.) As he makes his way to Augusta, Ben partners up with a mysterious runaway named Noni, and they embark on a journey full of strange and wonderful surprises—and possibly magic—at every turn.

Voices from the Underground Railroad
Written by Kay Winters & illustrated by Larry Day
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Siblings Mattie and Jeb escape slavery via the Underground Railroad, meeting helpful conductors and dodging slave catchers as they travel from Maryland to Massachusetts

Someone Else's Shoes
Written & illustrated by Ellen Wittlinger
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

Twelve-year-old Izzy’s life just seems to get more and more complicated: she is upset by her father’s new marriage, and a new baby on the way; she is expected to look out for her ten-year-old cousin, Oliver, who has moved in with her family since his mother committed suicide, because his father is depressed and having trouble coping; and now Ben, the rebellious sixteen-year-old son of Izzy’s mother’s boyfriend, is also living with them—but when Oliver’s father disappears, the three children put aside their differences and set out to find him.

Home for Christmas
Written & illustrated by Jan Brett
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

A wild little troll runs away from home because he doesn’t want to do his chores. Rollo tries living with various woodland animals, but he finds out that there is no place like home, and returns to his family just in time for “the best Christmas ever.”

Among the animals who take him in are an owl family, a mother bear and two rambunctious cubs, some playful river otters, a hungry lynx and a friendly moose family.

Jan Brett creates an irresistible, mischievous character that kids will recognize in themselves. Jan transports us to a glorious Scandinavian landscape where a beautiful fall turns into a magnificent snowy winter. Her signature borders depict the troll family missing Rollo, and animals as appealing as those found in The Mitten.

A warm, fun-loving Christmas picture book for families to share and love and laugh over together.

Runaway Signs
Written by Joan Holub & illustrated by Alison Farrell
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

When the road signs take a vacation, chaos and hilarity ensue—and they quickly learn how important they are.

School is ending for the summer, and the stick figures on the school crossing sign are jealous of all the vacation plans they hear the students making. The stick figures work hard—maybe they deserve a vacation, too! So they abandon their signpost and set off on an adventure, inviting along all the other underappreciated road signs they meet on the way. It’s all fun and games for a while, especially when they stumble upon a fantastic amusement park. But the people they’ve left behind are feeling their absence, and soon there are traffic tangles and lost pedestrians everywhere. The signs are more important than they realized, and now it’s time for them to save the day!

Very Far Away
Written & illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Select type book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

First published in 1957, Very Far Away is the second book Sendak both wrote and illustrated.

In this story, a young boy with a new baby sibling, must learn to cope with his sudden lack of attention. He goes out searching for ‘very far away’.

  • River Runs Deep - Twelve-year-old Elias is sent to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky to fight a case of consumption—and ends up fighting for the lives of a secret community of escaped slaves traveling along the Underground Railroad.

  • Chocolate Fever - Henry Green is a boy who loves chocolate. He likes it bitter, sweet, dark, light, and daily; for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks; in cakes, candy bars, milk, and every other form you can possibly imagine. Henry probably loves chocolate more than any boy in the history of the world. One day-it starts off like any other day-Henry finds that strange things are happening to him. First he makes medical history with the only case of Chocolate Fever ever. Then he finds himself caught up in a wild and hilarious chase, climaxed by a very unusual hijacking!

  • See You Around, Sam! - Sam Krupnik, mad at his mother because she won’t let him wear his newly acquired plastic fangs in the house, decides to run away to Alaska. There, he can look like the walruses with their tusks—at least they would let him wear his fangs. But as Sam says goodbye to his neighbors, he receives more advice and survival tools than he knows what to do with. Will Sam have to change his mind about Alaska?

  • See You Around, Sam! - Sam Krupnik, mad at his mother because she won’t let him wear his newly acquired plastic fangs in the house, decides to run away.

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