I’ve noticed something about good adventure books for kids. Almost always, if you’re sending a kid character on an adventure in a book you have to get rid of the parents.

I’m trying not to take this personally, especially since I remember this from books I loved when I was little as well. For kids, adventure comes when you’re on your own. Harry Potter, the Pevensie children from The Chronicles of Narnia, Percy Jackson, even Nate the Great — the kid detective — solves his crimes without his parents getting in the way.

So I’ve collected a range of books here, selections for young readers just getting into chapter books and slightly more advanced (probably upper elementary school). I’ve noticed, though, that even young readers will sit and listen while you read even if the book is a little beyond their level. These are all books for kids who love adventure and usually some intrigue. And they all managed to — temporarily or permanently — get the parents out of the way.

11 Chapter Books for Adventurous Kids:

1. The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne – My absolute favorite starter chapter books. They’re manageable for beginning readers, but they have storylines that are interesting and build on each other throughout the series. And (bonus!) each book takes place in a different time or place so kids pick up a lot of facts about history or geography without necessarily realizing it.

2. My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett – This book is just adorable, slightly silly, but also a grand adventure for our hero Elmer Elevator. Another great beginner chapter book. This is actually the first in a trilogy, but it’s the best one.

3. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner – Slightly more advanced than The Magic Treehouse, but still a good series for younger elementary schoolers. The first book shows how four young children learn to survive on their own – books after that in the series have the kids solving not-too-scary mysteries.

4. One Mixed Up Night by Catherine Newman – Two kids plot to spend the night undetected at IKEA — jumping on couches, making pillow forts, and otherwise having a grand time without getting caught. What would you do with a night at IKEA and no grown-ups to yell at you for climbing on the furniture? I’m an adult, and I’d still love it.

5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg – This was actually the inspiration for One Mixed Up Night. When Claudia decides to run away to teach her parents a lesson, she recruits her little brother…and they sneak into the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they hide from security guards, bathe in the fountain, and ultimately, discover a mystery.

6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – A classic and still one of the best adventure tales ever. We started these way before my kids were this reading level, and I’d read them aloud. In fact, every few years we take them out and do it again – the story of the Lion, the Witch, the Pevensie kids, and the magic wardrobe never gets old.

7. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – Of course. Definitely. I’d say this is a series for older elementary schoolers, third grade and up. You can also read this one out loud, but as the series moves on the later books get scarier and more serious so I’d read ahead on your own before reading it to younger kids.

classic children's books

8. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan – Percy learns he’s descended from Greek gods and goes on a quest (yep – just like the Greek heroes of old). A fun adventure for middle-to-upper elementary schoolers…and after we read it, the kids and I demolished the Jeopardy! category on Greek mythology.

9. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen – When 13-year old Brian is flying to see his father, the single-engine plane he’s in crashes and he needs to figure out how to survive by himself in the Canadian wilderness. Great for fourth grade and up.

10. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell – Based on a true story, 12-year-old Karana must learn to live on her own on a small Pacific Island after she leaps from a rescue ship. She lives in isolation on the island for the next 18 years, foraging for food, making her own weapons, and fashioning clothes from cormorant feathers. Another inspiring survival story for upper elementary schoolers.

11. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart – When four children pass a series of mind-bending quizzes, they are given a secret mission and go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened. But what really goes on at the Institute? And can the children stop it? A witty novel that also challenges readers to decode messages and work out puzzles along with the characters. Great for older elementary schoolers.

Images by iStock

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