Books for an Adventurous Childhood

shelved under Children's Books

My father read these books as child evacuee of England during World War II and subsequently had me read as part of my growing up with him on Alaska's St. Lawrence Island. Having read all of these long past my bedtime by the light of the hall bulb that crept in my doorway I definitely deem them flashlight worthy.

(Editor's note: For those parents who are ready for more of a psychological adventure, please consider Stephanie's well-reviewed memoir Bluff Island Rescue Service.)


The Wind in the Willows

by Kenneth Grahame

Nothing more to say than is there anything more charming and wonderous than talking badgers and coracles?


Swallows and Amazons

by Arthur Ransome

I've just ordered as many of these as I can from Amazon - their combination of real-life kid stuff (dad at war) and situations ("Uh-oh, we've drifted away at sea.") are a knock out combination for inspiring young readers. I'm looking forward to reading them all to my son who is seven and a half, though they are probably better for a child who is just a little bit older. My dad read them to me from the same books he had as a boy.


The Call of the Wild

by Jack London

I loved learning about how to survive in the snow from this thrilling book. My father gave this to me to read when he was about to cross the St. Lawrence over the ice in winter; I wanted to go with him, but had to settle for reading this book. :-/



by Robert Louis Stevenson

I'm looking forward to sharing this book with my son in a few years — it is dark and scary and compels itself to be read long after lights out... taut and impressive as ever.


Treasure Island

by Robert Louis Stevenson

This book was so scary that I can't believe my father ever read this to me — I don't know what he was thinking. And it holds up well as a psychological thriller. I re-read it during the writing of my memoir and it was still absolutely great.


Biggles' Big Adventures

by Capt. W. E. Johns

A collection of classic World War II adventures. I read these so long ago — but I felt honored to be able to see inside my dad's head during the war. These are probably not as challenging a read as Stevenson and London, but still worthy of inclusion on this list.


Hornblower: Beat to Quarters

by C. S. Forester

I have read and re-read this book (and its companion titles, Ship of the Line and Flying Colors) and all the others. Horatio Hornblower is the best hero of all time — conflicted, insecure and brilliant as he solves one intractable problem brought about by the Napoleonic wars after another. Winston Churchill actually consulted with Forester on naval matters during the war because of his brilliant problem solving. (By the way, like most the books on this list, these are written for adults as much as for young adults. If you've never read the series I encourage you to try it out. Think of it as training wheels for O'Brian's Master and Commander series.)