Brilliant Books for Boys – Adventure

Having written previously about moving on from picture books and about the Fantasy books that my kids have enjoyed, I thought I’d also share some reviews of Adventure stories that have also gone down well with my eldest.

This list is shorter than my blog on Fantasy books, despite it being my favourite genre as a child.  Unfortunately, we stopped reading them when my youngest refused them on principle – perhaps a bid to assert his individuality.

Famous Five, Enid Blyton

Although Enid Blyton has been criticised in recent times for being out of sync with modern times, they’re still great stories – kids today can take Anne’s attempts at being ‘mother’ with a pinch of salt and laugh at the incessant references to pemmican and seed cake.  Yes, it is rooted in a time when people may have actually said ‘jolly hocky sticks’, but it’s got a good balance of intrigue without scary content and therefore a good bet for younger kids.

They were the first books I read to my eldest, after reading the Magic Folk Collection to him to see whether he’d enjoy books without pictures.  I loved these books as a child and it was great to read them again – they didn’t disappoint.  The plots are great as they have intrigue, suspense, cliff-hangers, goodies vs baddies… the lot… yet are really easy for young children to follow.  We read the first five books together and I bought the second five as a job-lot to continue, but then I started reading to both my kids together and switched to other books instead.

Whilst we may well come back to them together, the chances are that my eldest will end up reading them to himself.  Failing that, they’d be perfect holiday reading for me!

Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

This is amazing, despite the old-fashioned language (I had to have my wits about me when reading it aloud in order to bring it to life).  However, it’s stood the test of time (having been published in 1882) because the story is so good.  In fact, if the language puts your kids off, there are various re-tellings of the story out there too (e.g. the Usbourne version).

Having said that, here’s the health warning… two years after reading it to my eldest, he still refuses to watch the Disney film because he’s so scared of the menacing character, ‘Blind Pew’.  Robert Louis Stevenson’s description of the knock-knock-knocking of his stick along the road is very spooky indeed…

Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome

I loved this book as a child, although have no recollection about how old I was when I read it.  So I was surprised when I read it to my eldest and found quite a bit of technical sailing terminology (e.g. ‘tacking’ to describe a child running in zig-zags up a field).  There’s no way my son would have understood what was going on if I hadn’t explained it.  However, after the opening, it settles down into what is a brilliant ‘Famous Five’-style adventure story, complete with baddie, seed cakes and laissez faire parenting.  The 2016 film is lovely too (although the story has been changed slightly), it captured the romance of the bygone era perfectly and is possibly my eldest’s favourite film of all time.

I bought Swallowdale (the sequel) and intended on working our way through the series together, but looks as though this is another that my eldest will end up reading to himself!

Shorter stories…

The Usbourne adventure stories have re-told classic stories in shorter chapter books with great pictures.  Books include: Gulliver’s Travels, Robin Hood, Three Musketeers, Robinson Crusoe and Around the World in Eighty Days.  Their Illustrated Story Collections are also great, on Greek Myths, Tales of the Arabian Nights and King Arthur to name a few…

Real life adventure stories… 

The Ladybird Adventures from History books have great real life stories about Scott of the Antarctic, Vikings and Romans.  Having seen a TV programme about The Mutiny on the Bounty, I found this book, as thought Captain Bligh’s epic tale of survival would be right up my son’s street.

For reluctant readers…

After realising my son was put off by any books that have a small font and look too long – as well as remembering how my brother and I used to enjoy the Beano and Asterix, I tried both Asterix and Tin Tin cartoon books and he loved them.  They’ve got great pictures with just a few lines of text on each box to tell the story. My son particularly liked Tin Tin “…because he has a gun”. Hmmm…. feels a bit dangerous to him, but pretty tame really!

Another great series of easy-read, chapter books with pictures and large font is Thorfinn the Nicest Viking.  He’s not exactly inherited his father (Harald the Skull-Splitter)’s traits… instead he’s the kindest, most polite (worst!) Viking ever. However, like David and Goliath, he comes out on top, despite the best efforts of others who want to undermine him.

Recommendations I’ve had from elsewhere…

Alex Rider Series, Antony Horowitz

Although this series is highly recommended in the press and despite my son initially loving it, ultimately the plot was too complicated for him to follow when trying to read it himself. So, I think he’s going to leave it for a couple of years.  It may be more suitable for older kids (the main character is is 13-14yrs, so I could imagine it’d attract readers within range of that sort of age…).

The story is about a teenage spy, a bit like James Bond.  Although there’s been a film made of the first book, Stormbreaker, there’s now a plan to make them into a TV series.


Other recommendations

Bear Gryll’s top 10 Adventure Stories

Good Reads – List of Boys Adventure Books

Oxford Owl Adventure Story recommendations for kids aged 6-12 years