We love a good read aloud here. We spent six years in West Africa with limited electricity in the evenings and often with our laptop battery shot from the intense heat so anything computer related was definitely out. Reading aloud in the evenings was one way we made memories and grew close as a family during those times. We loved reading about adventures in far away places (especially if those adventures involved somewhere cold).
Here is a list of some of our favorite read-aloud adventure books so far. I’ve tried to include any concerns you might have about the books. I know people’s standards vary widely so I’m just including the information to help you make more informed decisions. I apologize if I miss something that is of concern to you.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Survival stories are one of our favorite types of books to read because they build confidence and self-reliance into our children. We hope if they ever end up in a survival situation they will take courage from the characters we have read about.
Hatchet is about a boy named Brian who ends up stranded alone in the Canadian wilderness when the small plane he is flying in crashes. The sequels The River, Brian’s Winter, Brian’s Return, and Brian’s Hunt follow Brian on other adventures in the North. Our boys loved these books and spent weeks afterward writing lists of what they would want to have along if they were stranded alone in the wilderness. These books are also available as audio books and are great for long road trips.
*The beginning of Hatchet mentions the divorce Brian’s parents are going through and mentions the fact that Brian saw his father with another woman. This could probably be skipped if reading aloud to younger children. Also, there are a few instances of God’s name used carelessly which could be skipped over in a read aloud. There is also a brief, rather gruesome description of the dead pilot in The Hatchet that some children might find troubling.
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
The Cay is the story of a racially prejudiced boy, Philip, and a black man named Timothy who end up together on a raft (along with the ship’s cat) after a torpedo hits the ship on which they were traveling. They manage to reach a small desolate island. Philip, who has gone blind from a blow he received on the head during the accident, learns to accept Timothy’s friendship as Timothy teaches him how to survive without his sight. I agree with the author that one of the best lines of the book is when Philip asks Timothy, “Are you still black?”
This book was a great audio because of Timothy’s gentle dialect which was so much fun to listen to. As Timothy would say, “This be an outrageous good book.”
*There is a brief mention of voodoo when Timothy, who believes that the cat is bringing bad luck, makes a wooden carving of a cat and drives nails into it. Also, Philip is extremely disrespectful to his mother and Timothy, but this serves to highlight the change that he undergoes in the book.
The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
The Golden Goblet is an extremely suspenseful action-filled book about two boys in ancient Egypt who discover someone is raiding the tombs of the pharoahs.
My boys were begging every night for just one more chapter, and it was as hard for us to put it down as it was for them, so they usually got their wish, not just for one more, but many more, until the book was finished and it was way past their bedtime.
The Lion Hound by Jim Kjelgaard
We’ve loved many of Jim Kjelgaard’s books, but I think Lion Hound has been our favorite. This is an exciting story of a young boy, a dog, and a hunt for a dangerous mountain lion. Jim Kjelgaard’s love of rugged outdoor life is contagious.
*Some of Kjelgaard’s books have rough language in them which you might want to edit out as you are reading.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Where the Red Fern Grows is probably one of the best known dog stories and for good reason. The struggle of Billy to get his beloved dogs, their growth together to become the finest coon hunting trio around, and then the tragedy that befalls them is an unforgettable tale of perseverance and hope in the face of disaster. We’ve read this aloud and listened to the audio book.
Old Yeller by Fred Gibson
Somehow this book ended up in our house. I was not going to read it to our boys because I thought it was just another sad dog story. However, one day I picked it up and started reading. Before long, I knew it was something I wanted my boys to hear. Yes, Old Yeller has an ending that will leave you in tears, but there’s much more. Don’t miss this beautiful and touching book.
By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman
We listened to By the Great Horn Spoon on a trip from New York to Montana. We were entertained by the adventures of young Jack and his butler, Praiseworthy, as they traveled to California in search of gold. We admired Praiseworthy’s resourcefulness and cunning in getting them out of sticky situations. And we were kept in suspense as we wondered if they would really strike it rich or come back empty-handed.
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Caddie Woodlawn is based on the life of the author’s grandmother and portrays pioneer life in Wisconsin. Don’t let the fact that the main character is a girl, keep you from reading this book to your boys. The adventures of Caddie will entertain your listeners, and the heart-warming ending will show the importance of family.
The Black Stallion Revolts by Walter Farley
The Black Stallion Revolts was one of my favorite Black Stallion books when I was young. This book is less focused on horse racing than some of the others in the series and more focused on Alec’s adventures after he survives a plane crash that leaves him with amnesia. The exciting story of how he gets reunited with the Black and how he recovers his memory had the boys spellbound.
*There are some other good books in this series, but you need to use caution. Some of them dabble in the occult (The Black Stallion Ghosts) or are too depressing (The Black Stallion Legend) or just too far-fetched (The Island Stallion Races) for me to recommend. Your opinion may vary.
Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince by Sidney Baldwin
Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince is one of our favorite Lamplighter books. It is about a spoiled prince and a wise father who decides to send him to a special “school” where he can learn what it takes to be a truly great leader.
A Peep Behind the Scenes by O.F. Walton
A Peep Behind the Scenes is another book in the Lamplighter collection that we really enjoyed. This book is not technically an adventure book, nor a book necessarily for boys, but it made a deep impact on our oldest son, (he got saved through it) and I had to include it. This book is available free on Kindle.
The Viking Quest Series by Lois Walfrid Johnson
The Viking Quest Series is about a young girl, Bree, who is kidnapped, along with her brother, by Viking raiders. Through her many adventures, she learns where true forgiveness can be found. We read these one after another sometimes only taking a few nights to complete a book. We all wanted to know if Bree and her brother ever found their way home. We were happy to discover these books were available very reasonably priced on Kindle after we had exhausted our small store of books we had brought to Africa.
If you enjoy this series you might also be interested in the Freedom Seekers, a series about the Underground Railroad, by the same author.
*Both of these series have a mild romance involving the main characters. It’s really very mild and not until the later books in the series. There is no kissing or anything like that.
I Am David by Anne Holm
When I first read this book I thought, “I need to read this to my boys.” I Am David is about a young boy who escapes from a prison camp in Eastern Europe. He has been shut away from the outside world for his whole life, so he knows nothing except prison life. It was touching to watch David experience the world for the first time and the wonders it holds. This is an incredible story of his escape to freedom and how he learns to trust others and find faith in the God of another young boy named David who wrote about “still waters” and “green pastures.”
The Ivan Books by Myrna Grant
We loved this series about a Russian boy growing up under Communist rule. This book will build your children’s faith and make them thankful for the freedoms they have to worship God. We flew through all six of these books sometimes only taking a night or two for each book. Books in the series include Ivan and the Moscow Circus, Ivan and the Daring Escape, Ivan and the Informer, Ivan and the Hidden Bible, Ivan and the Secret in the Suitcase, and Ivan and the American Journey.
Twenty and Ten by Claire Hutchet Bishop
This is an exciting book about twenty school children who are trying to hide ten Jews from the Nazi’s occupying France. Twenty and Ten is a short, gentle introduction to World War II that we read in one afternoon. (I know, we lack self-control when it comes to a good book.)
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is another book about World War II. In this book Anna and her family flee Germany when Anna’s father realizes that it is no longer a safe place for a Jew. Anna and her brother go through many adjustments as they move from country to country looking for safety. Our boys could relate to their struggle to learn a new language (French) because they went through something similar when we moved to French West Africa.
*Probably the most disturbing part of the story is when Anna hears about her uncle’s suicide, but this is dealt with very subtly and might go over the heads of very young children.
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
How to Eat Fried Worms is another one that might not belong on this list unless you count eating worms as an adventure. “Fifteen worms in fifteen days!” That’s the challenge Billy faces because of a bet with his friends. If name-calling bothers you or if you have a sensitive stomach, you might want to skip this book, but my husband and sons found this book outrageously funny. We’ve listened to the audio of this book more than once.
Tip Lewis and his Lamp by Pansy
Tip Lewis and his Lamp is about a young boy who learns that the Bible is a lamp for his life. His life and the lives of those around him are changed. This is another book that made a deep impression on our boys. This book is also available free on Kindle.
Wild Animals I Have Known by Ernest Seton
Wild Animals I Have Known includes the amazing true stories of animals’ lives as they struggle to survive. Through the intimate details of the animals’ lives included in these books your children will gain a deeper knowledge and appreciation for the natural world. This book can also be found free on Kindle.
* We would caution about some of the author’s other books. In some of his books he writes things that seem to be dabbling in an occult mind set as he writes about animals. However, this book is free from that kind of influence.
Safely Home by Randy Alcorn
We listened to this under the stars on the roof of our brick house while we lived in West Africa. We slept outside for about three months out of the year to escape the stifling heat. When even the smallest light would attract unwanted bugs right through our mosquito nets, audio books were a great way to pass the evenings.
Safely Home is about a Chinese Christian’s life and death and heaven’s response. It is also about his wealthy American friend who cannot believe that persecution exists. This book will be an encouragement to the whole family. It is so triumphant, so glorious. It will change the way you think about heaven and the way you pray for the persecuted church. The final scene reads like a part of Revelation, because it is taken from Revelation when the Lord will come with heaven’s army to deliver his saints, to avenge the innocent and the oppressed, and to make every wrong right.
I hope you’ve found a new book here to try. What books have you enjoyed together as a family? We are always on the look-out for the next great read-aloud.