For parents, there are few sights more incredible than seeing their child learn to read fluently by themselves. Suddenly a whole world of literature becomes accessible and they learn the pleasure that is the intimacy and escapism of a really good story. With travel off the agenda right now, here are ten books that will take children on a trip somewhere far away.
James and the Giant Peach
In his first classic novel for children, Roald Dahl’s rich imagination and incredible storytelling takes you on an adventure with James, the eponymous peach and all the insect friends he makes inside it. They cross the ocean together, journey into the clouds and eventually end up in New York City. The Roald Dahl website also has excellent resources to learn and discuss more about this wonderful book.
Heroes of Olympus
The second series by Rick Riordan sees a cast of both new and familiar characters from the original Percy Jackson books come together in a quest that has them travelling across Europe, in and out of Roman mythology and ultimately learning the importance of uniting and working together. Children the world over love Riordan’s storytelling, and after reading his books their knowledge of Greek and Romany mythology tends to be better than most adults!
The Adventure Series
Written by the prolific Enid Blyton, these eight stories echo the adventures of the Famous Five with a group of four children and a pet parrot as they solve mysteries around the world centred on a castle, a sea, a river, a circus and so on (you get the picture). Formulaic they may be, but this makes them accessible to emerging readers and the pace, plot and peril in each book keeps children engrossed.
Both critically acclaimed and commercially successful (with a movie produced in 2003), Louis Sachar’s book follows the unlucky Stanley Yelnats as he journeys to a correctional facility in Texas and into the desert and history of his own family. It’s a really delightful story with a complex plot touching on immigration, racism, illiteracy, friendship – and onions – that adults will enjoy too.
The Secret of the Night Train
With a female protagonist and an excellent portrayal of travel by night trains, Sylvia Bishop’s detective novel gets off to a good start. Follow Max on her enthralling adventure from Paris to Istanbul with plenty of surprising twists and turns that she must solve along the way. The publishers call it ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ for kids. The killing may be missing but the key ingredients of trains, danger and deductions are certainly in abundance and keep children reading on.
Geronimo Stilton series
Follow the trials and tribulations of this anthropomorphic mouse as he navigates life living in Mouse City, working as a journalist for the Rodent Gazette and getting involved in lots of unplanned adventures and travels. Originally written in Italian by Elisabetta Dami, these lovely books use expressive sentences, fun illustrations and plenty of imagination to take younger readers along for the adventure.
The Chronicles of Narnia
Is there a better travel tale for children than those based in the mystical land of Narnia? C S Lewis’ six stories are classics for a reason: there is magic, mystery and characters both relatable and otherwordly, as well as gripping story lines and plenty of exploring being done by the Pevensie children. If only we could all travel to lands far away by stepping through a wardrobe.
Journey to Jo'burg
Beverley Naidoo’s gentle novel from 1985 tells the story of two siblings who travel 300km from their village to the big city to fetch their mother when their little sister is ill. Along the way in this heartbreaking and humbling story their eyes are opened to their position in South African society as a poor black family. Journey to Jo’burg was banned in South Africa when it was initially published, making this children’s novel part of its own story.
First published in 1961, there are now 38 of the famous comic books following the exploits of Asterix, Obelix and their band of Gaulish warriors as they fight and adventure their way around Europe in the Roman era. The Asterix series are a brilliant way to get kids into comic books and also learn a little bit of history, plus they are just fun to read - and there’s even a theme park in France to visit if you get really into the stories.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Grace Lin’s lovely tale draws on her Chinese heritage to tell the story of 10-year-old Minli’s journey from her home on Fruitless Mountain to meet the Man in the Moon with the aim of changing her family’s fortunes forever. Along the way Minli makes friends with a dragon and meets an assorted cast of creatures and people while the reader learns about Asian folklore, the importance of being grateful for what you have and how challenges can be overcome.
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