Alex Bell Recommends the Best Children's Adventure Stories
Our Children’s Book of the Month for November, The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club has ushered in the winter season perfectly, taking readers on a trip of a lifetime across the frozen wilds of the Icelands, a land brimming with wonders, monsters and snow pirates. Here the intrepid explorer behind the story, author Alex Bell, recommends the adventure stories that have inspired her.
The Faraway Tree Series by Enid Blyton
I grew up on Enid Blyton stories as a child, devouring her books as fast as I could, but my favourite was definitely the Faraway Tree. This is a truly magical adventure about a group of children who find an enchanted tree inhabited by remarkable characters, such as Silky the fairy, Saucepan Man and Moon Face. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a ladder at the top that leads to strange new lands, with a different one appearing each time the children climb it (my favourite was the Land of Birthdays!). Full of ginger beer, magic escapades and sunny summer holiday fun, this is Enid Blyton at her finest.
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Everyone knows the story of man-cub Mowgli and his fantastical childhood in the jungle. There is something endlessly enchanting about this collection of short stories, which is no doubt why they continue to reappear in various modern forms. Just the sound of the names Baloo and Shere Khan are enough to conjure thoughts of jungle adventures. I think the fact that Rudyard Kipling himself spent so much time in India really helps to breathe life into the pages – you can practically feel the steam of the tropical heat and hear the monkeys as they scamper through the ruins of ancient temples. It’s a fascinating glimpse into a vibrant world full of wilderness, danger and thrilling natural splendour.
Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat by Ursula Moray Williams
Little black kitten Gobbolino was born at the top of Hurricane Mountain and destined to be a witch’s cat, except he decides that eye of newt and toe of frog are not really for him. In fact, he’d far rather be a kitchen cat, snoozing contentedly by the fire instead. So he sets out to change his fate, meeting a whole host of characters along the way, from poorly princesses to Punch and Judy performers. Gobbolino is a charming little tale that reminds us that sometimes a quiet life of humdrum contentment is actually the most wonderful thing there can possibly be.
The Adventure Series by Willard Price
These books followed the adventures of teenage brothers – and zoologists-in-training – Hal and Roger Hunt, as they travelled around the world collecting animals for their father’s private collection. Despite the unfortunate element of animal collecting, there was still a strong message of conservation and animal welfare throughout the series, and Price stated that his aim was to inspire an interest in wildlife in his young readers. The books are set all over the world, from jungles and volcanoes, to snowscapes and oceans. And, of course, there are plenty of loathsome villains to defeat, along with incredible wild beasts and heroic derring-do.
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Another world-famous story with simply unforgettable characters, from the Cheshire Cat to the Mad Hatter. Alice and her adventures in Wonderland are iconic staples of storytelling, but of all the many adaptations, the original text is still my favourite. Bubbling over with warmth, wit and humour, the book is genuinely funny in places, and the absurd Caucus-Race made me laugh out loud far more than I expected. The world Carroll created is uniquely fascinating, if a little terrifying at times (you really don’t want to mess with the Queen of Hearts), and I loved the fact that you could never quite predict what new nonsense you were going to find over the next page. Bizarre, bonkers and down-right mad, this is a peculiar little book of delights.