6 fantastic voyages in kids' books, chosen by P.G. Bell

Published on: 25 Hydref 2018 Author: P.G. Bell

P.G. Bell's debut novel for children, The Train to Impossible Places, is a rip-roaring, fantastical adventure set aboard the last remaining postal train servicing the Union of Impossible Places.

To celebrate, we asked P.G. Bell to pick his other favourite books for children featuring fantastic voyages.

P.G. Bell and the book cover of The Train to Impossible Places

Photograph: Tiffany Mumford

1. The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton

These are the first stories I can remember being told, read to me by my mother when I was about three or four, and they've stayed with me ever since. They're crammed to bursting with wonderful ideas and destinations.

Blyton likes to pique our curiosity and then reward it, unveiling world after world as though unwrapping a series of Christmas presents.

Read our review of The Magic Faraway Tree

2. Trouble For Trumpets by Peter Cross and Peter Dallas-Smith

The Trumpets are tiny hippo-like creatures who dwell in the land of summer, under constant threat of attack by their ill-tempered wintry cousins the Grumpets. With war brewing, it falls to reluctant hero Pod to embark on a quest through the seasons, thwart the Grumpets' plans and keep winter in its place.

Trouble For Trumpets is essentially a picture book - every page features a lavish illustration by Cross, so crammed with detail and hidden surprises that I spent hours poring over them as a child. The home of the Trumpets is a manicured ideal of the English countryside, bursting with wildlife and clever visual jokes. And if you like your fantasy books to feature a map at the front, Trouble For Trumpets has one of the finest you will ever see.

3. The Accidental Pirates: Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers

The cover of The Accidental Pirates: Voyage to Magical North

Claire Fayers' swashbuckling fantasy adventure sees young Brine Seaborne putting out to sea with magician's apprentice Peter in search of her missing parents. The pair soon run into the pirate ship Onion, captained by the legendary Cassie O'Pia, who is bound for the top of the world and the mythical treasure that lies at Magical North.

Not only is the book exciting, smart and very, very funny, it's also a look at the stories we tell each other, and why they matter. Highly recommended.

4. The House With Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

Marinka's house has chicken legs, and guards the gateway to the afterlife. When it moves from place to place she must go with it, welcoming the souls of the dead, when all she really wants to do is find a place for herself in the world of the living.

The book has a haunting quality that never quite leaves you; a bittersweetness that never dips into melancholy, but masterfully treads a line between grief and hope. If I read this book as a child, it would still be a favourite today.

Read our review of The House with Chicken Legs

5. Sky Chasers by Emma Carroll

The cover of Sky Chasers by Emma Carroll

Emma Carroll, who is a natural storyteller, lets her imagination soar in Sky Chasers as she takes the reader on an original and thrilling journey with a wonderful view of early aeronautics.

An encounter with a boy dangling from the sky changes pickpocket Magpie's life forever. Like her, the boy dreams of flying over the rooftops of Paris. His family, the Montgolfiers, are desperate to be first to discover the secret of flight.

Together with Pierre, Magpie is soon caught up in a world of inflatable bloomers, spies and a trio of unruly animals in a race to be the first to fly a hot air balloon - in front of the King and Queen of France.

Read our review of Sky Chasers

6. The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

There's an enduring, romantic appeal in maps – from pirate treasure maps we draw for ourselves as children to the immersive fantasy world of Middle Earth – and here we have a beautiful fairytale-like story with cartography at its heart.

Brave Isabella, a mapmaker's daughter, volunteers to guide the search party when her best friend Lupe goes missing. Isabella is equipped with elaborate ink maps and a knowledge of the stars to navigate the island of Jura.

It's a journey fraught with danger as the legend lurking beneath the island begins to stir and Isabella must follow her heart as well as her maps.

Read our review of The Girl of Ink and Stars


Read our review of The Train to Impossible Places

10 thrilling books for budding explorers, chosen by Vashti Hardy


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