10 thrilling books for budding explorers, chosen by Vashti Hardy

Published on: 07 May 2018 Author: Vashti Hardy

Author Vashti Hardy knows a thing or two about what makes a thrilling adventure for children - that's what makes her book Brightstorm such a rip-roaring read!

Vashti Hardy and Brightstorm

Now she's chosen ten more books that will get budding adventurers all fired up...

1. Shackleton's Journey by William Grill

Shackleton's Journey

Discovering Ernest Shackleton's original advert for the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition was the spark that started the idea for my novel Brightstorm, so I just had to start with this wonderful book.

Shackleton's Journey tells the true story of how Shackleton and his crew managed to survive this epic adventure when their ship, The Endurance, became trapped in the ice. As well as being a work of beauty with Grill's stunning coloured pencil work capturing scenes from the journey, this book takes the historical information and presents it in an imaginative way for young readers.

2. A Galaxy of Her Own: Amazing Stories of Women in Space by Libby Jackson with artwork from the students of London College of Communication

A Galaxy of Her Own

Space explorers, whether on the ground as scientists or the astronauts themselves, are a hive of amazing inspirational stories.This book tells the stories of 50 women who have contributed to space exploration from the past to modern day.

With bold and bright illustrations, this book is a great way to find out about some unsung heroes and to celebrate the achievements of women around the world.

3. The Polar Bear Explorers' Club by Alex Bell, illustrated by Tomislav Tomic 

Stella Starflake Pearl is a great young protagonist who becomes the first female to be allowed into the Polar Bear Explorers' Club. On an expedition to the Icelands, Stella and three fellow junior explorers get separated from the main expedition.

With inventive touches to the story such as pygmy dinosaurs and frost fairies, the story landscape is easy to imagine and get lost in. It's punctuated with some stunning illustrations by Tomic which add beautifully to the atmosphere.

4. Tom Crean's Rabbit: A True Story from Scott's Last Voyage by Meredith Hooper,‎ illustrated by Bert Kitchen

Tom Crean's Rabbit

This book is based on the diaries of those who sailed to the South Pole on board The Terra Nova with Captain Scott in 1910. In the story, a member of the crew, Tom Crean, searches for somewhere on the ship where his pet rabbit can make her nest and have her babies.

It's a great way to introduce this historic voyage to children and the illustrations are beautiful, capturing the vastness of the Antarctic landscape. There are notes in the back of the book for further information about the expedition for those whose interest is sparked.

5. The Explorer by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Hannah Horn 

Katherine Rundell and The Explorer

An exciting adventure story about four children fighting for survival in the vast untamed Amazon after their plane crashes. The prose is wonderfully vivid and descriptive, with authentic details which immerse you in the depths of the Rainforest.

The characters are easy to fall in love with and their individual relationships bring much heart to the adventure. This has all the makings of a classic adventure story and is a must read for all budding adventurers.

6. Journey by Aaron Becker


Discover an explorer of a different kind in this beautiful and captivating wordless picture book. A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and escapes through it, then uses her red marker to create things to help her on her way, such as a balloon and a flying carpet. A great reminder that we are all explorers of our own imaginations.

7. Survivors by David Long, illustrated by Kerry Hyndman


Readers will find over 20 incredible real-life stories of adventure and survival in this beautifully illustrated book. Alongside the tangible peril and excitement, the real-life stories show us how the individuals of each narrative use their skills, courage and endurance in order to survive.

Stories include 17-year-old Juliane Koepcke, who survived a two-mile fall in an airplane which crashed in the Peruvian rainforest, and a sailor who survived for 133 days on a raft in the Atlantic using shark's blood in place of fresh water.

8. Amelia Earhart (Little People, Big Dreams) by Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author) and Mariadiamantes (illustrator)

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart was an inspiration for the character Harriet Culpepper in Brightstorm, and this book makes Earhart's story accessible to the young reader. The tale of this intrepid aviator is simply told alongside vivid illustration, and travels from her childhood dreams to her achievements and eventual disappearance.

There is also the addition of a potted biography at the back and some further reading for children who would like to discover more.

9. A Teacup in a Storm: An Explorer's Guide to Life by Mick Conefrey

A Teacup in a Storm

Not a children's book as such but easily accessible to all, this non-fiction title by explorer Mick Conefrey tells stories of real-life explorers in a witty and entertaining way. The book is structured by taking the stages of a typical expedition from planning to setting out, then finding your goal and surviving, to eventually (and hopefully!) safely returning home.

It's an easy book to dip in and out of – you can flip to any page at random, discover fascinating anecdotes and learn something extraordinary.

10. Out and About: A First Book of Poems by Shirley Hughes

Out and About

I've included this as my last choice because it so perfectly shows how being an 'explorer' is as much about the simple joy found in discovering the everyday outside your doorstep as it is the great feats of exploring the wider world.

This collection of poems travels through the seasons from spring to winter as Katie and little brother Olly go out and about enjoying the range of elements from sunshine to snow. A wonderful timeless keeper of a book, beautifully illustrated in the classic Shirley Hughes style, it captures childhood moments of exploration.

Topics: Features

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Brightstorm review


Author: Vashti Hardy

Twelve-year-old twins Maudie and Arthur’s world comes crashing in when their explorer dad is reported dead in his mission to get to South Polaris, and they race to restore the family name. A real edge-of-your-seat Victoriana romp.

Read more about Brightstorm

The Explorer

Read the opening right now

Inspired to check out The Explorer after Vashti picked it as one of her favourites? You can read the opening pages right here, right now!


Even more fantastic adventures

Read all of Vashti's suggestions and still hankering for more adventures? You're in luck - we've picked out some of our favourites here.