The best children's books to inspire young adventurers

Published on: 03 August 2022

Julia Green, author of The Boy Who Sailed the World, shares some of her favourite children's books about great adventures - across the high seas and over distant horizons...

Big dreams and expanding horizons

My new picture book, The Boy Who Sailed the World, illustrated by Alex Latimer and published by David Fickling Books, tells the story of a little boy who loves the sea and decides to sail around the world in a boat he builds himself. He experiences the wonders of the world, faces real danger, is bold and brave even when he’s scared, makes new friends, and finally sails home. It’s a story about having big dreams, about expanding horizons, and it celebrates our beautiful planet.

It was inspired by the real-life sea-faring adventures of one of my sons. As a child, he had a dream to sail around the world. When he grew up, he made it happen! With a friend, he bought an old and very small sailing boat (a Contessa 30), repaired it, and made an epic voyage without any high tech or sophisticated equipment. They called the boat Sparrow. They sailed down the Irish sea, across the English Channel, the Bay of Biscay, acoss the Atlantic Ocean and through the Panama Canal into the Pacific Ocean. They lived for nine months on the tiny French Polynesian island of Taravai. They had many adventures, survived storms, swam with dolphins, sailed for more than a month without seeing a single other boat - not even an aeroplane in the sky; learned how to navigate by the stars, visited many islands, made new friends, learned new languages and skills… and did, eventually, come safely home!

Illustration from Kensuke's KingdomIllustration from Kensuke's Kingdom

From ancient Greece to pirate ships...

My son’s love of boats, the sea and adventure started very early on, inspired by the books he listened to and read as a child. We read stories about adventurous children: Tim, in the picture books written and illustrated by Edward Ardizzone (Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain); Michael, in Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo. He loved the retellings of Greek Myths by Marcia Williams, in comic book form and with lots of deliciously gory details; and the funny, outrageous adventures of Tintin (Herge) and Captain Pugwash (John Ryan). He pored over the illustrations in Where the Forest Meets the Sea, and Window, by Jennie Baker.  He loved to look at the world atlas and at real sea charts.

Stories allow us to go on imaginative journeys and experience worlds unlike our own, to travel back or forward in time; to meet people unlike ourselves, to broaden our minds and engage us with others, to expand our horizons and inspire us.

They can show us the wonder of our planet and help us understand we must look after our shared home. They can help us understand ourselves and our emotions, taking us on ‘inner’ journeys, too. They can inspire us to dream big, and to make things happen. It starts with the picture books we read to young children. Here are some suggestions to get you started...

Julia's top books for young adventurers

Illustration from The Storm WhaleIllustration from The Storm Whale

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