Top 5 children’s books about sea-faring adventures

Published on: 03 June 2024

Author Catherine Doyle knows a good nautical yarn when she reads one, and here she shares five favourites. 

My new children’s novel, Pirates of Darksea, tells the story of an ordinary boy called Max, who, quite accidentally, gets swept up in an extraordinary piratical adventure that carries him over the horizon and pushes him to the very brink of his own bravery. At its heart, Pirates of Darksea is a celebration of family loyalty, hard-fought courage and of course, the enduring magic of the sea. It was, in part, inspired by my love of all things nautical, and my very favourite children’s stories of sea-faring adventure. 

Here are some of them: 

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis 

A beloved classic set in the world of Narnia, this book opens with Lucy, Edmund and their cousin Eustace getting pulled into a magical ship painting. They land on Prince Caspian’s ship, where they are hurled headlong into an unexpected adventure (my favourite kind!) to find the seven lost lords of Narnia. This was one of the first sea-faring adventures I ever read, and the magic of it has stayed with me for decades. 

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk 

An achingly beautiful tale set in the Elizabeth Islands of Massachusetts, which follows 12-year-old orphan Crow, who was abandoned and set adrift in a small boat when she was just a baby. When a mysterious fire appears one night across the water, she sets out on a quest to discover the question of her own family history, and where she truly came from. A stirring mystery that celebrates found family.  

This book is the perfect blend of misfit pirates, sea-faring adventure and rollicking fun. Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. There’s only one problem: The Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.To escape from a life of petticoats and politeness, Hilary answers a curious advertisement for a pirate crew and suddenly finds herself swept up in an adventure on the High Seas. Hilarious and wildly entertaining! 

Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant 

A beautiful, historical tale, in the vein of Enid Blytonthat combines some of my favourite elements: boating adventure, heartwarming friendship, found family and some adorable dog companions! Set in England and France shortly after World War I, young orphans Ben and Lotti come together as runaways on the Sparrowhawk, a narrow houseboat that carries them off into peril and adventure, when they decide to set sail across the Channel to France to find Ben’s brother.  

Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood-Hargrave & Tom de Freston 

This story combines beautiful illustrations with evocative lyrical writing to tell the story of young Julia who goes to live in a lighthouse on a remote island with her parents for a summer. Her mother is on a tireless mission to find the elusive Greenland shark, but when her search threatens to submerge them all, Julia embarks on a voyage into the middle of the deep, dark ocean, where she comes face to face with the shark. A luminous, masterful tale that weaves together the wild beauty of the sea with theunpredictable tides of mental illness, and the toll this can take on a family. And yet, at its heart, there shines hope. 

Pirates of Darksea by Catherine Doyle is out now. 

Topics: Features

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