The FivePax house is a house of book lovers. I was a teacher and later worked for an early-literacy non-profit. So naturally, our kids had an impressive home library before they were born. This is not a casual interest, friends. I am a certified ‘kid’s book nerd’! Thankfully, our kids have also fallen in love with books and adventures that come through reading. Check out their absolute favorites, all listed here!
And because I am a nerd, we aren’t just casual book readers. We love using kids’ books to create excitement before travel and adventures. Then, once we are home those same books keep the magic and adventure alive between our trips. And in 2020 that has been A LONG time. AHHHH. Equally important, our kids love showing up to a new destination they read about back home. We love watching their eyes light up as their imagination becomes their reality. It is really good stuff.
We have beefed up our former list to include a few more advanced titles for the bigger kids. This well-vetted list includes books about flying, family vacations, road-trips, and introducing kids to new places. So, here are our top 29 books every adventure-loving family should have in your child’s library.
Additionally, books make great gifts and holiday wish list items! For more gift ideas for an adventure-loving family, check our holiday gift guide.
Do let us know in the comments which of your favorites made the list.
Children’s books to inspire an adventurous spirit
There are dozens of great books about flying and planes out there, we own half a dozen but this remains our steadfast favorite. Mike and I read it with a hilariously different cadence, but both enjoy this fun story all about airplanes as much as the kids do!
David Wiesner has won three Caldecott Awards and was a two-time runner-up, including Sector 7. We have three of his books here on the list, his illustrations are magic. If you are planning a New York City trip Sector 7 is a great pre- top of the Empire State Building read.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
A true classic and if you don’t have a well-loved copy already you are missing out! I cannot count the number of ‘bear hunts’ we have gone on while hiking or just walking trails in Prospect Park. Our kids love pretending to live out this sweet adventure and its a great go-to to inspire the last push when little legs are getting tired on the trail.
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
Our middle kid has had an entire farm of pretend animal friends since he was a small toddler. I am going to be crushed the day he outgrows them but in their absence, we will always have Beekle! This adorable story of a pretend character who is tired of waiting for his person and heads right out into the world to find them and do the “unimaginable”.
Harold and the Purple Crayon
A literary classic about a boy who takes a wonderful adventure drawn along with his purple crayon. And a must-read before you dive into another family favorite, Journey, below.
Inspired by Harold and the Purple Crayon, this modern twist is beautifully illustrated and great fun. Our kids made the connection to the classic even before I did!
Truly, we love anything David Wiesner and this picture book again has no words and still tells such a captivating story of a not so ordinary Tuesday.
My Fathers Dragon Trilogy
It has become a ‘turning-5’ tradition that we read the “Elmer” books snuggled up on the couch over a few afternoons. A perfect first chapter book as you join Elmer on a big adventure to rescue a captured baby dragon on Wild Island. Snag the hardback 3-books in one.
Books to learn about new places and cultures
Around the US
Count a Block, Dino Block… all have a place on our bookshelf. City Block makes this is as a great read to prepare young travelers for a trip to the big city or make connections for kiddos already living in the big city! Most importantly, this comes as a super-chunky board book great for small babies and loved by big kids as well.
Who Pooped in the Park?
We own the Rocky Mountain National Park edition but each one of these books is clever and educational and such a fun and authentic way to learn about the animals who inhabit our amazing national parks before you go. Whose scat IS that?
Good Night Yellowstone
With dozens of versions, we own Good Night Yellowstone and Goodnight New York City and have read several others from the library. Great quick reads for littlest ones to get a quick peek into what makes Yellowstone (or whatever your destination) special.
Around the world
An obvious choice if you are gearing up for a trip to France. A lovely choice if you just want to soak up a sweet story about this clever little girl in Paris and her adventures of everyday life as a boarding student.
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
For the littlest kiddos in your house, this lovely book of babies from around the world is a quick read, with a sweet rhyme and rhythm, and always puts a smile on my face. We have the larger board book version which I highly recommend.
I love Junot Diaz and have read all of his adult books, which are very… adult. I was thrilled he created a children’s book and as I had hoped it is an honest and authentic tale about exploring your roots and the complicated political past of the Dominican Republic.
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
We make a lot of apple pie around here and my kids loved this tale of traveling around the world to collect ingredients! How lucky that we just have to zip to the market but how fun it would be to travel the world to make our pies happen.
Toot & Puddle
Our then 6-year old 100% chose this book from the library because “toot” was in the title. Sigh. But I am so glad he did. Truly, we love Toot & Puddle and their sweet friendship as Toot explores the world while Puddle explores right in his backyard.
National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book
A great series of books with beautiful photography (no surprise here), this intro book is a great place to start as you explore and learn about the world with your little ones.
Juana and Lucas
Juana is a wonderfully entertaining and relatable girl from Colombia and this entertaining read folds in a fun mix of Spanish words sprinkled that had our first-grader declaring that Spanish words are easier to read than English. (He isn’t wrong!)
Children’s books for getting ready for new seasons
The Wish Tree
In Pre-K my oldest did a book swap to celebrate the holidays. Every child brought a book from home and after passing it around the circle a few times you took home a new book. My kiddo picked a favorite of his to gift away (which I cannot for the life of me remember) and brought home this gem, which I will never forget. I love books with a musical cadence and this one is a favorite bedtime story of a woodland adventure, helping others and a sweet shared meal among friends.
An old classic that parents likely read as children, this beautiful story of the adventure of a lost mitten among woodland creatures.
The Snowy Day
Another iconic storyteller, my kids love all of the books about Peter and his NYC adventures. Equally important, a small step to diversify your bookshelf!
Blueberries for Sal
If you have ever gone berry or apple picking with your kids there tends to be more eating than picking and the same goes for Little Sal. The bear encounter gets me quite nervous (my greatest fear may just be running into a bear on a hiking trail). But rest assured, all is well and ends well in this adorable story of preparing for winter.
Little Elliot, Fall Friends
We love all of the Little Elliott books (theme here, we LOVE books). But this one, in particular, the kids seem to pick-up from the library more often than not. A great fall adventure for sure.
Make Way for Ducklings
Another classic and award winner. This story is quite long for a picture book but a lovely story and if you have plans to visit Boston a must-read! And then go visit the monument to the book as well.
One of Jane Yolen’s earlier books is another award winner about a father and child as they walk through a winter night looking and calling for owls who never answer back. A children’s book adults may remember, and a rare 80s book about a girl on an adventure with her father!
Children’s books about new experiences and big feelings
Our own three owl babies love this tale about a momma zipping away for a bit to do what she needs to do and coming back to find her babies in a fluster of imagining the worst and missing her like crazy. As Daniel Tiger sings “Grown-ups come back!” and so does mother owl in this sweet story.
The Rabbit Listened
This might just be my favorite children’s book of all time and I only read it for the first time a year ago. Such a beautiful lesson for children and a great reminder for parents that sometimes you don’t need to spring into action to save others, sometimes you just need to be a friend and listen. In fact, in our house, we often say “I think he needs a rabbit” as a gentle reminder to one another to pause and give each other a moment.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
Mo Willems is another children’s author and illustrator that is amazing at what he does and we love all of his books. Additionally, when you have to say no to something dangerous you know have a fun story on your side.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Even adventurous families have to slow down when someone falls ill. And with three young kids this happens a bit more than we would like. We love this heartwarming read of friends taking care of one another! Almost always, we pull this one out whenever someone in our house is sick and make a list of ways we can help one another feel better.