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April 16, 2019

Up, Up And Away! Books for Going on an Adventure

Wild Things

Discover 14 great books about finding adventures in odd and wonderful places, recommended by the Brighter Readers Book Crew!

Adventures happen anywhere children feel free to use their imagination. And books can open doors to many adventures in imagined and real worlds. Overcoming fears, going on a trip or learning a new skill are all ways little learners exercise the creativity they find while imagining “what if…”

We asked members of our Brighter Readers Book Crew to share their favorite children’s books about adventure. Check our list out and share your favorite reads with us in the the comments!

Jude Odell is a ceramicist, multimedia artist and an art instructor for the Indianapolis Art Center’s ArtReach program. Jude is also a resident of the Near Eastside of Indianapolis, where she plays the banjo and sings songs with her cats.

glass art, glass blowing, children glass art classes
Elena’s Serenade

Campbell Geeslin, author and Ana Juan, illustrator
Best for: five-year-olds, school age

Who ever heard of a girl glassblower?
In Mexico, where the sun is called el sol and the moon is called la luna, a little girl called Elena wants to blow into a long pipe… and make bottles appear, like magic. Join Elena on her fantastic journey to Monterrey — home of the great glassblowers!— in an enchanting story filled with magic realism.

“This book is about empowering girls, determination, glass blowing culture, learning Spanish vocabulary and imagination.”

After you read: Make a trip to a museum or a glass blowing studio. Howard County has something called The Glass Trail, featuring the Greentown Glass Museum and family-friendly attractions. The glass studio at the Indianapolis Art Center is also a fun place to watch real artists learning and making glass art.

Brittany Fortman is a mom of two little ones under four and the manager of communications and engagement at Early Learning Indiana. These are her picks:

The Antlered Ship book cover
The Antlered Ship
Dashka Slater, author and Terry Fan and Eric Fan, illustrators
Best for: four-year-olds, five-year-olds

Marco the fox has a lot of questions, like: how deep does the sun go when it sinks into the sea? And why do birds have such lizardy feet? But none of the other foxes share his curiosity. So when a magnificent ship adorned with antlers and with a deer for a captain arrives at the dock looking for a crew, Marco volunteers, hoping to find foxes who are as inquisitive as he is that can answer his questions. The crew finds adventure and intrigue on their journey. And, at last, Marco finds the answer to his most important question of all: What’s the best way to find a friend you can talk to?

After you read: Talk about friendship. Ask, “Who is someone you can talk to?” or “Who are your friends?”

Vicki Lehman is a professional development specialist at Child Care Answers. She has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and spent her first seven years out of college teaching in a pre-K classroom. Some of her favorite books are by Dr. Seuss. This is her pick:

Harold and the Purple Crayon book cover
Harold and the Purple Crayon
Crockett Johnson, author and illustrator
Best for: three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

One evening Harold decides to go for a walk in the moonlight. Armed only with an oversized purple crayon, young Harold draws himself a landscape full of wonder and excitement. Harold and his trusty crayon travel through woods and across seas and past dragons before returning to bed, safe and sound. Full of funny twists and surprises, this charming story shows just how far your imagination can take you.

After you read: Make a long strip of different textures: cardboard, magazines, newspapers, printer paper, grocery bags, etc. Now, grab a purple crayon and explore how the line changes in each surface. Imagine what these surfaces would be if they were places, “the paper bag is the desert, the printer paper is a snowy field.”

Where the Wild Things Are book cover
Where the Wild Things Are

Maurice Sendak
Best for: two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

This story of only 338 words focuses on a young boy named Max who, after dressing in his wolf costume, wreaks such havoc through his household that he is sent to bed without his supper. Max’s bedroom undergoes a mysterious transformation into a jungle environment, and he winds up sailing to an island inhabited by malicious beasts known as the “Wild Things.”

“This is another story that really focuses on the imagination of the character. The story grabs you while still being simple and easy to follow. The illustrations are beautiful as well.”

After you read: Make a fort! Come up with wild costumes and make a fort to match the creatures of your household.

Maria Behringer is a contemporary art curator and marketer for Quintana + Behringer in downtown Indianapolis. “I credit a lot to the stories and illustration I grew up reading to why I decided to study art and curation.” These are her picks:

The Egypt Game book cover
The Egypt Game

Zilpha Keatley Snyder, author and Alton Raible, illustrator
Best for: school age

The first time Melanie Ross meets April Hall, she’s not sure they have anything in common. But she soon discovers that they both love anything to do with ancient Egypt. When they stumble upon a deserted storage yard, Melanie and April decide it’s the perfect spot for the Egypt Game. Before long there are six Egyptians, and they all meet to wear costumes, hold ceremonies, and work on their secret code. Everyone thinks it’s just a game until strange things start happening. Has the Egypt Game gone too far?

“I remember being so incredibly engulfed in this story by the writing style and topic of Egypt that is genuinely explored through this story of a make-believe game. The characters and ideas for the game are so spot on to the encouragement of a kid using their imagination it is still one of my favorite stories to this day.”

After you read: Go see Egyptian art. The Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University in Bloomington has a small but magical collection of Egyptian. If you want to see the real deal, there are two mummies you can see in Indiana: One at the Wayne County Historical Museum in downtown Richmond and the other at the Joseph Moore Museum of Natural History on the Earlham College campus. Don’t want to make a trip to a museum? Visit your local library and explore books about ancient Egypt!

Blueberries for Sal book cover
Blueberries for Sal

Robert McCloskey, author and illustrator
Best for: three-year-olds, four-year-olds, school age children

Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk! Sal and her mother a picking blueberries to can for the winter. But when Sal wanders to the other side of Blueberry Hill, she discovers a mama bear preparing for her own long winter. Meanwhile Sal’s mother is being followed by a small bear with a big appetite for berries! Will each mother go home with the right little one?

“The illustration for this book is timeless along with the sweet and endearing story of the adventure between Sal and a mama bear.”

After you read: Practice the perfect “bear hug.” What is the perfect strength and time length for a really good bear hug? And, of course, nibbling some blueberries together is another fun thing to do!

Vicci Rydzinski is a wife and the mom of a spunky two-year-old boy! Vicci is also the manager of family child care support at Early Learning Indiana. These are her picks:

Doors in the Air book cover
Doors in the Air
David Weale, author and Pierre Pratt, illustrator
Best for: four-year-olds, five-year-olds

Doors in the Air is the story of a boy who is fascinated by doors. He marvels at how stepping through a doorway can take him from one world to another. He is especially enthralled by the doors of his imagination, which he refers to as “doors in the air.” He delights in discovering that when he passes through these doors, he leaves behind all feelings of boredom, fear and unpleasantness.

“This book really encourages the audience to use their imagination. It is filled with beautiful vibrant colors and is so much fun to read aloud.”

After you read: Play games that encourage imagination. Ask each other, “What are you doing tomorrow?” Whoever comes up with the wildest plan for the day wins.

Flashlight book cover

Lizi Boyd, author and illustrator
Best for: two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

Inside a tent it’s cozy. But what is going on outside? Is it dark? Is it scary? Not if you have your trusty flashlight! Told solely through images and using a spare yet dramatic palette, artist Lizi Boyd has crafted a masterful exploration of night, nature, and art. Both lyrical and humorous, this visual poem —like the flashlight beam itself — reveals that there is magic in the darkness. We just have to look for it.

“This book is wordless which makes it fun in that you create the story. I love how the flashlight light shows the detail.”

After you read: Grab a flashlight and play in the dark. Make shapes with your hands on the wall, surprise your cat or dog with the light, see what happens when the light comes through the bed sheets or through the lampshade.

Hop on that Bus, Gus book cover
Hop on that Bus, Gus: A Grand Adventure Inspired by the Kaine Family Dog

Kaine and Duds, authors
Best for: two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

Gus the Pug and his dog buddy, Jack, seize the opportunity of a lifetime as they take the local school bus out for a joyride. They make sure to include all of the road trip essentials including their canine companions, plenty of snacks (roll down that window) and great tunes on the radio. You will be on the edge of your seat as things get pretty hairy with our furry friends behind the wheel.

“This book is so much fun! My son loved hearing the silly things the dogs did on their adventure. The illustrations are simple and clean.”

After you read: Talk about your favorite parts of the book. Imagine what the snacks the dogs picked would taste like. Feeling silly? Woof your favorite songs and laugh away.

Shirley Mullin is a teacher and librarian. She owns and operates Kids Ink, Children’s Bookstore. These are her picks:

Dragon Night book cover
Dragon Night

J. R. Krause, author and illustrator)
Best for: three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds, school age

Georgie is afraid of the night. It’s too dark with the lights off. Too quiet with everyone asleep. And being alone makes everything worse. The dragon is afraid of the knight. After all, the knight carries a heavy sword, and he always wants to fight. The dragon knows just what to do to help Georgie overcome his fear, and the two set off on a unforgettable magical adventure. But when the morning comes, the dragon is still afraid of the knight. How can Georgie help his friend? With kindness and empathy — and a little creativity — maybe Georgie can work some magic of his own.

After you read: Ask, “What is something you are afraid of?” Then share with your little one things that used to scare you too and how you overcame your fears — or how you continue to overcome them.

Rattletrap Car book cover
Rattletrap Car
Phyliss Root, author and Jill Barton, illustrator
Best for: two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

It’s hot. Hot, hot, hot! So Junie and Jake and Poppa and the baby want to go to the lake. But can they make it there in their rattletrap car? It doesn’t go fast, and it doesn’t go far — but with the help of some razzleberry dazzleberry snazzleberry fizz, a beach ball, a surfboard, and a three-speed, wind-up, paddle-wheel boat, they’re off to the lake where it’s cool, cool, cool! Phyllis Root’s wonderfully inventive wordplay and Jill Barton’s spirited, expressive illustrations make this a read-aloud road trip to remember.

After you read: Find lids, soda caps and boxes and make a car. It’s a care made out of junk, but it will take you to great places with a little bit of imagination.

The School Trip book cover
The School Trip
Tjibbe Veldkamp, author and Philip Hopman, illustrator
Best for: four-year-olds, five-year-olds, school age

Imported from Holland, the illustrations in the book will introduce students to a different style. Davy doesn’t want to go to school so he makes his own school on wheels. His madcap adventure ends when he crashes into the real school.

After you read: Talk about school. “What are your favorite things about school?” or “What do you think school will be like next year?” or “What is something you would really like to learn at school?”

Steve Goes to Carnival book cover
Steve Goes to Carnival

Joshua Button, author and Robyn Wells, illustrator
Best for: three-year-olds, four-year-olds, Infants, five-year-olds, school age

Steve unlatches his cage at the zoo after this friend leaves for the day. He ventures out in Rio de Janeiro and finds it is Carnival time. He spends the night dancing to the jazz music which is an unusual event for him since he is a gorilla.

After you read: Tune into the jazz radio station! No jazz on the radio? Head over to your nearest library and fins some jazz music to listen to with your little carnival buddy.

Jennifer Delgadillo is a proud auntie and the content specialist for Early Learning Indiana. This is her pick:

Mouse Paint book cover
Mouse Paint

Ellen Stoll Walsh, author and illustrator
Best for: babies, one-year-olds, two-year-olds

“This is the story of three little mice living an ordinary life that suddenly fall into red, yellow and blue paint. After doing a tiny mouse dances in different color puddles, they discover mixing their coat of paint with the puddles can make orange, green and purple colors. Then, the mice use their discovery to paint paper, leaving a white spot so they can hide from the cat. This is a super cute, small board book with very few words. You’ll be able to get through the whole story when reading with eager-page-turning little ones. BONUS: this book can be purchased in a bilingual (English / Spanish) format too. “

After you read: Do as the little mice! Find fun ways to mix colors: just mixing paint, decorating cookies and mixing different coloring into the icing, layering sheer materials or mixing natural dyes and sauces. Color is everywhere!

Brighter Readers Book Crew is a group of early education professionals, child advocates, parents and book-loving experts that want to share their love of stories and books with families all across the state. Want to share the books you love and why you think they are great? Send a message to with the subject line Book Crew.

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