Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (1930)
‘BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WON’T DROWN’ reads Daddy’s telegram, giving the four children permission to set sail in the Swallow and camp on an island in the middle of a Lake District mere. John, Susan, Titty and Roger wave goodbye to the natives – Mother, Vicky the baby and the Dixons who own the farm – and become a team of explorers, mapping the area and meeting adventure along the way. The first in a wonderful series.
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Robin becomes an outlaw upon his return from the crusades, when he finds his lands taken from him by the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham. The people are suffering while the rich grow fat on their labour. Robin leads a band of Merry Men in their fight against social injustice, and seeks to win the heart of a noble lady. There are many retellings of this traditional legend. I recommend going to a good bookshop, and browsing to choose just the right one for your child.
Treasure Island by R L Stevenson (1883)
This is the classic pirate story, featuring Jim and Long John Silver, treasure maps and parrots. Full of adventure, and not a sanitised children’s story.
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1719)
Crusoe is shipwrecked on an island and survives there for several years, through a mixture of ingenuity and luck. In time he discovers local cannibals who visit his part of the archipelago to capture prisoners to eat. Crusoe rescues one of these, names him Friday, and converts him to Christianity. This is not a simple text for children, but there are several children’s versions focusing on the element of adventure so pervasive in the original.
Swiss Family Robinson by Johan David Wyss (1812)
Although this was originally written as an educational text, intended to teach children various Christian virtues, it has at its core such a sense of adventure that all my children have loved this story. The family is shipwrecked on an island rich with life. They are able to swim out to the wreck several times before it finally sinks, to provision themselves with guns and domesticated animals, before settling down to an exciting and ultimately fulfilling life in their new home.
Just William by Richmal Crompton (1922)
William doesn’t seem to be very popular with his parents or his elder brother and sister. He and his band of Outlaws are always getting into trouble of one sort or another. Yet he has a certain grubby charm, and is so delightfully optimistic that we readers just love him.