Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth. How many novels have your kids read set in Tibet under Chinese rule? Now is your chance to alter all that, however! And Tash and her family go about their daily lives while keeping their Buddhist beliefs a secret from the Chinese forces stationed in her Tibetan town. But one day, a man’s shocking deeds disturb the serenity, and Tash’s parents are removed. Tash, posing as a male, and her buddy Sam escape the hamlet on a dangerous trek over snow-covered mountains with two goats. In this page-turning adventure, issues of freedom, bravery, and the Dalai Lama’s teachings are intertwined. Terrific.

The Cross of Lead by Avi. This award-winning novel is a page-turning adventure in the fourteenth century! The son of Asta doesn’t know who his father is and doesn’t have a genuine name. When his mother passes away, Father Quinel becomes his guardian and offers him a lead cross that belonged to her. But the kid, who is now Crispin, must leave before Father Quinel informs him of his parentage. A terrifying journey starts as he flees the evil lord who rules hamlet.

Bud, Not BuddyChristopher Paul Curtis is one of my favorite middle-grade authors.  Buddy, a 10-year-old who runs away from a slew of miserable foster homes in search of his father—whom he thinks is a jazz musician—sets off on his quest. Curtis’ work, set during the Great Depression, is full of comedy and sobering facts. In the end, it’s a happy book with lots of laughs, and it’s impossible not to love Buddy. Winner of the 2000 Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Medal.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. This Newbery Honor novel, set in 1832, follows the utterly captivating tale of Charlotte, who embarks on a sailing journey from England to Rhode Island. She suddenly travels alone with the crew instead of being accompanied by other families, and she gets caught up in a dangerous adventure.

Treasure Island. It is reasonable to assume that not all of the characters in this novel are good, honest, and selfless, but it is still a lot of fun. Jim, a little boy, travels in search of wealth and meets dangerous pirates like Long John Silver.

The Left-Handed Fate by Kate Milford. By putting together a strange and old engine, Lucy and Max are attempting to stop the War of 1812. When Oliver, a 12-year-old boy, is aboard the ship The Left-Handed Fate, it is taken over by American forces. Oliver then has to decide whether to be a traitor or risk endangering the lives of others. Your preteen will be on the edge of his seat as he reads this novel, packed with great adventure, perilous travels, and thrilling action.

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. (1930) When you start reading this book to your kids, be ready to Google a lot of boating jargon! Once you get beyond that obstacle, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy this English classic about a bunch of siblings who go on their camping trip.

My Side of the Mountain. My 10-year-old son came home from the school praising this book, so I asked him whether he and his brother would be interested in hearing me read it. I recall being enthralled when I read this novel as a child about a lad who leaves New York City to live in the woods.

I often suggest The Whipping Boy to parents who tell me their children have problems completing books. Even though it’s a short book, it’s equally as engaging and satisfying as longer ones. A couple of criminals abduct the arrogant and haughty Prince Brat and Jemmy, his whipping boy. The cause for a lot of the action, comedy, and the intriguing story turns is a case of mistaken identification. Plus, it won the Newbery Award and is a beloved classic from the 1980s, so you can feel good about reading it to your child.

Hatchet (series) by Gary Paulsen is a survival story. 13-year-old Brian uses his hatchet, his wits, and his instincts to survive 54 days in the forest when his aircraft crashes.

Cast Off: The Strange Adventures of Petra de Winter and Bram Broen by Eve Yohalem.  Petra flees her violent father in 17th-century Holland and unintentionally ends up as a stowaway aboard a merchant ship sailing for the Dutch Indies. Petra is helped to pass for a male by the mulatto boy Bram, and she utilizes her expertise in healing to assist the ship’s physician. She wins the crew’s trust, but when they find out she’s a female and a mutiny breaks out, she and Bram are put at great risk. This is a really tense book with realistic depictions of life aboard a ship in the 17th century.

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus. My kid pulled this book out of my hands as I tried to read it and gave it a huge thumbs up. It is an adventure tale using historical events as its inspiration. During a fishing trip in 1841, Manjiro, a 14-year-old boy, and 3 other men were shipwrecked on an island off the coast of Japan. They are eventually saved by an American whaling ship, but Manjiro decides to go with the Captain instead of returning to Japan. He attends school in America while navigating the discrimination that comes with being a foreigner, and he eventually finds himself in California during the gold rush. No one was permitted to enter Japan after they had left since it was sealed off from the outside world at the time, yet Manjiro took a risk by doing so.

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. Although the classic by Jules Verne is thrilling, young readers may not understand the setting. Have students follow Phileas Fogg’s travels on a map while they read. Or even better, read it aloud to the family and start a conversation about the period. Read these recommendations before reading classic literature that can include troubling cultural prejudices and imagery.

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