The best amazing children’s adventure books about family and exploring

Sarah Scheele Author Of Ryan and Essie
By Sarah Scheele

The Books I Picked & Why

Cecile & The Kingdom of Belamor

By Marilyn F. Churchill

Cecile & The Kingdom of Belamor

Why this book?

This beautiful volume of three stories about a princess who deals with a spider-enchantress, a pair of feuding wizards, and a benevolent old dragon in her kingdom features pristine, gorgeous illustrations and a sweet-but-strong heroine. I just really love how Princess Cecile is a brave and sensible person and the twist that the real Cecile actually lives in our world and writes about Belamor was really smart, gently suggesting that princess stories are not just escapist fantasy, but an important part of self-expression for young girls as they grow up. It’s rare for me to find anything that so perfectly captures this idyllic genre. Marilyn Churchill has created a new fairy tale.


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Sleep, Merel, Sleep

By Silke Stein

Sleep, Merel, Sleep

Why this book?

This fantasy novel is about a girl who can’t cope with the lack of attention she’s receiving since her baby brother was born. He is very ill and has to use an inhaler so Merel’s parents are always tired and don’t notice her. The story is engrossing and heartwarming as Merel has become so angsty that she refuses to sleep and does nothing but scream. Eventually, she loses the ability to sleep at all. During a trip to a fantasy land to try to get her lost sleep back so she can be normal, Merel learns to accept her family and to feel affection for her baby brother. The story deals with regression about a new sibling in a fascinating way.


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Keekee's Big Adventures in London, England

By Shannon Jones, Casey Uhelski

Keekee's Big Adventures in London, England

Why this book?

This picture book blends fiction and non-fiction in a brilliant package. It’s part of a series about little KeeKee, a cat who is bursting with the innocence and curiosity of young children, as she travels the world to famous cities. In London, she sees some of the main tourist landmarks and has tea with a certain elegant old woman in Buckingham Palace. I think the book simply stands out because it’s so sincere. KeeKee’s excitement about everything is palpable and while the book has some sound facts in it, it brings the big world down to a tiny, friendly pint-size and is filled with joy.  


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Esme's Gift

By Elizabeth Foster

Esme's Gift

Why this book?

This is the second book in a YA series, a sequel to the also excellent Esme’s Wish. It features fantastic, to-swoon-for writing that builds a lavish water-based alternative world called Aeolia. In the first book, Esme’s mother disappeared but Esme found her in Aeolia. What I love about this second book is how it develops the family relationships as Esme tries to convince her father that his wife is alive in a fantasy land while her mother’s antagonist in Aeolia, Nathan Mare, turns into one of the best villains I’ve seen in a while. Detailed and menacing with his obsession with talent (called Gifts in Aeolia) because he doesn’t have a Gift, and ultimately convincing as a bad guy, he offers some subtle and thought-provoking reading.


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Sir Scrap Metal

By Joan Dee Wilson

Sir Scrap Metal

Why this book?

This charming chapter book turns a typical story about three children and a new pet on its head by exploring a creative idea—the adoption of a stern, dignified small robot instead. And Sir Scrap Metal is no ordinary robot, but a secret agent working for an animal protection agency. While the kids solve a mystery with his help, the transfer of furry friend to cold titanium friend was very skillful. I never thought I could care about a robot as much as a dog or cat, but this book reminded me what pet stories are about. To those who love them, pets are both superheroes who complete special missions and also buddies who want to belong—whether they bark or meow or chirp or emit monotone robotic statements.


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