The best books featuring girls on epic outdoor adventures

Joni Sensel Author Of The Farwalker's Quest
By Joni Sensel

Who am I?

I grew up playing in the woods near my home and as an adult I enjoy backpacking, scuba diving, biking, snow-shoeing, and solo travel. When I was young, most books with exciting adventure stories in nature were about boys, but I know from experience that girls can do all the same things. And whether it’s set in a fantasy world or our own, I think adventures in nature help us learn who we are and how we connect to all that’s around us. That’s why my Farwalker trilogy features a strong, resourceful girl on a walking adventure, and it’s why I love to find and share other outdoorsy heroines with young readers. 


I wrote...

The Farwalker's Quest

By Joni Sensel,

Book cover of The Farwalker's Quest

What is my book about?

Ariel has always been curious, but when she and her best friend, Zeke, stumble upon a mysterious old telling dart, she becomes obsessed with figuring out what it means. Magically flying great distances and only revealing their messages to the intended recipient, telling darts haven't been used for years, and no one knows how they work. So when two strangers show up looking for the dart, Ariel and Zeke realize that their discovery is not only interesting, but very dangerous. The telling dart, and the strangers, lead them to a journey more perilous and encompassing than either can imagine, and in the process both Zeke and Ariel find their true calling.

The books I picked & why

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Ice Dogs

By Terry Lynn Johnson,

Book cover of Ice Dogs

Why this book?

I adore dogs and have always been interested in dog sledding, though I’ve never had a chance to do it. (But for a while I had two big dogs that I’d walk together with them pulling me along half the time, so my neighbors jokingly called us the Greenwater Dogsled Team after the name of my tiny mountain town.) This story about 14-year-old Victoria, who has her own dogsled team and tries to rescue the victim of a snowmobile accident, is gripping throughout. It just keeps getting more exciting, we care so much about her and her dogs, and the story even has a touch of romance along the trail. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Ice Dogs

By Terry Lynn Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ice Dogs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Victoria Secord, a fourteen-year-old Alaskan dogsled racer, loses her way on a routine outing with her dogs. With food gone and temperatures dropping, her survival and that of her dogs and the mysterious boy she meets in the woods is entirely up to her.

The author Terry Lynn Johnson is a musher herself, and her crackling writing puts readers at the reins as Victoria and Chris experience setbacks, mistakes, and small triumphs in their wilderness adventure.


A Girl Named Disaster

By Nancy Farmer,

Book cover of A Girl Named Disaster

Why this book?

I’ve been to Zimbabwe and have a soft spot for a variety of places and people on the African continent that are evoked by this Newbery Honor book. It’s about a thrilling adventure for an engaging teen who we can’t help but love, and it gives readers a glimpse at a wonderful land (and culture) they might not otherwise know much about. Plus haven’t we all felt at some point that our middle names, if not our first names, must be “Disaster”?

A Girl Named Disaster

By Nancy Farmer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Girl Named Disaster as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An African girl's epic journey to freedom, from an award-winning new writing talent

The Canyon's Edge

By Dusti Bowling,

Book cover of The Canyon's Edge

Why this book?

In addition to the love of deserts I mention in my next recommendation, I’ve enjoyed rock climbing and a bit of slot-canyon hiking, which is what initially drew me to this book set in Arizona's Sonoran Desert. The thrilling survival story kept me turning the pages. Plus much of this book is written in verse, which makes it a quick, intense read. It does include references to Nora’s loss of a loved one in a mass shooting, so it may not be appropriate for all readers. But those who’ve lost someone suddenly (like me) will fully relate to Nora’s grief and the way she fights back toward her life.

The Canyon's Edge

By Dusti Bowling,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Canyon's Edge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One year since she lost her mother to a random shooting, Nora and her father are exploring a slot canyon deep in the Arizona desert. They like to stay far away from other people now, or at least Nora's father does. Nora has been working with a therapist to try to heal, and she longs to have a normal life again, to be "just an ordinary girl" like she was when her mother was still alive.

But when she and her father reach the bottom of the canyon, a flash flood rips past them, sweeping away Nora's father and all…


Connect the Stars

By Marisa De Los Santos, David Teague,

Book cover of Connect the Stars

Why this book?

This fun book includes plenty of humor and kooky characters as well as desert disasters to be overcome. I love deserts, have traveled as far as the Namib and the Sahara to enjoy them, and included a desert in my own book, so the atmosphere of this story resonated with me. And I’ve been a camp counselor, too—though not in any camp as extreme as the one in this book! The dual narratives, one by 13-year-old Audrey and one by Aaron, coordinate well together and help the reader better feel their shared experience—as well as what they learn from each other. Readers who, like me, enjoyed Holes by Louis Sachar would probably also enjoy this one.

Connect the Stars

By Marisa De Los Santos, David Teague,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Connect the Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Saving Lucas Biggs authors Marisa de los Santos and David Teague comes a heartwarming middle grade adventure about two misfits discovering the importance of just being themselves. When thirteen-year-olds Aaron and Audrey meet at a wilderness camp in the desert, they think their quirks are enough to prevent them from ever having friends. But as they trek through the challenging and unforgiving landscape, they learn that they each have what it takes to make the other whole. Luminous and clever, Connect the Stars takes on some hefty topics of the day-bullying, understanding where you fit in, and learning to…

Julie of the Wolves

By Jean Craighead George, John Schoenherr (illustrator),

Book cover of Julie of the Wolves

Why this book?

An oldie but a goodie, Julie of the Wolves feeds my love of dogs as well as wilder animals. This Newbery Medal winner is another exciting and involving story about an adventurous girl that also offers a peek into another culture that sits side-by-side with our modern world. And yet, since I live in the mountainous forests of the Pacific Northwest, I felt like Julie’s world wasn’t so far from my own—only colder and with even more snow. Finally, the fact that this book has occasionally been banned is a reason by itself to read it, because young readers want and deserve the truth about life, and we all need to support books that tell that truth with sensitivity and hope.

Julie of the Wolves

By Jean Craighead George, John Schoenherr (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Julie of the Wolves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The thrilling Newbery Medal–winning classic about a girl lost on the Alaskan tundra and how she survives with the help of a wolf pack.

Julie of the Wolves is a staple in the canon of children’s literature and the first in the Julie trilogy. The survival theme makes it a good pick for readers of wilderness adventures such as My Side of the Mountain, Hatchet, or Island of the Blue Dolphins.

This edition, perfect for classroom or home use, includes John Schoenherr’s original scratchboard illustrations throughout, as well as bonus materials such as an introduction written by Jean Craighead George’s…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in survival, wolves, and deserts?

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