My three-year-old and five-year-old love a good adventure cartoon. Whether it’s “Paw Patrol,” “Nella the Princess Knight,” or “Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” they don’t discriminate. I’m at peace with letting them zone out in front of the screen once in a while. However, when their pirate play took an unsavory turn – “No, you can’t drag your baby brother to the pirate ship by the neck, even if you’re Captain Hook” – and I found myself chasing them through the stacks of the otherwise quiet library as they loudly pretended to be Chase and Zuma on a mission with the pups, it began to feel like TV was encroaching a bit too much on our lives.
My kids have always loved stories and imaginative play, so I knew we just needed a quick rejuvenation of our reading material to remind them that books offer plenty of adventure kicks, too. Here are some age-appropriate, non-branded, nonviolent titles for the preschool and kindergarten set that still feed my kids’ desire for excitement, power, and fantastic possibility.
by Giles Andreae
In this story, Flinn stumbles through the back of a closet into an imaginary world. He and his pals – Pearl, Tom, and Violet – are swept into an adventure helping Captain Rufus Rumblebelly find his stolen ship. If this wasn’t enticing enough for my kids by playing into their constant power fantasies, Flinn must step into the role of captain and save the day, since the actual captain would rather be the cook. “Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs: Missing Treasure!” is another favorite, in which Flinn and his friends must save Rumblebelly’s grandson, Gordon Gurgleguts (try to say that without laughing), before he’s squirted with ketchup and eaten by a pirate T-Rex.
by Mini Grey
These books are like literary PIXAR movies, with an appealing storyline for kids and side comments that make adults chuckle. Traction Man is an action figure (with a vast array of adventure clothing) whose expeditions into the kitchen sink, compost pile, and bathtub are recounted with breathless excitement. In the second title, misunderstanding parents try to replace Traction Man’s faithful companion – a vegetable-scrubbing brush – with an electronic toy. Turbo Dog just can’t measure up, a subtle win for creative play.
by Simon James
At first I couldn’t figure out why my kids love these books. Then I realized that little Baby Brains, an intellectual and musical prodigy, is actually a pint-sized superhero. At the end of the day, however, he still wants his mommy, a reassuring message for my little cape-wearers.
by Adam Rubin
Like many families, we’ve loved Adam Rubin’s “Dragons Love Tacos” for a while and rushed to the library when “Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel” was released. We just recently discovered many of Rubin’s other hilarious titles – my kids’ favorite is this silly story about a pizza-loving raccoon’s quest to outsmart the “raccoon-sniffing broom bots” and indulge in a good pie.
by Katie Van Camp
My kids love the vintage comic book-style illustrations of this story of a boy who invents a robot to reach the cookie jar, inconveniently placed on top of the fridge. The robot goes haywire and steals all the cookies, an event the author implies happens in Harry’s imagination but one my boys are convinced is real. Our enjoyment of this book led us to search out the original Harry and Horsie, in which Harry travels into outer space to retrieve his beloved stuffed animal that floated away in a soap bubble. This book inspired my three-year-old to invent his own “super duper bubble blooper,” which resulted in a lot of spilled bubble mix.
by Simon Bartram
Astronaut Bob lives on Earth but travels to the moon each day for work. He cleans up litter, entertains tourists in passing spaceships, and meets other astronauts for lunch. In addition to finding Bob’s quiet but fantastic existence tantalizing, my kids love the fact that though he swears aliens don’t exist, the illustrations show cheeky extraterrestrials sneaking around throughout the book, even stowing away on Bob’s spaceship back to Earth.
by Erik Jon Slangerup
I identify with Fister Farnello’s “clean-and-mean” mother as much as my children sympathize with the Fister’s efforts to escape bath time. When Fister runs too far, he gets lost in the woods and wakes up in the bellybutton of the giant Dirt Man. By the time he finds his way home, he’s an unrecognizable filthy mess, but all is resolved when his mother blasts him with the hose. This book hit the right combination of humor, disgustingness, and suspense for my kids.