8 Middle Grade Books and Series for Kids Who Crave Action & Adventure

If you are tired of hearing the young reader in your life complain “this book is boring,” try one of these great adventures! In these eight books, ranging from high fantasy to true tales of harrowing events, the pages turn almost by themselves.

The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo, by Stephen Bramucci
If you are want extraordinary adventures on just about every page, this is the book for you! Ronald Zupman’s parents are world-renowned adventures, and he’s sure he’s a master himself, even though they’ve never let him come along. But when his parents are kidnapped, Ronald is convinced he’s just the person to rescue them. His butler, whom he calls “Jeeves,” thinks otherwise (and shares his dry comments on Ronald’s excesses of zeal throughout the book). But he can’t hold Ronald back, and so they set off, along with Julianne, his fencing nemesis, and Carter, his pet cobra, to the jungles of Borneo and the secret lair of the fearsome pirate Zeetan Z. There they find adventures of increasing danger and peculiarity, with the hilarity growing as the final faceoff approaches. It is wild, and funny, and over-the-top in the best sense of the term!

The Adventurers Guild, by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
For those who like their adventures to include monsters and swords, set off into the infested forests that have grown up around one of the last cites left in a fantasy world. Zed and his best friend Brock have finally reached the age where they’ll be chosen (they hope) by one of the city’s guilds, though (they hope) not the Adventures Guild that patrols the wilds, fighting the dangerous magical beasts that have all but destroyed civilization. Most members of this guild get killed or maimed pretty quickly. But this is where they end up, and almost immediately, it’s they who must slay monsters, while saving their city from a conspiracy that threatens to bring it down. If fantasy adventure is what your young reader likes, this is the book to offer! There is never a dull moment.

The Eye of the North, by Sinead O’Hart
Here’s what you get in this book—vanished parents, a kidnapped girl, and a wild journey across the ice of Greenland toward a showdown not just with the kidnappers, but with a giant kraken and an evil Ice Witch! Fortunately Emmeline’s parents, expecting something along these lines to happen to her eventually, carefully trained her to be both resourceful and paranoid. Also fortunately, she finds friends along the way, including a vagabond boy trained as a circus performer, and a magical glacier horse in Greenland, and she’s in possession of just the right carefully pilfered object when she needs a weapon…It’s a fun fantasy adventure with a touch of science and a touch of steampunk, more than a bit of magical action and great characters.

Sink or Swim: a Novel of World War II, by Steve Watkins
Fantasy doesn’t have a corner on the action and adventure market. This book, set in WW I, brings a little known part of the war to vivid life. After a German submarine sinks his big brother’s fishing boat off North Carolina, leaving him in a coma, 12 year old Colton, big for his age, takes his brother’s enlistment papers and joins the Navy. Soon he’s patrolling the Atlantic looking for the enemy sub, with days of boredom punctuated by heart-stopping action and tremendous danger. His time in the Navy ends when his own ship is sunk by the Germans, and he must survive a terrible injury on an overcrowded lifeboat, with sharks circling. War isn’t sugar-coated—there is one moving death and many injuries, but neither is it glamorized.

The Emperor’s Riddle, by Kat Zhang
Here’s one for those who would prefer a treasure hunt to an epic quest. 11 year old Mia didn’t want to spend the summer in Fuzhou, China with her mother’s family. But at least her beloved Aunt Lim is there, sharing stories about the family connection to an ancient emperor and his lost treasure. The clues to the treasure’s location have been passed down in the family, and when Aunt Lin goes missing just after she meeting an old friend who knows the story, and who needs money badly, Mia’s convinced something is wrong. So she sets out to find the treasure herself, hoping to find her aunt as well. With some help from her brother and uncle, bringing them closer together, and some risky independent expeditions, she follows the clues from one ancient place to the next, in the busy city and beyond. Her aunt’s kidnapper is watching, and there’s some actual danger toward the end when he makes his move against Mia and her brother, but the adventures she has solving the riddles will please kids who like their mysteries to stay focused on the journey and away from too much violence.

Lily’s Mountain, by Hannah Moderow
Lily’s father made it to the top of the Alaskan mountain Denali six times, but made it back down only five. His last trip ended in a deep crevasse in the ice. But Lily can’t convince herself that a mountaineer as experienced as her dad is really gone. If she can get to Denali, and find the stash of provisions he always leaves at the bottom of the mountain undisturbed, she’ll know for sure if he never made it. She convinces her big sister to go to Denali with her to see, and they set off. Even the lower slopes of the great mountain can be treacherous, and finding the stash means some dangerous hiking, with adventures ranging from the uncomfortable (a porcupine encounter) to the potentially fatal (like a grizzly bear, and freezing cold stream crossings gone wrong). It’s an exciting wilderness adventure, given emotional weight by Lily’s grief.

Bound by Ice: a True North Pole Survival Story, by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace
Some of the most exciting adventures in print are true stories. Here’s one that will make your home feel warmer this winter by comparison, about the crew of the USS Jeannette, who left San Francisco in the summer of 1879 to find a route through the Arctic oceans to the North Pole. It didn’t go well. Their ship became locked in the ice, and drifted, stuck in it, for two years before breaking up. The surviving crew members were forced to set out on foot across the Arctic, with woefully inadequate supplies. Many did not survive. The narrative is supplemented by excerpts from the captain’s journals, contemporary newspaper articles, and photos and sketches by the men on the expedition, bringing their horrific adventure vividly to life.

Death on the River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Amazon Adventure, by Samantha Seiple
Here’s another true adventure that’s much more enjoyable to read about than it was for those involved, and that will make you welcome a bit of cold weather! In 1913, Theodore Roosevelt and his son took part in an expedition deep into the Amazon jungle to chart the path of an unmapped river, led by an expert Brazilian explorer and mapmaker who had survived other such expeditions. This trip, though, almost proved fatal to everyone that took part. Impassible rapids kept their progress slow, and they were beset by starvation, disease, infected injuries, and a traitor in their midst. But Teddy was determined to make it home alive, and did so by the skin of his teeth. It’s a thrilling story of a truly harrowing adventure!

Do you know a young reader who loves adventure stories?

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