Braving It: 14 Books That Teach Children to Be Adventurous

by James Campbell

When my daughter Aidan turned 15 we began a series of trips into the heart of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where we confronted grizzlies, polar bears, Class III and IV rapids, clouds of mosquitoes, howling winds from off the Arctic ice pack, temperatures that reached 40 below, and a profound sense of isolation. At first, Aidan was terrified. Gradually, as she became more comfortable, I could see a newborn hope spring up out of the fear. By the end of our last adventure, she was more confident and competent than I ever imagined she would be.


Aidan had wanted to go to Alaska with me since she was a little girl. When I worked on a book about one of Arctic Alaska’s last homesteading families, she was thrilled by the stories of my research. But the seed of adventure was planted even years earlier. When Aidan turned three I started reading to her every weekday morning. It became a tradition we observed for a decade.

The books we read, especially when she was young, were adventure stories. They usually starred boys or men as the protagonists, and Aidan often wondered why girls couldn’t build a raft and float down a river or survive in the wilderness. I told her that there was nothing stopping her from doing as much — or more — than any boy. It was a message she took to heart.

We read almost 100 books together in those ten years. Here are just a few of the tales that she loved — and that shaped her into the brave, adventurous person she is today.

To follow the challenges and triumphs James and Aidan encountered on their Arctic adventures, check out James Campbell’s Braving It.