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Explorers and Exploration

books about explorers and exploration

Best children’s books about explorers and exploration

Join swashbuckling adventurers and brave pioneers in this list of the best children’s books about explorers and exploration. A journey through this handpicked selection of the best children’s books for an exploration topic is sure to inspire young readers to seek out new horizons!

Discover the fascinating world of legendary explorers in The Indestructible Tom Crean and Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. These tales get right to the heart of the explorer topic, championing courage and resilience while showcasing the triumph of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

For those eager to chart their own course of discovery, the Atlas of Great Journeys offers a lavishly illustrated, fact-packed tour of the world’s greatest journey, which can be enhanced with a unique augmented reality feature.

Our carefully curated list of children’s books celebrates the spirit of exploration and fosters a love for learning about the world’s unreached places. Discover the history of exploration and instil a sense of adventure in the hearts of young explorers, as they embark on a voyage of knowledge and imagination with this carefully selected list of children’s books all about explorers.

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Picturebook stories about explorers and exploration

Corinne Fenton

This delightfully illustrated picture book is based on the real-life story of a cat called Trim and his loyal guardian Captain Matthew Flinders.

Captain Matthew Flinders was an English navigator and cartographer who was born in 1774 and circumnavigated the world, adding detail and description to the first discoveries. The story starts when Trim was born aboard the ship HMS Reliance; as a little kitten he finds himself overboard in choppy seas. His bravery and resilience shines through and he is able to swim back to the ship and climb a rope back to safety. As a soggy little kitten, he quickly becomes a favourite of Captain and crew. He took advantage of his position by enjoying the best of the food and revelled in the attention bestowed upon him. What follows is an insight into her life aboard the various ships that he travels on, with each page detailing the name of the ship or voyage, and ultimately the circumstances under which they part company.

The illustrations are detailed, life like and in keeping with the style of the period; the colours are vibrant and appealing. The vocabulary and language used make it a great book to read aloud, and would suit an audience of primary children. The story jumps to voyages and a somewhat open ending allows for maximum discussion.

Katie Haworth
 & Daniel Rieley
Emma Jane takes a journey around the world in her aeroplane. She flies past impressive cities like Paris, Venice and New York, taking in the sites from above. But when her plane gets into trouble, can her animal friends find a way to help? The illustrations are highly appealing, the fun rhyming text is great for joining in with and it is important to see female pilots like Emma Jane represented in children's stories.
Julia Green
 & Alex Latimer
Right from the start, the boy loved the sea! He ran along the sand, danced in and out of the waves, his heart full of longing and delight'The boy has always loved the sea. So he builds a boat and sails away on a voyage of adventure...The wonders of the world await you in this beautiful and inspiring book about following your dreams.
Aaron Becker

A beautiful, award-winning wordless picture book. It follows the journey of a young girl who draws a magic door in her bedroom and travels through fantasy worlds by boat, balloon and magic carpet. Highly recommended for pupils across the whole primary range.

Chris Judge
This story follows a young boy who sets about to find his father, an explorer who appears to have gone missing in the North Pole. The boy has to prepare himself for the Arctic terrain by sourcing a map and packing his rucksack with all the things he thinks he might need. A fun and brightly illustrated picture book popular with KS1.

Longer picture books about explorers and exploration

Unknown Adventurer & Teddy Keen
Join the Unknown Adventurer again on this thrilling adventure into the Amazon, which begins with a map discovered in the Royal Geographical Society showing a river that has been mysteriously rubbed out. It leads the Unknown Adventurer and his companion Bibi into a search for this ‘last river’ that will change their understanding of nature forever.This book is a thrilling tale of a voyage into the Amazon rainforest that looks exactly like a real scrap book inside, with smudged pages, handwritten-looking text and even die-cut piranha bite marks from a previous scrape.The gripping story features encounters with caiman and anacondas, incredible flora and fauna, survival tips and much, much more.
William Grill
Graphic Novel

This is a brilliantly visual re-telling of Ernest Shackleton’s adventures from pole to pole, published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Shackleton’s historic expedition. This engaging text is filled with diagrams, maps, infographics and fascinating facts that will both delight readers and transport them through an imaginary exploration of frozen worlds. We recommend Shackleton’s Journey as a good non-fiction text to use for engaging reluctant readers in KS2. There is also an accompanying activity book available from Amazon.

Adam Murphy & Lisa Murphy
Graphic Novel
Meet the most exceptional explorers of all time!Which Viking voyager outclassed Columbus by 500 years?Who cut Ferdinand Magellan's round-the-world trip in half?What got Amelia Earhart's passion for piloting off to a flying start?Uncover all this and more in Corpse Talk, the hilarious and mind-expanding chat show that brings the dead famous to life!

Chapter books about explorers and exploration

Alex Bell
 & Tomislav Tomic
Chapter book

This new adventure story is a great choice for upper KS2. After fighting hard to gain her place on an expedition, young Stella and her explorer friends embark upon an exciting adventure through vast Icelands. A wonderful mixture of fantasy and adventure, the narrative weaves its way through dangerous and magical encounters with snow queens, unicorns, frost fairies and wolf-whisperers.

Vashti Hardy
Chapter book

Brightstorm is a cracking adventure story with flying ships, intrepid explorers, identity quests, sapient animals and the most wonderful cast of characters.

This thrilling steampunk adventure follows siblings Arthur and Maudie Brightstorm as they try to find out what happened to their explorer father. Arthur, who has a prosthetic iron right arm, is a great problem solver and book lover, while his sister is good at fixing things. When they learn about a race to South Polaris, where their father was lost, they win a place onboard the Aurora, a fantastic sky-ship. Maudie’s talent with tools see her appointed as second engineer. Arthur is hired as cook’s assistant.

On board Arthur adapts to draining tasks, although his iron arm is heavy and can cause him pain, while also learning new skills – making marsh cakes and communicating with thought wolves!

Stories about explorers and expeditions are always popular in primary classrooms and this one, with its fresh take on the adventure quest and its convincing world-building, is sure to fire up imaginations and become a firm favourite with budding adventurers across KS2.

Katherine Woodfine
 & Briony May Smith
Chapter book
A reimagining of the childhood of Sophie Blanchard, one of the world's first female aeronauts. Scaredy-Cat Sophie is afraid of everything. So when a balloonist comes to the town fair, Sophie is left behind while everyone else goes to watch him fly in his marvellous balloon. She's far too frightened of the crowds, the commotion and even riding in a horse-drawn carriage. But if she could just be brave enough to face her fears, who knows where Sophie's journey might take her.
Emma Carroll
Chapter book
Prepare to be swept up, up and away on this high-flying adventure from the queen of historical fiction, Emma Carroll!Orphan Magpie can't believe her eyes when she sees a boy swept off his feet by a kite ... or something that twists and dances in the wind.Like her, the boy – Pierre – dreams of flying over the rooftops of Paris. His family, the Montgolfiers, are desperate to be first to discover the secret of flight.The world looks so different up high and suddenly Magpie knows what she wants – to be the first to fly in a balloon above the King and Queen of France ...From the bestselling historical fiction author of books including Secrets of a Sun King, When We Were Warriors and Letters from the LighthouseDiscovery meets imagination in this rich and inspirational tale based on the true story of the first hot air balloon flight over Paris in the eighteenth centuryAn enchanting story of history, adventure, science and facing your fears.
Katherine Rundell
Chapter book

Winner of the Costa Children’s Book Award 2017, ‘The Explorer’ is set in the Amazon and follows the story of Fred, whose plane accidentally crashes into the rainforest canopy.

The Explorer is an exciting and gripping adventure that sees four children learning to survive as they journey through unfamiliar and challenging circumstances. This book transports you to a richly drawn land and you will find yourself right there with the children as they follow a map to a lost city, eating tarantulas and swimming with river dolphins.

Katherine Rundell’s The Explorer is a perfect class read for children learning about rainforests, the Amazon, friendships, resilience and much more. Exquisite writing from Katherine Rundell; teachers report that the quality of discussions that ensued in classrooms was inspiring.

A must-read for children before they leave primary school!

Catherine Johnson
 & Katie Hickey
Chapter book

The topic of polar exploration is a popular one in primary schools with teachers and pupils easily being able to reel off a list of famous arctic explorers: Shackleton, Scott, Cook, Peary. But how often do you hear the name Matthew Henson among the list, the man who travelled with Captain Peary and claimed to be the first to reach the North Pole?

In Race to the Frozen North, best-selling author Catherine Johnson offers a fictionalised retelling of Matthew Henson’s story, including how his achievements were unfairly suppressed for decades because of the colour of his skin. Published in Barrington Stoke’s ‘super-readable’ and dyslexia-friendly style, this is an accessible read for children in KS2.

David Long
 & Stefano Tambellini
Dyslexia-friendly Non-fiction

Nearly everyone has heard of Mount Everest. Towering over the Himalayas, it is probably the most famous mountain in the world. Equally, Edmund Hillary and the Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, became household names when they became the first climbers to reach the top and descend safely again in May 1953. But what of all the climbers who tried and failed? What are the challenges and obstacles facing a team trying to reach the 8,849 metre-high summit of the ‘Peak of Heaven’?

This fascinating book by the award-winning David Long looks at the history of the race to reach the top. It is packed full of fascinating information about the challenges climbers face on the mountain, about the differences between modern climbing equipment and that used in the past, as well as the personal stories behind some of the attempts (he goes into detail about the failed attempt by Mallory and Irving in 1924, as well as the successful Hillary/Norgay expedition).

The illustrations by Stefano Tambellini not only help to set the scene but also provide extra information. The picture comparing Mount Everest to other well-known mountains, for example, is simple yet effective. The book ends on a thought-provoking note – apparently, Everest is now littered with rubbish. At such a high altitude doing a litter pick is dangerous, yet there are teams of intrepid people trying to safeguard Everest’s natural beauty. Even at these high altitudes, humans are still managing to leave their mark, and not always in a good way.

Children's books about real-life explorers

Jennifer Thermes
Non-fiction Picturebook
At the turn of the 20th Century, scientists and explorers were in a race to unlock the secrets of the last great uncharted place on Earth – Antarctica. This is the true story of Tom Crean, the legendary Irish explorer and crewmate of three of the most important and famous expeditions in British history – Discovery, Terra Nova and Endurance. Through his story, we discover the events that took place on these voyages which were often thrilling, inspiring and heart-breaking.
Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara
 & Sally Agar
In this book from the critically acclaimed, multimillion-copy bestselling Little People, BIG DREAMS series, discover the life of Alexander von Humboldt, the botanist and adventurer.As a kid, Alexander wasn’t a great student. He had a naturally curious mind, but he saw the world differently to his teachers and fellow pupils, and just couldn’t quite fit in. But when he began collecting plants as an adult, Alexander realised he’d found his passion.From then on, he become a great explorer, travelling the world to document all kinds of plants and species. This inspiring book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the scientist.
Jennifer Berne
 & Éric Puybaret
Once upon a time in France, a baby was born under the summer sun. His parents named him Jacques. As he grew, Jacques fell in love with the sea. He dreamed of breathing beneath the waves and swimming as gracefully as a fish. In fact, he longed to become a manfish. Jacques Cousteau grew up to become a champion of the seas and one of the best-known oceanographers in the world. In this lovely biography, now in paperback, poetic text and gorgeous paintings come together to create a portrait of Cousteau that is as magical as it is inspiring.
Alastair Humphreys
 & Kevin Ward
Non-fiction Short story collection
Hand-picked by adventurer Alastair Humphreys, this compilation retells the extraordinary journeys undertaken by his personal heroes. These men and women have ventured into space, oceans, deserts and jungles and inspired Alastair's own adventures. They may do the same for you too.
Alexandra Stewart
 & Joe Todd Stanton

With a beautiful foreword by the greatest living explorer of our time, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, this brilliant book combines fresh and contemporary illustrations by Joe Todd-Stanton with Alexandra Stewart’s captivating writing and publishes in time to celebrate the centenary of Edmund Hillary’s birth. This unique narrative tells the story of how Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made their mark on the world from birth right up to their final days and the impact they’ve had on Nepal today.

Candy Gourlay
 & Tom Knight
Meet FERDINAND Magellan, the swashbuckling 16th century explorer who masterminded the first ever voyage to sail round the world and 'discovered' many new lands (even though loads of people already lived there!).Find out: - Why he was hated by royals and sailors alike, - Why he made one of his sailors dance with a giant - And how he was saved by a pot of jam!Get to know FERDINAND on First Name terms.
Mick Manning,Brita Granstroem

In ‘Women Who Led the Way’, you are invited into the world of some of the world’s most influential female adventurers. from Iceland to the South Pole, and from the depths of history to outer space, the women of this book have helped to shape the understanding of the universe we have today.

Each double-page spread invites the reader to engage with the explorer through a first-person narrative and, while written in a way which is accessible for younger readers, each is captivating and inspirational. The illustrations give the reader a sense of the intense focus within each of the women depicted, along with contextual clues about the time and place in which the women lived.

On each page is a short paragraph that challenges the reader to learn more about another woman who also led the way in their field or some additional insight into the challenges faced by these phenomenal women.

It is a superb book and would be a perfect addition to a class library, used as part of a topic on famous explorers or famous women in history.

Non-fiction books about exploration and adventure

David Long
 & Kerry Hyndman
Non-fiction Short story collection

This is an exciting non-fiction text containing a collection of captivating real-life tales of men, women and children who have survived the most perilous situations against all odds.

The book of short stories features a mixture of well-known adventurers, like Shackleton, and lesser-heard stories like that of Poon Lim, a man who wrestled for survival by living alone at sea on a raft for months and, desperate for something to drink to stay alive, captured and killed a shark in order to drink its blood! Many of the stories are truly incredible and they encapsulate how the sense of sheer determination, guile and radical bravery found deep within the human spirit enables people to overcome adversity in the most unlikely situations.

This is a superb non-fiction-that-feels-like-fiction text that we highly recommend to KS2 classrooms.

Libby Jackson
 & Leonard Dupond
Non-fiction Short story collection
A collection of amazing real-life stories about space exploration and adventure.Humans have always been fascinated by the universe, but only a few have been daring enough to travel beyond the Earth. From venturing into space for the first time to building the International Space Station in orbit, the history of space exploration is filled with peril, bravery and strokes of genius.In this beautifully illustrated anthology, spaceflight expert, Libby Jackson, reveals the very best true stories of humankind's thrilling journey to the stars.Grab your space suit and jump aboard - it's time for an astronomical adventure!
Simon Chapman

A scrapbook-style diary of a rainforest expedition. Simon is flying to the island of Borneo in the South China Sea. He plans to travel by boat and plane, and trek through one of the world’s oldest rainforests to find orangutans in their natural equitorial habitat. He’ll be sketching some of the island’s thousands of species of tree, mammal and bird along the way. Simon Chapman, winner of the Blue Peter Book Award, brings geography to life, and his Expedition Diaries are a great way to introduce the world’s biomes and habitats to children, direct from someone who’s actually been in them – sometimes up to his neck! Also available in the same series is Expedition Diaries: Amazon Basin.

Philip Steele
 & Christian Gralingen

This is a unique book deserving of a space on every bookshelf and is especially recommended for those who enjoy learning about exploring the world. It is a large, hardback book, with a beautifully illustrated cover and comes with an optional free app to download, which enhances the content by revealing the many explorers’ journeys in 3D. This is a very exciting element for the children and adults to use as it shows the journeys interactively.

The journeys covered stop at important points for your chosen explorer and interesting text pops up for the reader. There are many explorers, both well-known and less well-known from all around the world and across history. Each page is a double spread of beautifully illustrated maps with three explorers and more about their adventures. Timelines are included to support understanding and the glossary includes ambitious vocabulary.

This book was a gem of a surprise and we particularly enjoyed sharing the 3D element, to the delight and amazement of those who have seen it.

Simon Chapman
Simon has arrived in New Delhi, India,on the start of his journey to Corbett National Park and intowetlands, desert, and low-lying dry forest beyond. He's searching for the endangered Bengal tiger. But early on, the trip doesn't go according to plan, when Simon is involved in a car crash ...Simon Chapman, winner of the Blue Peter Book Award, brings geography to life, and his Expedition Diaries are a great way to introduce the world's biomes and habitats to children, direct from someone who's actually been in them - sometimes up to his neck! These books are perfect for sparking interest in this key school topic.

Nellie Huang
 & Jessamy Hawke
Great explorers have one thing in common - a desire to leap into the unknown, no matter the dangers it presents. This book will take you through Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the world 500 years ago to Barbara Hillary's treks to the North and South poles while in her seventies, and beyond.This non-fiction book provides an introduction to history's most famous trail blazers - people whose courage opened frontiers, turned voids into maps, forged nations, connected cultures, and added to humankind's knowledge of the world by leaps and bounds. Packed with jaw-dropping fun facts about the world and written so beautifully it will get your heart racing. Explorers is the perfect kid's book for any young mind with an avid sense of adventure!

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