The joy of children’s books is reading about things, and thereby living vicariously, without actually having to experience the discomforts or stress of it. Herein lies the beauty of runaways in children’s books. I remember two runaway chapter books that made me jealous for such a wonderful adventure. They bookend my list.
And these runaway kids were not even angry at their parents. It’s these independent adventures that fascinated me as a child reading these chapter books. My Side of the Mountain made me want to live in a burned out gigantic tree, subsiding by foraging off the land with a pet falcon, no less. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler made art museums suddenly interesting.
Not all runaways are so lucky. Some run from domestic violence; others can’t control their violent tantrums. Either way, these runaway experiences are more traumatic.
Do you have a favorite children’s book with a runaway? Please share!
10. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Sam Gribley just wanted adventure so he took off for his grandfather’s abandoned land in the Catskill Mountains, thus starting the greatest runaway adventure in children’s literature! He made it sound so enticing that other envious readers besides myself were moved to action. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was also affected:
“…I thought the Craigheads might be the only family in America that was having more fun than the Kennedys. Obssessed with falcons as I was from birth, I read My Side of the Mountain in 1964. … I entered Millbrook upstate New York drawn by its informal falconry program….My experience as a young falconer accounts in large part for my lifelong devotion to raptors and my continued interest in natural history….My years as a falconer helped drive my own career choice as an environmental lawyer and advocate. The knowledge and experience I acquired from falconers have marked my life and made me a far more effective advocate on nature’s behalf.”
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
[chapter book, ages 8 and up]