The best children’s adventure stories of 1965


The 2012 film by Wes Anderson Moonrise Kingdom, which is largely a tribute to the big enlightened children of the mid-60s, takes place in 1965. Say what you want, the guy has excellent taste.

The books Suzy carries, in MOONRISE KINGDOM

A year ago, I published a list of Best bed for older child of 1964. The year 1964 was a turning point, a fulcrum between the times we know as the fifties (1954-1963) and the sixties (1964-1973). In 1965, the 60s were well underway… well on their way to their peak in 1968 and 69. I think Wes Anderson would agree that the golden age for older children began in the 1950s, reached its full potential in the 1960s… and began to decline after 1973. Many good children’s books have been published since 1973, of course, but the golden age was over.

Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series, Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet spies on it, the Corto Maltese comic strip by Hugo Pratt, that of Richard Adams Ship down, the Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin, that by Roald Dahl Charlie and the chocolate factory, the Wolves Chronicles series by Joan Aiken, that of Madeleine L’Engle A wind in the door, at Jean Merrill’s The war of the carts, the Tripods trilogy by John Christopher and the Sword of the Spirits trilogy, The Outsiders by SE Hinton, EL Konigsburg Extract from the mixed files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the Changes trilogy by Peter Dickinson, that by Robert C. O’Brien Mrs. Frisby and the NIMH Rats, Ian Fleming Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander, Alan Garner Elidor and The owl service, not to mention the various DC comic book series “Fourth World” by Jack Kirby and Kamandi: The last boy on Earth… these all appeared in the sixties. See my Best Adventure of the Sixties (1964-1973) list, for more examples.

In anticipation of the 50th anniversary this year of the following titles, here is my list of the Best Beds for Older Kids of 1965. Let me know what I forgot!

Lit for older kids on Hilobrow: Best of 1963 | The best of 1964 | The best of 1965 | Frances Hodgson Burnett The lost prince (serialized) | YA Sci-Fi |


Stan lee and at Jack Kirby INHUMANS. Prior to the 1960s (1964-1973), Lee and Kirby created superhero teams that became beloved and enduring franchises: The Fantastic Four in ’61, The X-Men in ’63, The Avengers in ’63. But the Inhumans, which first appeared in the November 1965 – March 1966 issues of The Fantastic Four, were a different kettle: outsiders and outsiders, even among mutant superheroes, a superior race living in the shadows. Black Bolt, Crystal, Karnak, Medusa, Gorgon are not adorable; in fact, they are slightly mean. But that makes it an even more romantic version of the The madness of the argonauts my theme.


that of Susan Cooper ON THE SEA, UNDER THE STONE. This is the first installment of The Dark is Rising: the best fantasy series ever made for YA, not to mention one of the best adventure series “Matter of Britain” (i.e. medieval legend Arthurian). This particular episode isn’t particularly fantastic: it’s a scavenger hunt thriller starring three siblings on vacation in Cornwall. However, while the story begins in this Famous Five / Swallows and Amazons vein, we find out soon enough that the treasure that children (and some spooky adults) seek out is actually an artifact of the Light: a faction is that is to say, in an ancient, continuous and worldwide struggle for free will and order vs. enslavement and chaos! PS: Apparently it is one of Wes Anderson’s favorite books.

Black Cauldron 1st Edition

Lloyd alexander THE BLACK CAULDRON. The second in a series of Alexander’s books on the Chronicles of Prydain, which use Welsh mythology (Prydain is the medieval Welsh term for the British parts of the Isle of Brittany), particularly the Mabinogion, for inspiration, The Black Cauldron is my preferred. (But they’re all good, see The book of three, on my Best Bed for Older Children 1964 list.) The antiheroic Prince Ellidyr, who loves nothing but his horse, the sickly Gwystyl of Fair Folk, the witches Orddu, Orwen and Orgoch, and the doomed minstrel Adaon are formidable characters. It’s like Michael Moorcock’s Elric series without the sex, drugs, and desperation.


ELIDOR by Alan Garner. The author of the strange fantastic adventure of 1960 The Strange Stone of Brisingamen, and its sequel The Moon of Gomrath (included on my Best Older Child Lit 1963 list), returned in ’65 with this tale from the British fairy tale “Childe Roland”. Four English children enter a fantasy world and embark on a quest to recover four treasures: a spear, a sword, a stone and a cauldron. Most fantastic stories would have ended with the successful resolution of this quest; However, when the children return to Manchester – which is described as an uninhabitable wasteland – evil follows them. The book is written in two different styles: When the kids are at Elidor, we read High Fantasy; when they are back in England we read The Famous Five. It’s uneven, but in a good way.


Tove Jansson’s MOOMINPAPPA AT SEA. The character of Moominpappa was strange to me when I first read these books. He alternates between writing his memoirs and sudden whims; his emotions are volatile. Here he decides he wants to be a more traditional paterfamilias, as he realizes that his family don’t turn to him for advice or support … so he gathers his wife and children on a boat and leaves for there. Moominpappa Island. (The plot is in some ways quite similar to that of Paul Theroux Mosquito Coast, also a sardonic inversion of the Robinsonnade adventure genre.) Moominpappa’s family suffers from one problem after another… why? Because they love him.


Sid fleischman THE PHANTOM AT THE MIDDAY SUN. He doesn’t read much anymore, I guess, but Fleischman was one of my favorite writers when I was between, say, 9 and 13. This book sits between Fleischman’s two best: By the big horn spoon! (included on my Best Older Child Lit 1963 list) and Chancy and the Grand Coquin (1966). Like these sons, the protagonist – 12-year-old Oliver Finch, who is kidnapped by pirates because they believe he can see ghosts, and they want to thwart the ghosts who guard the treasure they have buried – is at looking for a father figure, and finds one in an unlikely place. It is a version of Treasure island… But easier to read for older children today.


René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo Asterix and Cleopatra. The sixth volume of the Asterix comic book series; it was originally published as a serial in 1963. My favorite Asterix book has to be Asterix the Gladiator… But this adventure is up there. Enraged against the cultural imperialism of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra orders the Egyptian architect Edifis to build a new palace in Alexandria within three months. Edifis recruits Asterix, Obelix and Getafix to help them… which they do by dosing the Egyptian workers with their magic potion. Edifis’ great rival attempts to sabotage the palace’s progress, leading to a fun escape sequence from a pyramid, in which Dogmatix saves the day. (Note that Asterix and the Banquet also first appeared as an album in 1965.)

mad scientists from brinley

Bertrand R. Brinley THE CRAZY SCIENTISTS CLUB. Jeff, Henry, Dinky, and other members of the Mad Scientist Club tinker in a makeshift electronics lab above their town’s hardware store and use whatever materials they can find to perform various pranks and stunts. For example: a remote controlled lake monster! Fun fact: the author of the Mad Scientists series – collections of stories published in 1965 and 1968; and novels The great Kerplop! (1974) and The big chunk of ice (2005) – led an army program for assistance and safety instruction for rocket enthusiasts. He also wrote Rocket manual for hobbyists (1960). So he knew what he was talking about. These stories first appeared in Boy Scouts magazine Boys’ lives.


that of Louise Fitzhugh THE LONG SECRET. This book might surprise you … if you are, as I was when I first read it, a dedicated Fitzhugh fan. Harriet spies on it (included on my is Bed for older children 1964 listing). In this sequel, Harriet has another mystery to solve. She spends the summer in Montauk – not with her quirky excellent friends Sport and Janie, but with the milquetoasty Beth Ellen – when nasty notes start popping up in town. Like the vicious glimpses of Harriet’s own notebooks, they hit the nail on the head. Who is leaving them? And what happens to Beth Ellen’s body? Also: Harriet is a jerk, a bit! Lizzie Skurnick’s take on this book (“CSI: Puberty”) is really perfect: Check it out.


Beverly cleary THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE. By the author of the bestselling children’s books (1950-99) on Henry Huggins, Ribsy, Beezus and Ramona Quimby. I liked those books okay, when I was a kid… but I really liked this one. Set in a run down resort hotel in California, it’s about the fateful encounter of Ralph, a mouse who craves danger and speed, and Keith, a boy with a toy motorcycle. Turns out Ralph can roll the motorbike by making an engine noise with his lips… and he walks off, roaming the hallways of the creepy hotel, dodging vacuum cleaners and cats. (Was that where Kubrick got the idea for those scary Big Wheel scenes in The brilliant?) When Keith falls ill, Ralph must brave the greatest danger of all in order to get him some medicine.

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