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Friday, June 27, 2008

Nostalgic Adventure

Did anything shape my childhood love of reading more than the series of books below the break? I think not. Politically incorrect, but absolutely rammed with facts about wildlife, wildnerness survival, and even - if occasionally a little patronising - other cultures. Do you remember....the Adventure books of Willard Price?

First line of the first book? "Hal sat on the head of a stuffed crocodile in the lobby of the Quito hotel and cleaned his gun."

Hal, 18, and his brother Roger, 14, travel the world for their father, a bring 'em back alive supplier for "zoos, circuses & museums". Museums. Think about that.

These covers are not the ones that I had as a kid, which were far more exciting and action focused, but I can't find those at all. Rather, these are ones from a set I bought a little while back for a (hush now) Top Secret Project.

Each book would start with the boys arriving in some new location with a list from their father of animals they needed to nab. They face various natural and man-made challenges before invariably some kind of villain enters the story with a plan to secure sunken treasure, poach ivory, or even (later on) take revenge! There was occasional unexpected twist in there, but that was the formula.

The books steamroll along, nary a chapter passing without some kind of challenge (or three) to overcome using Hal & Roger's seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge of the wild.

Although they don't exactly hold up to modern standards of acceptability, there's much to recommend the books. The boys are smart and resourceful. For all the guns getting waved about, it's the application of their knowledge that ultimately saves Hal and Roger. Most importantly, as any good children's fiction should, they transport the reader to worlds outside their own scope of knowledge, feeding and encouraging their curiousity.

"My aim in writing the Adventure series for young people was to lead them to read by making reading exciting and full of adventure. At the same time I want to inspire an interest in wild animals and their behavior. Judging from the letters I have received from boys and girls around the world, I believe I have helped open to them the worlds of books and natural history."
- Willard Price (1887-1983)

Bonus: From the editions I had as a kid, the cover to Whale Adventure...


  1. I loved those books. I re-read Volcano Adventure about two years ago, and enjoyed the experience thoroughly.

    Good luck on your secret project! (My guess is you're making a Willard Price Wax Museum Animal Petting Zoo Park! Am I close?)

  2. Not the covers you grew up with, but fantastic all the same!

    I particularly like Cannibal Adventure.

    Komodo Dragon catches unseen insect, boys catch Komodo Dragon, giant floating cannibal head catches boys.


  3. I was actually more into the Three Investigators series myself...