Kids Books where Character Needs to Find Series of Things to Reach Goal
October 8, 2020 8:56 PM   Subscribe

These may not even exist. I'm looking for examples of kids books where the character needs to pick up a series of things in order to ultimately meet some sort of goal. Especially interested in examples where the things are revealed one at a time. I realize this is vague...see the more inside.

So here are some types of plotlines that would fit:

1. To meet the goal you need to read the map. The map has been cut into a puzzle with each piece hidden in a different place so you have to find each piece.

2. The thing-you-need is in this box. To open the box you need the key. To get the key you have to climb a tree. To climb the tree you need a ladder. To carry the ladder to the tree you need to borrow a pick-up truck. To borrow a pick-up truck, you need to get a nice thank-you cake for the truck bake the cake you needs raise the eggs you need a chicken coup etc.

3. Some sort of series of trades. The person who has The Thing would trade it to me for a painting. The painter would paint me something for a meal. The chef would cook a meal for me in exchange for fixing his roof. The roofer would fix the chef's roof in exchange for a new pair of shoes. The shoe store would give me a pair of shoes if I was their windows. So I wash the windows, take the shoes to the roofer, who fixes the chef's roof, so the chef cooks me a meal which I take to the painter, who paints a painting which I trade for The Thing.

4. Attempt to get the thing creates a new problem to be solved. e.g. the book stuck by Oliver Jeffers where the boy gets his kite stuck in a tree, throws up his show to knock down the kite. Shoe gets stuck. Throws up other shoe to knock down shoe. Shoe gets stuck. Throws up something else to get second shoe doewn.. etc. etc. until a truck, a whale, an oragungutan, a house, a firetruck, and any number of other things are all stuck in the tree.

If you know of such a book, please tell me about it. I can't just get it from the library because pandemic, so the more you can tell me about the setup/general idea, the better.
posted by If only I had a penguin... to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Harry Potter's horcruxes?
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:00 PM on October 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Deltora's Quest was the first that came to mind, although I had to Google around to remember the name. There are definitely others, though, this is definitely a sub genre that exists...
posted by Cozybee at 9:03 PM on October 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Silver Chair, fourth book in the Narnia series, has elements of this.
posted by migurski at 9:26 PM on October 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper. The other books in the series have similar quest lines but this one especially is a "collect them all" story.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:28 PM on October 8, 2020 [7 favorites]

These sound more like video game plotlines, especially 1 and 2. So you could look into novelizations of games...
posted by Spacelegoman at 10:07 PM on October 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

#4 sounds like that song about the old lady who swallowed a fly, and there are a number of books for young kids that follow the same general plot line - here's a readalong of a Halloween-themed one, "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat." The author, Lucille Colandro, did a bunch of others like this as well.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:18 PM on October 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
posted by Violet Hour at 10:45 PM on October 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

There's one I remember (but not the title) where a young kangaroo needs to go up a hill and bring back an ingredient for a birthday cake from the neighbours, but instead of going straight there as directed he repairs an old wagon (finding a wheel, etc etc). His reasoning is that with the wagon he can go really fast, like a bolt of lightning, but carrying it will mean he goes really slow.

He gets there eventually and every one is gone, so he comes home to find that everyone went there instead because he took ages.

Moral of the story- the faster way may not actually be faster, if it needs lots of prep.

(Would love to find this again if anyone recognises it!)
posted by freethefeet at 11:29 PM on October 8, 2020

Nix's Keys to the Kingdom (among other books) is referenced multiple times on pages related to the "plot coupon" trope.
posted by oceano at 12:52 AM on October 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yes, Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly feels like the classic #4 along with The King, The Mice and the Cheese.

I don't know if "collection" quests count for #1 such as Asterix and Oblix trying to obtain local delicacies from European countries in order to meet a bet.
posted by vacapinta at 1:03 AM on October 9, 2020

Are you familiar with Joseph Campbell's book The Hero with a Thousand Faces? Ordinary kid is somehow singled out for a special task - they're daunted but get help (often obscure or mysterious help) from some kind of mentor figure - they set out, travel far from home, complete the task - then come home, transformed. These themes are everywhere when you start to look for them. As I wrote that out, I thought of Back to the Future but it's everywhere, from Homer onwards.

The entry on wikipedia for the Hero's Journey has a pretty good overview.
posted by rd45 at 2:00 AM on October 9, 2020

A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones. The children in it have to find a series of caskets (Gold, Silver, Iron, and Lead) which have been hidden in different time periods, with the aim of correcting disturbances in history. The plot summary on Wikipedia gives more detail.
posted by Ballad of Peckham Rye at 4:25 AM on October 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

The series 39 Clues by Rick Riordan meets many of your criteria, both in each individual book as well as arching through the entire series.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:19 AM on October 9, 2020

The Magic Tree House Merlin Missions. If I'm remembering correctly, the series is divided into sets of four books. Jack & Annie have to find four things (one in each book) to complete the mission and save the day. They are given obscure clues, and have to figure out what the four things are while finding them. The books are all driven by moral values, and the things they find often represent life lessons.

I may be misremembering this -- this structure might be in the earlier Magic Tree House books rather than the Merlin Mission books.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 6:19 AM on October 9, 2020

I also immediately thought of Susan Cooper's books. There's even a poem that lays out the items to be collected, and that I still remember, despite having read those books more than 20 years ago.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:50 AM on October 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone.

These all sound like chapter books or young adult books, which I expected there would be some of which is why I didn't specify picture books..but I would LOVE some examples of picture books/younger kid books. Anyone know of anything matching these tropes that is for younger kids?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:16 AM on October 9, 2020

The first one that comes to mind is a YA chapter book, but it's a really good one (IIRC): Spiderweb for Two - A Melendy Maze by Elizabeth Enright. A brother and sister receive a mysterious note in the mailbox that kicks off a multi-season puzzle quest.

For younger children - I do remember a couple picture books from my own childhood that may fit the bill:
- The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise Brown (in which a bunny finds an egg and engages in a series of misadventure-experiments trying to figure out what's inside)
- Where Did The Baby Go? by Sheila Hayes (I had this as a Little Golden Book; it follows a young girl trying to figure out where a baby in a photograph went; you can probably guess the ending. :)).
posted by aecorwin at 10:07 AM on October 9, 2020

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie? It's not about reaching a goal, it's more about cause and effect being triggered.

I also swear that there was a children's picture book adaptation of the Jewish folk tale where a guy with a big family and a small house goes to complain to his rabbi that he feels like he's got no privacy or space, and the rabbi proceeds to advise him to keep moving more and more of his farm animals into the house with him over the next several weeks - and then at the end has him send all the animals back out into the barn again and the guy's like "wow the house feels so much bigger now, thanks!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:10 AM on October 9, 2020

The Patchwork Girl of Oz was one of Baum's original 14, it's all about a quest to find magical ingredients for a spell to save the hero's uncle. It is definitely a chapter book, but not YA. I read it to my 6 year old.

if you're interested in the folk tale Empress Callipygous is referencing, there are many picture book adaptations, like this one.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:49 AM on October 9, 2020

It's not a book, but your question immediately brought to mind the children's song There's a Hole in My Bucket, which has exactly this structure... although the dependencies turn out, in the last verse, to be circular and therefore insoluble.
posted by automatronic at 11:36 AM on October 9, 2020

We have a picture book we like a lot called Good Morning, Neighbor, which is about a series of animals gathering together the items needed for a cake.

First the mouse is looking for an egg for an omelet and asks her neighbor the blackbird. The blackbird doesn't have an egg but does have flour and says, we could make a cake if we can find an egg. Let's ask my neighbor the dormouse, who it turns out doesn't have an egg, but does have sugar...and so forth until they finally find an egg and then ask the owl to use her oven. They make the cake (everyone puts in their ingredient) but then someone doesn't want to give the original mouse a slice, but the other animals conclude that mouse deserves cake for having the idea in the first place.
posted by vunder at 1:54 PM on October 9, 2020

Aaron Becker's Journey Trilogy might work. There are no words, but my 2yo daughter loves when I describe the narrative to her. Beautifully illustrated.
posted by robotot at 7:02 PM on October 9, 2020

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse book is for toddler age. If you've seen the TV show you know what to expect.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:42 PM on October 9, 2020

The Rainbow Magic fairy books, by Daisy Meadows have the pre-teen heroines trying to find multiple items stolen by Jack Frost. There are about 8 billion of these books and my daughter read every single one od them when she was 6 or 7.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:19 PM on October 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Pancakes Pancakes by Eric Carle!
posted by alicat at 6:41 AM on October 13, 2020

Maybe You Must Bring a Hat! fits. A kid gets an invitation to a party that states he must bring a hat. The only one he can find is being worn by a monkey, who refuses to part with it -- but agrees to come along to the party, which counts as bringing a hat. But the doorman has a bunch of other rules; for example, monkeys can only come if they have a monocle, so they have to go find another animal that has a monocle and bring them along. And then there's a rule about that animal that means they have to go find someone else...

(My nephews LOVE this book.)
posted by alyxstarr at 6:53 AM on October 16, 2020

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