Best Early Chapter Books for Kids {Animals}

I am so excited to start this Early Chapter Books for Kids book list series! I have been working (and reading, reading, reading) on it for a long time and I am hopeful that it will be of great use to parents with children in the 5-9 age range.

15 Early chapter books for kids with an animal theme

Early Chapter Books about Animals

If your child is ready for an “early chapter book” he will have graduated out of the easy reader section of the library, but is finding typical “middle grade” chapter books too difficult for independent reading.

I also have a list of tips to find early chapter books and over the next few weeks I will publish themed books lists of these kinds of books. If you are new to this blog, you will also find my list of 50+ Chapter Books to Read Aloud to Preschoolers very handy for this reading level. Many of those books are appropriate here, but I am avoiding duplication between the lists! (Note: Titles and covers are affiliate links.)

The following early chapter books either have animals as the main narrative characters, or have a strong animal theme.

Bed and Biscuit. Grandpa Bender is a vet with a house full of loveable, delightful and well-meaning animals. Highly recommended.

8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel / 1 Dog = Chaos. This book is so hilarious, I read it aloud to both boys and they could not stop laughing. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different class pet, plus a squirrel as he is chased through various classrooms.

Down Girl and Sit (series). I found this series, narrated from the dog’s point of view (she thinks her name is “down girl” since she hears it from her master so often) quite amusing. Want to introduce your child to the concept of “dramatic irony” (i.e. when the reader knows more than the main character)? Start with this series.

J.J. Tully Mysteries (series). A former search-and-rescue dog takes on the role of detective in this clever, funny mystery series.  (I think the tounge-in-cheek humor will be better appreciated by ages 8+)

Spunky Tells All. A truly delightful tale. Spunky contemplates the eternal mysteries of Humans, like why they know nothing of “Smellody” and how erasing is the most important part of homework. But when the family gets a new pet, Spunky forms an unusual friendship. Includes illustrations by the wonderful Lauren Castillo.

Bad Kitty Gets a Bath. This is a popular series and I never thought I would like it until I actually read it and laughed quite a few times. It’s garnered all sorts of praise from professionals. It’s heavy on the illustrations, making it a good choice for reluctant readers and includes lots of facts woven into the text, which will appeal to non-fiction lovers.

Lulu and the Brontosaurus. Quirky is the name of the game for these two books about a gimme-gimme-gimmie girl who learns some valuable lessons about sharing and putting others before herself. Judith Viorst’s (author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) hilarious text is accompanied by great illustrations by Lane Smith. These books also make terrific read alouds, especially if — like me — you are into dramatics.

Maybelle in the Soup (series). I realize you think you could never love a book (much less a series) about a cockroach. But I dare you to take the challenge. Maybelle and her comic addiction to yummy food will win you (and your kids) over.

Lulu and the Duck in the Park (series). Previously published in the UK, this new-to-the-US series by established author Hilary McKay, has received good reviews. I really loved this sweet and funny story about Lulu, an animal lover who, unable to leave an abandoned duck egg in the park, hides it under her sweater and brings it to school. The next installment, Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, will be published later this year.

Duck for a Day. I highly recommend this extra-delightful story. Two classmates, Abby and Noah, vie for the opportunity to take care of the class pet: a duck named Max with some usual requirements.

How to Save Your Tail*: *if you are a rat nabbed by cats who really like stories about magic spoons, wolves with snout-warts, big, hairy chimney trolls . . . and cookies, too. How’s that for a book title? Castle-dwelling, book-and-cookie-loving Bob the Rat extricates himself from all sorts of trouble with his talent for telling fractured fairy tales.

Dog Diaries: Secret Writings of the WOOF Society. A Bank Street book of the year. A diverse group of dogs from all over the globe gather together practive thier doggie storytelling skills. Or if you prefer felines, try the companion book, Cat Diaries: Secret Writings of the MEOW Society. (Hint: Byers is an excellent source for early chapter books.)

The Lighthouse Family (series). Rylant’s use of language in this charming series harkens back to back to classic children’s literature (think: Beatrix Potter and Kenneth Grahame) and when the stories end you are sure to feel all cozy and secure.

Moose and Hildy (series). A moose and pig may seem like unusual pair of best friends, but these humorous stories will keep your kids reading.

Socks. Socks narrates his own tale of life after a new baby enters his previously quiet home. It’s hard to go wrong with Beverly Cleary. Dog fans can pick up a copy of Ribsy.

Following Grandfather. A touching story about a girl mouse who loses her grandfather and her journey towards coping with his absence.

Are you looking for even more early chapter books? You can check out all my Chapter Book posts or follow my Early Chapter Books Pinterest Board.

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  1. says

    Fantastic list – I’m struggling to find just the right level of difficult for my newly emerging independent reader – he’s 6 but loves the Geronimo Stilton books. I don’t have anything to link in this week yet because I’ve been taking a holiday from blogging. I’ll be back and posting new book reviews soon. Have a wonderful week! :-)

    • Mom and Kiddo says

      Thanks, Valarie. The two different Lulus on the list couldn’t be more different but both were lots of fun to read.

  2. says

    This is such a great list! My girls’ aren’t up to reading chapter books just yet but I’ll be looking forward to the ones we find when they are. I think I start collecting some of these in the mean time. Off to pin and share!

    • Mom and Kiddo says

      Thanks Penny, some of these make terrific read alouds even if your girls are not independent readers, yet.

  3. says

    Fabulous list! I’ve been looking for some good chapter books to read aloud to my girls; so many of these look like ones they would love.

  4. says

    Wow, I can’t believe this but I missed a Beverly Cleary book. I have never heard of or read “socks”. My school library must not have had a copy. She was my favorite author by far when I was growing up. This is a great resource, thanks.

  5. says

    Thanks for helping us discover chapter books! Also followed your pinterest board .Perfect timing for us – we are always looking for the best chapter books with 2 avid readers.

  6. Jen says

    Yay for more book ideas! We’ve only read the Bad Kitty books and Duck for a Day so are looking forward to trying the others. The Selby series by Duncan Ball (about a talking dog – there are about a million books in the series) was very popular with the kids in my older son’s class this year (Grade 1), especially the boys. My son didn’t like it much though so it’s obviously not for everyone. He has very definite tastes – he loved Duck for a Day so much that he took the copy we borrowed from the local library to school and insisted to his teacher that they have it for their class read-aloud. When she said that she couldn’t keep it in the classroom long enough because it needed to go back to the library he suggested that she copy the text out by hand! Luckily, she located a copy in the school library – much easier than transcribing it all!

  7. Terry Doherty says

    As part of this year’s Cybils, I discovered Following Grandfather (I do love Rosemary Wells) … I’d also recommend Maggie and Bramble (girl and horse), as well as Mr. Putter and Tabby by Cynthia Rylant. It might be too easy for some, but is on par with Annie and Snowball. Here is a review of Mr. Putter and Tabby Feed the Fish from one of our families at the Reading Tub:

    • Mom and Kiddo says

      Thanks, Terry. I love all those books that you mention. They are in the easy reader section of our library but the boundaries between all these reading levels are so fluid (I’m not an expert!) that I’m glad you mention them. The Mr. Putter and Tabby series is one of our favorites.

  8. Jenny says

    I’m excited to see what lists you come up with! I’ve found this genre to be tricky as Claire will self-censor if the type is too small or if there’s not enough pictures.

  9. Linn Reights says

    Hello Erica… My name is Linn Reights, children’s book author, I recently submitting a book to a literary agent from my children’s book series. The feed back that I received was “my book didn’t clearly define which age group it was targeting Middle Grade or Picture Books.” The agent suggested that I either add more character and scene descriptions for Picture books or turn the animals in the book (series) into humans for Middle Grade readers. But with MUCH JOY I came across your blog about early chapter books for children that are designed to introduce chapter books (novels) to beginners. In the blog you mentioned the use of animals as main characters in the early chapter books. (This has given me hope for my books) I’ve been researching how to write an early chapter book but most of the articles I’ve come across state that animals shouldn’t be used in chapter book novels (not early chapter books). Could you recommend some tips on what would be good guidelines to use when writing early chapter books? Or should I just follow the chapter book guidelines and ignore the advice to not use animals?

    Grateful, Linn

    • Erica MomandKiddo says

      Linn, I’m not really qualified to give advice to authors, having never worked as an editor or in the publishing industry.

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