It’s already week 4 of my series of kids’ book lists featuring early and first chapter books for early readers! So far we’ve covered animals, girls (stand alone books and series) and today I’m giving you my recommendations for titles with groups of friends or families as the main characters.
As I’ve done in previous weeks I remind you that I’ve chosen these books for kids who have moved beyond easy readers but not yet feel ready for middle grade novels. The typical recommended age range for these books is 5-9, but of course you are the best judge of your child’s reading level.
For those of you whose children use an e-reader like the Kindle, I am happy to report that most of these books are available on the Kindle and some of the older titles which are unavailable in paperback are now being released in digital formats! (Note: I use affiliate links in all my book lists. All titles chosen based on books I’ve read and loved.)
Cobble Street Cousins. Three cousins live with their aunt while their professional dancer-parents (all 6 of them!) are touring the world. Lily, Tess and Rosie have lots of wholesome neighborhood adventures like baking and selling cookies and putting on theatricals. For parents who want to avoid sassy characters, this is a good series; lauded author Cynthia Rylant has a talent for writing stories which are simultaneously modern and old-fashioned.
Appleville Elementary. This four-book collection covers a single school year in a first grade classroom. Nancy Krulik (Katie Kazoo) has written a number of series, and this one is good for the earliest chapter book readers. These were some of Kiddo’s first independently read chapter books; he read them all repeatedly and you can’t argue with that! We’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Krulik several times at book fairs so we have a few autographed copies!
Ivy & Bean. A number of you wondered how I had left best friends Ivy +Bean off my list of series about girls (the most astute of you will have noticed they were in the collage – oops). Of course I could never forget this very popular duo whose amusing adventures have created a legion of fans. Sophie Blackall’s black and white illustrations are just as good as the writing. Don’t miss these books; large font, illustrations and short chapters make them a high quality chose for beginners (and grown-ups like me).
The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo. Judy Blume’s 1969 short chapter book is a classic and still a wonderful read. (It was also her first published book!) Middle kid Freddie wants to stand out from the pack and takes a chance in a school play. It all pans out and Freddie scores a win for middle children everywhere. Terrific.
The Pain and the Great One. The first book reads as a long picture book with a larger format, chapter divisions and full-color illustrations. That makes it a nice introduction and will entice kids to pick up the more traditional early chapter book installments which continue the adventures of brother (the Pain) and sister (the Great One). The stories are told in alternating views. As the sister of a younger brother I completely relate to these books and I appreciate that Blume paints a realistic picture of sibling life!
Zigzag Kids. Ranging from kindergarten to 6th grade, the multicultural Zigzag kids come together for an after school program where they engage in fun learning experiences. Each book focuses on a different kid.
In addition to Zigzag Kids, prolific and award winning author Patricia Reilly Giff also wrote the extensive The Kids of the Polk Street School, the The New Kids of Polk Street School, and the Polk Street Mysteries! I like these books because although the characters learn realistic life lessons about things like how to be a good friend and student, the stories do not come off as preachy. Many of the titles are no longer available in print but fortunately they have been released as Kindle editions.
Riverside Kids is one of my favorite series. Set in an apartment building in New York City’s Upper West Side, groups of siblings live in neighboring apartments. The two main families consist of Nora and her brother Teddy, and Russell and his sister Elisa. The children have lovely big city adventures and, unlike in many series, the kids age up as the series continues. As far as I can tell, Busybody Nora is the only one still in print but I’m delighted to see that many of the books are being released as Kindle versions, including Russell & Elisa and E is for Elisa. You can see a list of the Riverside Kids books available on Kindle here.
Beans on the Roof. Newbery author, Byars wrote this cheerful book about a group of siblings and their parents who write poetry on the roof of their apartment building. (How many families can you say that about?) I really enjoyed the loving relationship between parents and children as George struggles with writer’s block and Anna suffers a disappointment..
The Elevator Family. This is a funny trio of books about a kooky family who takes up residence in the elevator of a hotel building. A bit odd, yes, but their cheerful dispositions and unfailing kindness are contagious to everyone they meet.
Mimmy & Sophie. Like The Pain and the Great One series, the first book is presented in a picture book format with full-color illustrations and separate stories, while the second is formatted like a traditional chapter book. I think this makes a nice transition for early readers. The stories chronicle the ups and downs of being sisters in 1930s Brooklyn and focus on family life in that era and a lot of free play around the neighborhood.
Nikki and Deja. Karen English’s lovely series about two friends was a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year. It’s funny, sweet, and all girls who have a BFF will be able to relate to Nikki and Deja’s friendship and the lessons they learn.
Über-popular Magic Tree House is the granddaddy early chapter book series of them all. At last count I believe there were 54,894 (no, I’m joking — “only” 50!) installments which is good news because kids who love to follow the adventures of Jack and Annie as they repeatedly cross the time-space continuum to experience and learn about important historical events will read and read and read. For kids who love facts, there are numerous non-fiction companion books.
Double Trouble. This new series (well, 2012), chronicling the adventures of twins Kelly and Kasey is a spin-off of the popular Ready, Freddy! books. Twins are not as rare as they used to be, and the comedy will appeal to a lot of young readers. The books end with an activity page.
Got any books to add to the list? Perhaps I’ll feature them in the future!
Disclosure: Don’t forget! This post contains affiliate links.