Great Easy Reader Books for Kids

As I was contemplating titles for this easy reader book list I considered “Best Easy Readers”. That seemed a bit presumptuous though. Perhaps “10 Easy Readers that Won’t Make You Want to Poke Your Eyes Out” or “Early Readers that Parents Will Actually Want to Listen to Their Kids take 10 Minutes Per Page to Read” would be more accurate.

Easy reader books that won't make you cringe.

Despite their descriptive name, books for beginning readers are not easy to write and many are excruciating to read (think: books with licensed characters). Yes, I’m a snob but I will still be the first to admit that you should let your child read books with licensed characters if that what’s he likes. Still, it’s nice to have some books on hand for your beginning reader that, well, don’t make you want to poke your eyes out.

I hope with this list I’ve given you a few interesting choices. The books vary in format. Some use dialogue bubbles, some are divided into chapters or separate stories. One even has lift the flap pages. All of them (in my opinion) use humor wisely and have engaging illustrations. Many of these books are part of a series, so if they are a hit with your kids, by all means, pick up the rest of the series.

I’m not a reading specialist or a teacher so I won’t pretend to advise you about which books your kids are ready to tackle. All parents know that within the category of “easy reader” there are multiple levels. The books on this list vary from very easy (Up! Tall! and High!) to what might even be called an early chapter book (Tales for Very Picky Eaters). The library and your child’s teachers are an invaluable resource to help you find the right books. I encourage you to take advantage of them!

{Note: As always these choices are based solely on my — and my kids’ — opinions. I have included affiliate links should you wish to learn more about a title.}

A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse. This is not your typical easy reader and is often called a beginning graphic novel, but that description doesn’t do it justice.  Just like with Viva’s terrific picture books, Along a Long Road and A Long Way Away, the design of this book is superior. Viva’s own experience traveling to the Antarctic inspired the story of a mouse and his owner (presumably a boy) Dialogue is told in comic bubbles, with the mouse repeating the familiar refrain, “Can we go home now?” On the journey the duo meet penguins, swim in a warm water lake (yes, it really exists!), spot an orca… in other words they have such a good time, that when it’s time to go, mouse inquires, “Can we go back there soon?”

Bink and Gollie. There are now 3 Bink and Gollie books. Since my 4 year old is not reading yet, I read them aloud to him, and he laughs and laughs at the droll humor. Bink and Gollie are best friends, and as all best friends do, they make plans, explore their neighborhood together and even end up in a few spats. The writing is wonderful. As I was reading the third book, Bink and Gollie: Best Friends Forever, it struck me that it’s not any ol’ writer who can pen a child character saying “well-nigh” and have it seem natural!  In my opinion it’s really important for easy readers to have stellar illustrations which add interest and an additional layer to the story telling and Tony Fucile’s funny drawings do just that, and more.

Frog and Fly. The subtitle, “Six Slurpy Stories” says it all. There is a lot of humor in this one and the kids loved it. In each story, Frog manages to trick Fly into becoming his tasty meal. However, in the sixth story Fly manages to outwit Frog in a very surprising way. Jeff Mack’s illustrations are bold and to the point while the very simple text is conveyed in dialogue bubbles with the occasional “zip” and “slurp.”

Penny and Her Doll. Fans of Henkes’ Lily and the Purple Plastic Purse will love Penny. In Penny and her Doll, Penny spends several chapters searching for just the right name for her new friend. My favorite is Penny and Her Marble. Penny finds a marble on the sidewalk and picks it up. She takes hit home, plays with it, examines it. But all the while she can’t help but be a bit concerned that the marble is not rightfully hers. She thinks it might belong her neighbor. When she follows her conscience she gets a wonderful surprise. Don’t let the pink cover put you off if you have boys, my sons love these books. The third book is Penny and Her Song.

Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover. Rabbit and Robot make an unusual but highly entertaining duo. Rabbit has created a detailed plan for his sleepover with Robot: pizza, television and a game of Go Fish. However, things don’t go smoothly and Robot wants to deviate from the plan. Robot prefers Old Maid and Crazy Eights to Go Fish; he also likes nuts and bolts on his pizza. (You can see how this might present a problem.) This book is on the more advanced end of easy readers. Hand it to kids who need a bit more of a challenge.

Up! Tall! and High! This is a fabulous choice for the very, very earliest readers who still need extra simple sentences and a limited vocabulary. In three distinct scenarios, birds discuss and demonstrate the concepts of up, tall and high (you probably figured that out from the title, you are so smart) with a bit of humor and the help of a few lift-the-flap pages. This won the 2013 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. (This book is also a great read aloud to toddlers. Win-win!)

Bunny Days. I’m a bit of a Tao Nyeu evangelist. You may remember the photo of my kids reading Wonder Bear which accompanied my tips for reading wordless picture books and Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always would have been on one of my favorites of 2012 book lists, had I read it in time. Bunny Days is a set of three surprisingly hilarious stories (there is something about the style of Nyeu’s illustrations that makes me not expect them to be funny — thereby making them all the more wonderful). In each story 6 bunnies minding their own business when their lives are disrupted by Mr. and Mrs. Goat. Bear, however, is always around to put this right. There are some challenging words for beginning readers but since the text is spare, it’s not overwhelming.

Aggie and Ben: Three Stories is the first in a series of books about Ben and his dog, Aggie. In the first story Ben goes to the pet store and mulls over his pet choices. In the next two stories, Ben gets to know his new dog, and Aggie helps Ben overcome his nighttime fears. Author Lori Ries, somehow manages to use sentence and vocabulary repetition without making the stories boring. This is no small feat. Illustrator Frank W. Dormer provides just the right amount of additional humor in these charming tales of friendship. Fans of Cynthia Rylant’s Henry and Mudge will love this series. Also available in Spanish!

Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! It’s no secret that I am a huge Grace Lin fan. Having graced (pun) the kid lit world with some of the best chapter and picture books around, she now brings her talent to the early reader sphere. (Plus, easy readers with non-white characters are not easy to find. This is, in fact, the only one I found. Got any suggestions? Please leave them in the comments.) Chinese-American twins Ling and Ting share a lot of the same traits, but that doesn’t mean they are duplicates of each other. Their hair is a little different and only one of them can use chopsticks. Six funny stories will charm your early reader and Grace Lin fans will love discovering a few reminders of her other books in the illustrations (look closely!).

Tales for Very Picky Eaters. Schneider’s book contains some challenging word: lasagna, broccoli, interrupted. However, it is so entertaining, kids will want to decode it all to find out what happens. In the first 4 tales, James is a reluctant eater. His father tells him outrageous tales in order to convince James to try his food. In the fifth story, James attempts to one-up his dad, but in the end, it is the simplest suggestion that gets James eating. This one also makes a great read aloud — or so my 4 year old who has requested it a dozen times tells me.

Do you have any easy readers to recommend?

BEFORE you leave a comment telling me I forgot about Elephant and Piggie, please note that Mo Willems is super-duper famous (you’ve already heard of him, that’s why you’re telling me I forgot to mention him!) and so I bumped him off the list to make room for some less well-know but equally AWESOME authors. But you can still leave a comment telling me that your kids love Elephant and Piggie!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Using affiliate links does not affect book selections! Read my full disclosure.

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  1. says

    Interesting choices. We haven’t read any of them and now I am a tiny bit sad about that, since easy readers are beyond us. I’d add Dog and Bear series by Laura Seeger to your list.

  2. says

    Erica, of all the books you’ve listed, I’m only familiar with two : / UP, TALL AND HIGH is done REALLY well, I think :) And I’m a HUGE fan of the “Bink & Gollie” books. To me, Tony Fucile is one of THE best illustrators ever (you’ve GOT to read LET’S DO NOTHING!), and I don’t think it’s possible for Kate DiCamillo to write anything that’s not wonderful! lol

    So glad you mentioned there are now 3 in the series. I wasn’t aware that “Best Friends Forever” was released in April! Thanks! 😀

  3. Hope says

    Thank you so much for this list. Your suggestions are always perfect, even the librarian comments on the great books I find for my kids . I always tell her that it is the work of other wonderful mothers who share their finds on blogs! Do you have any suggestions for replacing the graphic novels Squish! by Holm & Holm?

    • Erica MomandKiddo says

      I’m not very familiar with graphic novels in general. My son reads them occasionally, but I’ve never “gotten into” them. I recommend poking around out Pragmatic Mom’s website. She reads a lot of graphic novels.

  4. Rebecca says

    Thank you so much for this list! It is timed perfectly since my oldest is just starting to read. I also do not enjoy the licesned character stuff and my girls will be happy with other stuff as long as I can provide on choices for them! I just requested most of these from my local library!

  5. says

    It is SO hard to find great easy readers. I get that it’s hard to tell a story with very few words not using difficult language. We love Elephant and Piggie and those classics by Arnold Lobel as well as Little Bear. And Ting and Ling. LOVE that series!

  6. Aly says

    I second the love for Lobel and also Little Bear. We also got a lot of mileage out of the Frog and Toad audiobooks (so much so that I’ve tired of them a bit, I’m afraid). My son also loved the Fly Guy series. For graphic novels, try Toon Books; they have a growing collection of leveled easy readers with varied styles and subjects.

  7. says

    I’m a fan of anything by Cynthia Rylant. Her best known early reader series are her Henry and Mudge books (which are lovely.) But my very favorites (and my kids’) are her Mr. Putter and Tabby series and her High Rise Private Eyes series.

    • says

      Ami, I’m so glad you mentioned those books! Kids DO love MR. PUTTER AND TABBY books, which flies in the face of the opinions (of agents and editors) that an “old” main character doesn’t work in children’s books. I’ll never agree with them! If it’s done well—it works! 😀

        • says

          Erica, I wrote and illustrated a book (just the dummy, at this point, not published) in which the main character is an older absent-minded kind of guy, with a puppy who has a mouse as a friend. I was told, several times (agents/publishers), I HAD to have a child in the book so kids could “relate.” Yes, IF the books were about actual childhood issues, but they’re not—they’re concept books (ABC,123,Colors,Shapes, position words, etc.). I had an art director say “Why?! He’s so funny!” And another editor say he really wanted to see more of the dog in other books, too.

          Anyway, the point I’m making is, generally speaking, it’s obvious the READERS and the AUDIENCE have no problem with an older character, but the PUBLISHERS usually do *sigh* SO frustrating : /

    • Erica MomandKiddo says

      Cynthia Rylant is such a great choice. It’s amazing how many books she has written. High Rise Private Eyes is a favorite in our house, too. It’s so hard to narrow books down for a list!

  8. Arundhati says

    Hi, I have not read any of these books. I will check them in the library.

    My kid is 5 years old. He can fairly read pre-reader level books like Loose Tooth or Tiny goes camping. But he gets tired/bored because of the length of the books.

    Are these books are smaller in size compared to pre-reader books?

    • Erica MomandKiddo says

      I’m not familiar with the books you mention, so I can’t do a comparison. The shortest books on the list are Up, High and Tall, Trip to the Bottom of the World and Frog and Fly. You might want to start with those.

  9. Arundhati says

    Hi Erica, I checked these the books at the library. All of them are wonderful. But you are right. My kids attention span is limited to books like frog and fly and ‘Up tall and high’. He could read them easily without getting distracted. He loved them a lot. The rest are too long for him.

    Can you suggest some more books like ‘Up tall and high’ and ‘Frog and Fly’?

    Thanks & Regards

    • Erica MomandKiddo says

      You can also try Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse. This week’s classic easy reader list included I Like Bugs, which is also very short. Try Elephant and Piggie books and looking in the easy reader section for books labeled with a level 1. Those are usually really short. You can also try books like Ling and Ting which are broken down into stories or chapters and just read one chapter at a time.

  10. Rebecca Douglass says

    Thanks for the lists! We are way past easy readers at my house (can you say “Game of Thrones?” :p ) but I work at the library, and this is definitely the time of year to need recommendations like this!

    I wandered in here from the Kid Lit Blog Hop.
    Rebecca at The Ninja Librarian

  11. MaiaRosen says

    I’m so happy to have found your lists! Thank you so much! I am a school librarian and lately I’ve had a bunch of boys who are dying to read “big boy books” but are really still at easy reader levels. It’s a real problem – they are constantly comparing books with their peers and don’t want to be seen reading “baby books.” The books I can “sell” to these boys have cool covers – non-fiction leveled readers with volcanoes or sharks but I would love some adventure, sports, or spooky stories to offer them. I’ve looked at the high interest low vocab readers like the HIP ones but they are a bit too hard. Any advice anyone? Also, do you prefer some leveled readers over others? I am also a licensed character book snob and of course pitching superhero books would be a cinch but I can’t! Mahalo from Hawaii!

  12. says

    I wish I had access to lists like this when I was teaching little ones. My own children grew up on Dr Seuss and PD Eastman and others of the era. It’s great to see what is out there – sometimes visits to the library can be a little overwhelming; there is so much choice these days.
    Recently I gave a two year old an early reader which was simply photographs of things going fast with the very predictable one line text repeated on every page (all good, essential for skill building). He loved it. I wasn’t quite so keen on it the umpteenth time around! I will be forwarding this list to my family for my grandchildren who are regular library-goers. Thanks.

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