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