Children who love their reading to be filled with action, danger, and suspense will love these adventure early chapter books. Stories of magical creatures, good vs. evil and secret identities will entice readers ages 6-10 to keep turning page after page, until they finally reach the story's conclusion.
These action and adventure beginning chapter books are aimed at young readers who have moved past "easy readers," but aren't yet ready for middle grade novels. When looking for books at the library, use my parent tips on finding great early chapter books.
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CATWINGS (series) by Ursula K. Le Guin, illustrated by S. D. Schindler
Le Guin's classic fantasy adventures will appeal to a wide range of readers. Cats with wings? You know there are a lot of adventures to be had! Four flying cats leave the city for the country, where they must overcome danger. Not to worry, all ends happily. In addition, the Catwings novels make exceptional read alouds, especially for preschool and early elementary children.
EMMA AND THE BLUE GENIE by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer
Find it: Amazon | Your Library
One night, Emma finds a bottle, but the blue genie inside has lost his ability to grant wishes. Emma agrees to help him and they set off to find the yellow genie who stole his magic nose ring. This turned out to be a good read aloud for my 6 year old, as well. This is a good choice for struggling readers on the upper end of the age range.
THE FABLED STABLES (series) by Jonathan Auxier, illustrated by Olga Demidova
Willa the Wisp is the first title in The Fabled Stables series. Auggie lives on an island and has a job taking care of one-of-a-kind animals in The Fabled Stables. His sidekick is a shape-shifting stick-like creature called a "Stick-in-the-Mud," named Fen. When a new stall magically appears in the stables, Auggie knows there is a creature who needs rescuing. Thus begins his quest to find and save a will-o'-the-wisp. This is a truly charming series, perfect for kids who love magic and mythical beasts.
MORE: Early chapter books with a magical theme
HARPER AND THE SCARLET UMBRELLA (series) by Cerrie Burnell, illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson
Harper lives in the City of Clouds with her Aunt Sassy and cat, Midnight. It always rains in the City of Clouds and Harper's scarlet umbrella is both a necessity and a means of transport. When all the cats in the city go missing, Harper and her diverse group of friends go in search of them. Harper and her friends use the gift of music to aid them in their adventure and rescue the animals from an evil conductor.
BEASTS OF OLYMPUS (series) by Lucy Coats, illustrated by Brett Bean
Demon (short for Pandemonium) is the son of Pan, who sets him up with a job looking after mythical beasts on Olympus. Hera brings her injured Hydra to stables. Demon must find the cure, with the help of some dryads, or face Hera's wrath. Note: We started reading the second book, Hounds of Hades, and both my then 6-year-old son and I deemed it too scary, so it's not for sensitive kids.
MORE: Mythology-inspired chapter books and middle grade books
THE LAST FIREHAWK (series) by Katrina Charman, illustrated by Jeremy Norton
In the land of Perodia, an evil vulture named Thorn, aims to destroy the beautiful Valor Wood, which is protected by Owls of Valor. A barn owl, Tag, and his squirrel friend, Skyla, investigate the Howling Caves, where they find a golden egg that hatches into Blaze, a firehawk. The three set off to keep Thorn from finding the pieces to the fabled ember stone. There are currently 10 books in the series.
THE ADVENTURES OF JO SCHMO by Greg Trine, illustrated by Frank W. Dormer
When she gets a mysterious package, (conveniently labelled "mysterious package for Jo Schmo"), a fourth grade girl joins the family business of crime fighting. Because Jo is a 4th grader, this is a good series to hand to older kids who are still working on their reading skills and may not want to read books that "are about little kids."
MORE: Girl superhero books
LET'S GET CRACKING! (series) by Cyndi Marko
The Kung Pow Chicken series straddles the line between graphic novel and chapter book. My then-6 year old LOVED this series and demanded I check all of them out of the library. I admit, the puns had me giggling. A young chicken gains superpowers when he accidentally falls into a mysterious vat in his uncle's lab in their home town of Fowladelphia (see what I mean?). In this first adventure, he and his sidekick must figure out what is causing the local population to lose their feathers. Silly and fun.
THE GUMAZING GUM GIRL (series) by Rhode Montijo
This book series cracked my son up. With tons of illustrations, the book's format and humor will appeal to reluctant readers. Gabby Gomez loves bubble gum but when her mom decides she has had enough, Gabby chews one more piece and when the bubble pops, Gabby is transformed into Gum Girl!
MELVIN BEEDERMAN (series) by Greg Trine, illustrated by Rhode Montijo
Melvin has just graduated from the Superhero Academy and now on the job fighting crime in Los Angeles. He teams up with third grader, Candace, he thwarts the McNasty Brothers and their evil plots. This was also one of my son's favorite series.
RICKY RICOTTA'S MIGHTY ROBOT (series) by Dav Pilkey, illustrated by Dan Santat
Dav Pilkey's fun series has a new look with full color illustrations from this year's Caldecott award winning illustrator Dan Santat. Ricky and his new robot friend chase bullies and defeat the local evil scientist, Dr. Stinky. This is reluctant reader-friendly book, as there are only a few sentences per page and lots of illustrations. In addition, a fun "flip-o-rama" feature breaks up the reading pace for kids who might find extended reading a challenge.
PRINCESS PULVERIZER (series) by Nancy Krulik, illustrated by Ben Balistreri
Krulik is somewhat of a master author of early chapter books, having penned several successful series in the genre, including Katie Kazoo, George Brown, and Planet Droid. Drawing upon her wacky sense of humor, Krulik has now given young readers the delightful Princess Pulverizer, a princess who'd rather be a knight! In order to prove to her father that she is worthy of knight school, she must go on the Quest of Kindness and perform eight good deeds.
LEROY NINKER SADDLES UP by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
This is a spin-off of the Mercy Watson book series. However, fans of that series, should note that this title is longer and has fewer pictures. This makes it a great choice for kids who have finished the Mercy books and want something a step up in reading level. With all of DiCamillo's trademark humor, Leroy and his spaghetti-loving horse, Maybelline, charge into Deckawoo Drive.
SIR LANCELOT THE GREAT (series) by Gerald Morris, illustrated by Aaron Renier
I quite like these quirky Knights of the Round table books, with their bumbling characters who are heroes in spite of themselves. The tongue-in-cheek humor may go over the heads of younger readers. That's okay because there is a big need for early chapter books which are sophisticated enough to appeal to older readers who still need books at an easy level. The audiobooks are also a fun way to experience this series.
MORE: Books for fans of King Arthur
SPACE TAXI (series) by Wendy Mass and Michael Brawer, illustrated by Elise Gravel
Archie is finally in on the family secret that his dad is an intergalactic space taxi driver (which still has to be kept hush-hush from his younger sister) and gets to tag along on a “take your child to work day.” Along the way they pick up, and team up with Pockets, a talking extraterrestrial cat who also happens to be an Intergalactic Security Force officer. This is a wonderfully imaginative series.
PRESS START (series) by Thomas Flintham
Press Start is a fun, easy graphic novel series from the Scholastic Branches imprint and kids will be attracted to to the pixellated artwork. In the first installment, a human plays a video game set in Animal Town in which the evil King Viking kidnaps a singing dog. In each level, a supercharged rabbit must overcome obstacles to rescue the dog and bring peace back to Animal Town. At this writing there are 11 books to keep your kids reading.
THE PRINCESS IN BLACK (series) by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Princess Magnolia's secret identity has her fighting the local monsters when they harass the shepherd's charges. Tongue-in-cheek humor, color illustrations, spare text and a bit of action make this a great book for early readers.
THE KINGDOM OF WRENLY (series) by Jordan Quinn, illustrated by Robert McPhillips
This series is good for kids who like fantasy. I probably would have loved it as a kid, even though it's not stellar literature. Lucas is a reluctant prince. He'd rather dress in peasant clothes and hang out with the village children than hang around the palace. He makes friends with Clara, the daughter of a seamstress and the two team up to find the queen's missing emerald. Lots of traditional fantasy elements like fairies, wizards, mermaids will appeal to kids who like imaginative worlds.
Ronna Mandel says
Great choices. Cannot miss with this variety as there's certainly something here to spark any 5-8 y.o.'s interest.
Thank you, thank you. Excited to check these out. My kindergarten is obsessed with Ricky Ricotta, but I've had a hard time finding other books for him to read.
Erica MomandKiddo says
I think publishers are starting to cater more to this level of reader so there are more choices out there now. They are on another list, but Captain Awesome and Galaxy Jack may also be good for your child. Happy Reading!
I love Mercy Watson books, I didn't know there were Leroy Ninker ones now! I've gotta get it!
Erica MomandKiddo says
It's so fun, you will love it.
We love Kung Pow Chicken and will have to check out a few more. Another great one that's in between like Kung Pow Chicken is Princess Pink and the Land of Fake Believe. She's anything but a girly pink princess. They are hilarious and my favorite as a mom, surprising (I love it when I can't predict the ending).
Erica MomandKiddo says
Thanks for the recommendation!
I've been hearing a lot of mention of Princess in Black, and to me, anything Kate DiCamillo has her words in has got to be great! Hers and Dav Pilkey, too 😀
Erica MomandKiddo says
It's a fun book!
Holly Hauck says
These are great! I pinned so I could remember them. I'll have my son look over the list to pick his next book.
Erica MomandKiddo says
So glad you found the list useful!
Jennifer Hodges says
Thanks for a great list. Having trouble finding series for my 6 year old boy (he loves the Kingdom of Wrenly series) - another series that my older children love (6 year old boy, 8 year old girl) is Greetings from Somewhere
My 7 year old loves the Dragon Master series,and the Eerie Elementary series. Both are chapter books but with big print and lots of pictures. Thanks for these suggestions- looking forwards to some winter reading!
Lauren barlow says
Have you read the dragonsitter series? My 6 year old loves them!
Amy // Sunlit Pages says
I just put almost all of these books on hold at the library. We have a road trip coming up, and these are just the right level for my five year old. Your lists are an absolute treasure trove!
Have a good trip!