Continuing with my book list series of early chapter books, today I’m featuring our favorite early chapter book series with girl protagonists. Note that I do not say: “early chapter books for girls.” My 8 year old son has given the seal of approval to all of these books.
Why should kids read series? I know my kids start to think of favorite characters as friends. That encourages reading because when you have a friend you want to read all about her further adventures! So, be prepared to bring home stacks of books home from the library.
Although these are all “early chapter books” and are generally recommended for ages 5-9, they are not all at the same reading level. They are best for children who have moved past easy readers, but are not yet ready for what are generally known as middle grade novels. You can read my parent tips for finding early chapter books if you need help finding good books in the library or bookstore. (Please note: Book titles and covers are affiliate links.)
Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke. This is an absolutely wonderful series about a girl living with her extended family in Africa. It’s gotten loads of praise by all the critics, and deservedly so. It’s a lovely series to introduce your children to family life in another culture.
Jasmine Toguchi by Debbi Michiko Florence. Each book in this fun new series incorporates Jasmine’s Japanese-American heritage into the story line. Intrepid Jasmine tackles pounding muchi rice, Japanese Girls’ Day, Japanese drumming, and more.
Lola Levine (series) by Monica Brown, illustrated by Angela Dominguez. I really like the Lola Levine series, and this is the first book in the series. Half-Jewish, half-Peruvian Lola loves to play soccer but is distressed when she accidentally hurts a classmate and the other kids start to call her “Mean Lola Levine.” Lola figures out a plan to change everyone’s mind and show them that she is really a nice person and good friend. I love the way the books in this Lola’s embrace her multiracial heritage.
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. Clementine might be my favorite 21sh century heroine. She’s super-spunky and determined to enjoy life despite constantly getting into scrapes. She’s been compared to Ramona many times, but I think I like her even better.
Ruby Lu, Brave and True by Lenore Look. There aren’t a lot of children’s books featuring Asian-American heroines, so the ebullient Ruby Lu is a welcome addition to the field. Ruby Lu’s Chinese heritage is an important part of the stories, especially when her cousin, Flying Duck comes to stay. I love the fun little flip book built into the first book as well as Ruby’s unique way of describing the world around her. (Side note: Grace Lin’s trio of Pacy Lin books is another series for a just-ever-so-slightly-higher reading level of you’re looking for Asian-American heroines)
The Doll Shop Downstairs by Yona Zeldis McDonough. Three sisters in early 20th century New York City live above their parent’s doll repair shop. This is a wonderful pair of books with an old-fashioned feel and charming illustrations. Author Yona Zeldis McDonough skillfully works in historical details about the effects of WWI on the family business and Jewish life in NYC’s Lower East Side.
Dyamonde Daniel. In this series, written by Nikki Grimes, a Coretta Scott King-award winning author, self-confident Dyamonde Daniel moves to a new apartment with her now-single mother. Dyamonde is a appealing heroine who continually demonstrates and acts upon her compassion for others.
Marty McGuire by Kate Messner. This is an intelligent, relatively new early chapter book series that follows the adventures of a decidedly un-girly-girl heroine! Third-grader Marty doesn’t want to play the princess in the school play and she shreds her princess paper dolls for the recycling. I love these two books and if you’re trying to help your princess-loving girl find a little equilibrium in life, bring these home from the library.
Amber Brown by Paula Danziger will be tickled to give their kids the Amber Brown series. Amber is one of my (and Kiddo’s) favorite characters on this list. She is truly irresistible, faces a variety of situations like dealing with missed friends and divorced parents. Author Danziger is a real pro who makes reading about life as a kid entertaining and realistic.
Piper Reed by Kimberly Willis Holt. Piper has a lot to deal with, she’s the middle child of a Navy Chief who’s just announced the family is moving yet again! Piper also has dyslexia and worries about school, but fortunately she has a strong family bond with her parents and sisters.
Piper Green and the Fairy Tree by Ellen Potter. Piper lives on a small Maine fishing island. One day when she is avoiding school she hides in a tree which turns out to have a magical secret.
Bea Garcia by Deborah Zemke. Bea loves drawing and her pencil, notebook and imagination get her through tough times when her best friend moves away. I love the way reading about Bea’s artistic ability will encourage kids to use their own means of self-expression to help them through life.
Mango and Bambang: The Not-A-Pig by Polly Faber, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy. This is a lovely series from a British author, with a wonderful, old-fashioned feel. Mango lives in a big city, with a lot of other busy people, including her very busy father. She feels a little lonely until she comes to the rescue of a frightened tapir named Bambang. The pair complement each other: Mango helps Bambang to navigate life in the city and to stay out of the clutches of Cynthia Prickle-Posset, a neighbor who collects Unusuals. In return, Bambang helps Mango with her own special challenge.
Cam Jansen by David A. Adler. Cam Jansen is a perennial favorite and for good reason. I know I wish I had a photographic memory to help me solve mysteries! I learned via the official Cam Jansen website that the first book was inspired by a real like incident while the author was taking care of his infant son.
Precious Ramotswe Mysteries by Alexander McCall Smith. Precious Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency book series for grown-ups solved her very first case in Botswana when she was just a girl. When her friends’ lunchtime treats go missing Precious is on the job and when she discovers the surprising thief a nice chuckle is had by all. This book is nice way of exposing young readers to other cultures and includes a reading guide, glossary, activity ideas and even a recipe! So far, there are three books in the series — all quite enjoyable, especially for read alouds.
Sophia Martinez is the star of a new series by Jacqueline Jules, the author of Zapato Power (… a series that I adore! See it on my list of early chapter books with boy protagonists). This series is at a slightly easier reading level than Zapato Power, with color illustrations and very large type with lots of white space. Some words are Spanish (there is a glossary, but their meaning is easily gleaned from the text). Sophie is an appealingly clever (and not annoyingly sassy, thank goodness) girl who likes to enjoy life, help others and make a statement.
Penelope Crumb by Shawn K. Stout. In the first book, Penelope has to come to terms with her big nose (inherited from her grandfather). This is a touching, yet still amusing story about a strong girl who misses her deceased father. I look forward to reading the second installment, to be published later this month.
Beany (Not Beanhead) by Susan Wojciechowski. I like Beany; she’s a bit of a worrier and goes through a host of your standard issue kid experiences, but you’ll probably have to find her at your library rather than the bookstore.
The Trouble with Cats by Martha Freeman. When her mother remarries, Holly finds herself in a new school, a new apartment and taking care of four new cats. A wonderful, realistic series about a girl facing fears and problems common to children of this age.
Princess Posey by Stephanie Greene. Confession time: I expected not to like this series for the simple reason that it has glitter on the cover. In my opinion, glitter on the cover is a book publishing marketing ploy based on a girly-girl culture for which I have a particular revulsion. However, never judge a book by the cover. In each book, first-grader Princess Posey, who has a “security tutu,” discovers the strength within her to face down her fears. I’ve found the age of the protagonist is a good indication of reading level, making this a good first chapter book after when transitioning out of easy reader books.
Heidi Heckelbeck by Wanda Coven. Like Posey, above, Heidi comes complete with glitter. Oy. The large font and illustration-heavy pages make this series about a school-aged witch a good choice for emergent readers who want to feel like they are reading “real” chapter books but may still not be ready for some of the others on this list.
Judy Moody by Megan McDonald. Judy is a likeable character who has real feelings and moods that kids will readily recognize. Fortunately for readers, the imaginative, clever Judy finds creative and humorous ways to always make the best of her situations.
Dessert First by Hallie Durand. If your nickname is Dessert, you have 5 siblings and your parents run a restaurant, you might expect to have interesting adventures that involve things like homemade double-decker fudge bars. And you’d be right.
Frankly, Frannie by A. J. Stern. Frannie has lots of career and entrepreneurial ambitions. She tries on lots of job hats and young readers who like to dream about who they will be when they grow up will find her to be a good reading buddy.
Daisy Dawson by Steve Voake. When Daisy rescues a butterfly, the creature gives her the power to communicate with animals. Henceforth young Daisy becomes a Dr. Doolittle in miniature with a lively imagination and a love of nature.
Stella Batts by Courtney Sheinmel. Stella wants to be a writer and so she decides to pen her own autobiography. Her adventures revolve around her parents candy shop’s magical candy, friends, family, getting a dog and other suburban themes.
Violet Mackerel by Anna Bradford. Large font, loads of illustrations and a plucky British heroine will appeal to the earliest chapter book readers.
Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry has become a classic! Second grader, Gooney Bird has a gift for storytelling, a unique sense of style and an irresistible personality.
Absolutely Alfie by Sally Warner. A fun series by the author of Ellray Jakes. In fact, Alfie is Ellray’s younger sister! A charming series about a friendly, funny second grader whose uses her voice to stand up for her self.
Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet by Jacqueline Kelly, illustrated by Jennifer L. Meyer. This is a spin off of the excellent middle grade novel about a budding young naturalist, Calpurnia (see below). In this series, Calpurnia and her younger brother learn to take care of the local wildlife.
Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay. Zoey is can-do girl scientist who learns she has a super secret skill: she can see magical creatures. Her not-so secret skill is applying the scientific method to taking care of these creatures when they are injured. This charming early chapter book series that teaches kids scientific concepts with a fantasy twist is a welcome addition to a growing body of STEM literature.
Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist by Jim Benton. Franny is a young mad scientist (yes, for real!) but I love how her problems are that of a normal kid. She just wants to fit in with the other kids at school. Since she is a scientist she makes observations about what the other kids are doing (playing with dolls, dressing “cute”) and eating (squishy white bread sandwiches instead of pumpkin ravioli) and then conducts experiments to see how best she can adapt. It turns out, however, that her uniqueness is what helps her be accepted and appreciated by her classmates. This very clever series is lots of fun for both boys and girls.
Sassy by Sharon Draper. Fourth grader Sassy is annoyed that her family calls her “Little Sister”. In fact, she doesn’t like much that comes with being the youngest child. She is determined to change things and the contents of her sparkly handbag that her grandmother gave her come in handy on that quest.
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.
Just Grace by Charise Mericle Harper. Grace navigates her third grade existence with the help of her best friend Mimi, her eccentric French downstairs neighbor, and her superhero-strength powers of empathy.
In addition to these early chapter book series about girls I have many others…
See all the early chapter book lists. 100s of book suggestions by themes a few of which include:
- Early chapter book series about boys
- Early chapter book series about animals
- Early chapter books with a magical theme
- Early chapter books with a sports theme