There are so many "best read aloud chapter books" lists out there, why should I bother to write another one? Well, for one thing, most of the other lists I come across have the same 10-12 books on them. If you've spent any time looking at my 100+ book lists for kids, you know by now I have an aversion to telling you about books you already know about. I'm pretty sure you are aware that Little House on the Prairie is a good book for kids. Am I right?
I also read all the books on my lists! All the the following books are chapter books I read aloud to one or both of my kids this year. It is a mix of newly published books and classics. Some of them are read alouds that have appeared on other lists and a few I read years ago to my older son and am now revisiting with his younger brother.
I'd love to hear about any of read aloud chapter books you loved recently and if you read any of the titles I've recommended in the past, please let me know! (Note: as always, covers and titles are affiliate links.)
Appleblossom the Possum. Holly Goldberg Sloan wrote this clever and charming tale of young possum siblings making their way in the world. The story turned out to be surprisingly funny, too! Mama Possum teaches her children about how performance is an integral part of life as a possum and they all practice their acting skills, which come in handy on many occasions. When Apple Blossom falls down a chimney and is adopted by a girl with a longing for an attentive pet, her brothers enlist the help of their wayward dad and dance-floor loving mom to rescue her. I adored all the theater references and loved how much my boys laughed throughout the story.
I happened upon The Wainscott Weasel by Tor Seidler in the library one day and it's colorful illustrations and intriguing eye-patched weasel caught my attention. Bagley Brown keeps to himself, trying to escape the fame of his now-deceased father. At the pond he falls in love with a fish, but of course their difference is too great a barrier for romance. When drought comes to the pond, he risks everything to move the local osprey's nest. An interconnecting story about the other weasels in the woods brings all the pieces of the story together in this wonderful story. There is one brief scene in which Bagley recalls how his father and mother died that may be difficult for sensitive kids, it could easily be edited in a read aloud, if that is a concern of yours.
Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke. I meant to put this on my list of strong princess chapter books but forgot. I need to get a better system because I often realize that I forget to share some of our favorite books with you. Igraine comes from a family of magicians, but she would much rather be a knight! In fact, she is so bad at magic, she accidentally turns her family into pigs on her birthday. Unfortunately, it coincides with the arrival of Osmund the Greedy who wants to capture the castle and steal the family's magic books. Igraine must find the ingredients for a reversal spell and hold off Osmund at the same time.
Escape from Baxters' Barn. We are in the middle of reading this book right now and we love it! An eclectic group of farm animals must escape a barn before it is burnt down because the down-on-their-luck farmers want the insurance money. The animals work together to come up with a plan to escape. We are especially enjoying all the personalities of the animals, and for a drama queen like me, the book provides a lot of material for funny voices!
Dominic. I can't sing the praises of this book enough. It has easily become one of my favorite read aloud chapter books, yet. It was such a good read aloud that we finished it in one day! (We are very dedicated readers.) I am embarrassed to admit, I didn't even realize Steig wrote chapter books. Dominic is a dog who sets out for adventure. Along the way he meets the Doomsday Gang, a band of ne'er-do-wells who are spreading havoc among the local population. Dominic easily foils the greedy gang and earns everyone's awe and respect. His kindness towards towards others earns him a reward, which he spreads around to the less fortunate as he continues on his journey. Dominic has such a positive attitude towards life, you and your kids can't help but smile throughout the book.
The Tale of Rescue. So I admit that stories about dogs (and horses) are not generally my thing, but this is a compelling story and the illustrations are gorgeous. A 10 year old boy and his parents caught in a blizzard are rescued by a brave and determined dog. The narration sounds very much like an old-fashioned tale and perfect for a cozy holiday family read aloud, especially because younger children will love looking at the illustrations.
Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories. This is a long time favorite book of mine, but we came back to it this year almost accidentally. I checked out a picture book about Chelm, (The Jar of Fools: Eight Hanukkah Stories from Chelm) and my younger son laughed so hard that I decided we should read Isaac Bashevis Singer's book, too. If you are not familiar with Chelm, there is no time like the present. Chelm is a village of fools and the seven Elders are the most foolish of all. There are seven stories in all, each with a little lesson to be gleaned, but read them for the light-hearted humor and a few giggles.
Emil and the Great Escape. The author of Pippi Longstocking also wrote several books about Emil, a young boy who lives on a farm with his parents, baby sister, a farm hand and housemaid. Much to the delight of my 6 year old, who loves books about well-meaning troublemakers, Emil's grand sense of adventure and his natural goodwill gets him into all sorts of sorts of scrapes, but it is impossible to think badly of a boy who wants to help others so much. There are three books and they are well worth hunting down. We had a great time reading all all three books. Other books: Emil and the Clever Pig, Emil and the Sneaky Rat.
Gooseberry Park. My son's teachers read this to the class and my 6 year old loved it so much he wanted me to read it at home.So of course I did! This charming story follows the adventures of a bat with a taste for junk food, a kind dog and a wise hermit crab as they try to save their friend Stumpy the Squirrel and her new babies. Recently we also read the sequel, Gooseberry Park and the Master Plan, and enjoyed it just as much.
Little Dog, Lost. I have had more people write to thank me for introducing them to this book than any other title in my 100 book lists. A novel written in verse may not be high on your read aloud agenda, but I encourage you to try this one. Little Dog, Lost is an utterly charming story. Three plot points: a boy who needs a dog, a dog who needs an owner and a neighbor who needs a friend come together in an extremely satisfying story. For me, the cadence of the free verse made this book easier to read aloud than prose. The story is heartfelt and engaging while still providing kids (and parents!) the opportunity to contemplate and discuss ideas like the importance of community and companionship. I read it aloud to my 6 and 10 year olds and we all throughly enjoyed it.
The Nanny Piggins Series by R. A. Spratt. Reader beware: if you do not have a healthy appreciation for hilarious and ridiculous scenarios and absurd characters, run as fast as you can away from this Australian series. On the other hand, if you enjoy seeing your kids giggle hysterically, introduce them to Nanny Piggins. Last summer we read this first Nanny Piggins book and it was one of the highlights of the summer. If you haven't read Nanny Piggins yet, start with the first book, The Adventures of Nanny Piggins. (You can see it on my list of funny read alouds.) We have since read all three books and have laughed ourselves silly over all of them.
MORE: If funny is what you are after check out: 100 funny chapter books for kids.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. My son read and loved several of Kate DiCamillo’s books this year. He told me he really wants to read this one as well. A run in with a vacuum cleaner gives Ulysses the squirrel superhero powers! 10 year old Flora, a self-proclaimed cynic and comic book reader becomes friends with this new superhero, and even opens up her cynical heart. The novel uses comic strip style illustrations to tell parts of the story and is wonderfully funny as well as touching. This book does touch on some more serious topics and although it can be quite funny, I recommend it for kids ages 8 and up.
I debated putting The Princess in Black on this list because it is really a beginning chapter book, rather than a longer novel, but we read this one and its sequel so many times it seemed a shame to leave it off the list. This is the first in the much anticipated early chapter book series by the author of Princess Academy. 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. When the shepherd decides to create his own alter ego, we know we will be getting a sequel.
Buckle and Squash: The Perilous Princess Plot. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I recently read this novel to my 6 year old and we could not stop laughing! I quite enjoyed creating silly voices for all of Sarah Courtauld’s ridiculous and charming characters. Hard-working, practical Eliza and her dreamy, prince poster-collecting sister Gertrude are total opposites. When Gertrude goes off one day to find a prince and instead gets captured, her sister heads out to rescue her. We are eagerly awaiting the sequel!!
Operation Bunny: Book One (Wings & Co.) by Sally Gardner. The Dashwoods adopted Emily when she was abandoned in a hatbox, but when they have triplets of their own, they begin to treat Emily as the servant. Her life takes a decided turn after meeting her neighbor and a giant talking cat named Fidget. Unfortunately the neighbor, Miss String meets a sad end and it is up to Emily, the new Keeper of the Keys, and several new fairy friends to solve the mystery and track down an mischievous witch. There is a murder early on in the book, so that might affect your decision to read this book aloud. My son enjoyed the story and we read all three books.
Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes. My son loved this classic book about a boy who saves up for a puppy (one whole dollar!). Once Ginger Pye is part of the family, he mysteriously disappears and the kids are convinced he’s been stolen. The whole neighborhood gets in on the action to look for him. A classic, heartwarming tale.
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We've loved reading many of these aloud as well! My 7 year old loved Appleblossom! I love that so many of your selections have animals as main characters. I'm finding that my 7 and 8 year olds are still at the age where they like animal characters because they keep the story light, but the kids are old enough to want a little bit more adventure and tension that some of the young readers offer. We'll be looking for some of these at our local bookstore or library for sure.
Thanks for the book recommendations. My kids have a pretty small list of completed chapter books so far -- maybe just 5 books. The one we're reading now is a real hit with them both (ages 5 1/2 and 3). It's "The Story of the Golden Apple" by Pamela McArthur Cole. The book serves as a prequel to Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. We're reading it before trying to dive into Mary Pope Osbourne's Odyssey series.
The book is free on Google Play Books here:
Flora & Ulysses is a favorite, that last page just gets me. We loved listening to the first three Clementine books on audio this summer. My kids (7 & 10) loved your suggestion of Gooseberry Park! Two other great read alouds this year were WONDER and The Wednesday Wars.
Thanks again for great ideas. When you mentioned that you did not know the chapter books of William Steig, I have to share that one of my all-time favorite read alouds (as a teacher) was his novel The Real Thief. It truly has a mystery and a dilemma of how to handle it once solved and isn't predictable or sappy. I think it inspires thoughtful discussion. I've also read Abel's Island, but it didn't stand out in the same way.
Erica MomandKiddo says
Oh my gosh, I have read that book - The Real Thief. Wow, what a good book. I can't believe I forgot about it. I definitely need to read it to my kids! Thank you thank you for reminding me about it!
Even in Australia says
True confession - I remembered loving Ginger Pye as a kid but when I tried to read it as an adult, I found it too slow and boring. And I like a lot of older books! I've been meaning to read The Real Thief for a while, and this prompted me to add it to my library hold list.
Our favorite read-alouds have been Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky, but they are pretty sophisticated, both plot-wise and vocabulary-wise, and long!
Joni Sponholz says
A generous donation made it possible for our school to purchase a copy of the book, "I am Ivan" for every child in the school. They also distributed a reading schedule to each family with what chapters of the book to read aloud as a family over a period of several weeks. The entire school is reading this book simultaneously and it has been such a fun activity for our family and I am sure for other families as well! The book, as I am sure you are already aware, is such a good story with great lessons for all.
Rachel Warrick says
Thank you all , these are like gold to me and my family!!
Erica MomandKiddo says
I'm glad the list is useful. Happy reading!
We came across The Green Ember by S.D. Smith and loved it and all its sequel books -and the in between books! Smith does an amazing job of making a book interesting for all ages. Our three year old (siblings- 5, 7, 9) all the way up to Mom and Dad were anticipating what would happen next. We listened to them on Hoopla and Joel Clarkson did an amazing job with the voices!! We just finished listening to them for the second time. 🙂
I've heard from many people who have enjoyed Green Ember. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
We love The Very Very Far North. I was reading a book list much like this one and didn't realize there were any chapter books on it. I reserved it from my library and when I went to pick it up I was surprised to see a chapter book. I decided to take the risk and was pleasantly surprised at how much my almost three year old has been enjoying it! We've already ordered Beyond the Very Very Far North and I'm looking for more chapter books he will enjoy!
For those interested, it's a story filled with some big words and unique personalities, and it makes for great read aloud story-telling. My son often jumps on his trampoline or plays in his room while I read to him, but we talk about the story after and he absorbs so much more than I would have guessed. It's about Duane the polar bear and all the friends he meets while exploring the very very far north. I love doing different voices for the characters, which I normally am not that good at, but the way the book is written, it's almost harder not to! I can't recommend it enough!
The Very, Very Far North is one of our favorites.