It can be quite the challenge to find appropriate, books for very young readers who are capable of reading books well above their grade level. What makes it more difficult is that the specific requirements for an "advanced reader" is different for every child! This list of books for advanced young readers is designed for children in kindergarten through 2nd grade who have not just advanced beyond Frog and Toad, they have already breezed through early chapter books like Magic Tree House and Junie B. Jones.
Just because a child can read a book, doesn't mean that book is appropriate for them! Remember, reading comprehension is not the same as the ability to decode written language.
As well as letting a child read all the "easy" books they want. (Never tell a child they shouldn't read a book because it is "too easy!!"), this list contains age appropriate books for kids 5 and up who can handle books with more challenging vocabulary, sentence structure and themes than the average reader their age. I would have been happy for my son, who was reading chapter books by age 4, to have read any of these titles.
Personally, I don't find reading level tools useful outside of the classroom. However, if you simply must know a book's reading level, you can use the Lexile Book Finder tool.
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THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER (series) by Kevin Henkes
The Year of Billy Miller is a pitch-perfect account of the year in the life of a second grader. Billy has a stay-at-home dad, school projects that present problems, sibling rivalry–in short, all the typical family and social situations that children must learn to navigate as they grow up. Henkes (and Billy) handle it all with aplomb and good humor. There's something very gentle and "old-fashioned," but timeless about this book and I think your kids will enjoy it.
(ALMOST) ANYTHING BY BEVERLY CLEARY
Beverly Cleary's ouvre is an excellent resource for advanced readers. The kids on Klickitat Street are charming, relatable, and have humorous adventures. The text is relatively large and peppered with illustrations. There's no need to stick to Cleary's most famous heroine, Ramona, either. My personal favorite is Henry Huggins, but Otis Spofford, Ellen Tebbits, and Socks are just as wonderful.
REVVER THE SPEEDWAY SQUIRREL (series) by Sherri Duskey Rinker
The author of Good Night, Good Night Construction Site has expanded into chapter books. Revver is a curious and ambitious squirrel who would be great friends with Beverly Cleary's Ralph S. Mouse. The Revver series is very funny, with lots of accidental chaos and action.
STICK DOG (series) by Tom Watson
The millions of books in the Stick Dog series are highly engaging, quite hilarious and easy to read. The books are in the vein of Diary of a Wimpy Kid in that the text is accompanied by numerous illustrations. However, whereas Diary deals with middle school life, Stick Dog is more suitable for elementary school aged children.
EMIL'S CLEVER PIG (series) by Astrid Lindgren
Find it: Amazon
Here's a rascal your kids will love. 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 then-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 scrapes, but it is impossible to think badly of a boy who wants to help others so much.
THE DOLL SHOP DOWNSTAIRS (series) 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.
WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE by Renée Watson, illustrated by Nina Mata
Heroine Ryan Hart is absolutely delightful. She is the first one to see the silver lining in any situation, and she always tries to see the best in people. But that doesn't mean everything always goes according to plan. Dad loses his job at the post office and the family has to make some big changes, not to mention her sometimes bossy older brother! A great choice for kids who love contemporary realism.
THE WATER HORSE by Dick King-Smith
Set in 1930's Scotland, a girl finds a strange egg on the beach and takes it home. She keeps it in her bathtub, where it hatches into a kelpie, a mythical water horse. The family raises it but when it gets too big they must release it into the loch.
BROWN by Håkon Øvreås, illustrated by Øyvind Torseter
Rusty is the target of three bullies. He decides it's time to take matters into his own hands so he creates an alter ego, a superhero named "Brown." Brown wears (you guessed it) brown clothes and enacts revenge with brown paint. Two of his friends become "Black" and "Blue" and together they roam at night, leaving their colored calling cards around the town. Full of tongue in cheek, laugh-out-loud humor. Oh, and don't worry, the bullies get their comeuppance.
DRAGONS IN A BAG (series) by Zetta Elliott
One day, Jaxon's mom leaves him in the care of Ma, a woman whom he thinks is his grandmother but is actually a witch on a baby dragon delivery mission. Ma takes him on as her apprentice and they travel to a magical world. When they are set to return to Brooklyn, Ma is accidentally left behind and Jaxon enlists the help of his friends to take care of the baby dragons and rescue Ma.
THE ADVENTURES OF CATVINKLE by Elliot Perlman, illustrated by Laura Stitzel
Find it: Amazon
Set in Amsterdam, Perlman's story begins when Mr. Sabatini brings home Ula the Dalmatian to live with him and his flying cat, Catvinkle. Catvinkle is at first wary, but then falls in love with Ula's smell (!) and the two begin their adventures, meeting up with other interesting pets in the city. This is a lovely, gentle chapter book for kids who love animals. Perlman's entertaining narration is humorous, incorporating word play, some slapstick and the themes of friendship and kindness. Readers will also love Stitzel's illustrations.
SKUNK AND BADGER (series) by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Badger lives alone in his aunt's brownstone. He spends his days doing Important Rock Work. But one day, his peace is disturbed when Skunk shows up, informing him that he is Badger's new roommate. Badger is none too happy about this and is determined to rid himself of Skunk. Hilarity ensues and lots and lots of chickens make an appearance. Will Badger and Skunk eventually become friends?
THE VERY, VERY FAR NORTH by Dan Bar-El, illustrated by Kelly Pousette
Duane the polar bear has a curiosity and sense of adventure that leads him to a shipwreck where he meets C.C. the Owl. He then encounters even more new friends like Handsome the musk ox, Magic the arctic fox, and Major Puffin. Together, they explore the wonders of the northern landscape. The cast of animals is as diverse in their personalities as they are in species and the thread of the story focuses on learning to appreciate one's friends.
PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH (A Not-So-Impossible Tale series) by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre
Here's a great choice for kids who love quirky humor. A shipping accident leaves a gaggle of pugs stranded in the snowy, frozen north. They are saved and adopted by a pair of kids, Sika and Shen. Sika and Shen harness the pugs in attempt to win the Great Northern Race, which ends at the home of a mythical man called Snowfather. There are many shenanigans along the race, including a bizarre encounter with noodle-loving creatures!
DETECTIVE GORDON: THE FIRST CASE (series) by Ulf Nilsson
Detective Gordon, the local crime stopper, has more of a penchant for tea and cakes than he does for police work, and don't even think about asking him to use the gun. He gets a small but enthusiastic assistant when he meets up with a young mouse, whom he mistakes for the criminal in a case he has to solve. Together they concoct a plan to discover the real thief, who has stolen all of Squirrel's nuts. The lovely, colorful illustrations are a wonderful accompaniment.
DETECTIVE NOSEGOODE AND THE MUSIC BOX MYSTERY (series) Mystery by Marian Orłoń
Mr Ambrosius Nosegoode is a retired famous detective living with his talking dog. But retired doesn't mean much when in his new home in a small town he sets out to investigate a missing music box. This isn't a rip-roaring funny book but there is a lot of subtle humor for discerning readers and is a great mystery for kids who don't like scary stories.
DOMINIC by William Steig
Dominic is a dog who sets out to find 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, your kids will be smiling from ear to ear while reading.
BLESS THIS MOUSE by Lois Lowry
A group of mice lives in Saint Bartholemew's church. Mouse Mistress Hildegarde looks after her community of furry friends, making sure they stay out of sight. When one of the mice is spotted by humans, the mice must come up with a clever plan to thwart an extermination on the eve of the Feast of Saint Francis.
RA THE MIGHTY: CAT DETECTIVE (series) by A. B. Greenfield, illustrated by Sarah Horne
Quirky characters abound in this mystery set in Ancient Egypt. Ra, the Pharaoh's cat, has an outsized opinion of himself. He's quite spoiled after all and, like all good cats, enjoys napping and snacking. However, when he and Khepri, a scarab beetle, team up to solve the mystery of missing jewels, he discovers he also enjoys sleuthing. Young readers will love the fun illustrations and humor.
STELLA DÍAZ HAS SOMETHING TO SAY by Angela Dominguez
Stella Díaz is as charming a heroine as ever you'll find. In the first book of the series, Stella gears up to give a presentation at school. Spanish words throughout don't interfere with the understanding or enjoyment by readers with no previous exposure to the language.