Thanks to all my newsletter subscribers who answered my call for feedback on what type of books you want to find for your kids! There will be another list next week, so stay tuned for that. Last week I made a book list of middle grade chapter books for every child’s interest, but if those were slightly too advanced for your kid, this week’s list should do the trick.
The term “early chapter book” always includes books in a range of reading levels. They can be suitable for kids as young as 5 up to kids ages 8 or 9. Most of these are series, and as I said last week, if you are giving them as gifts, go for the box set, if available!
Books that Feature Strong Girls
You will have no difficulty finding books and series about strong, charismatic girls. For an extensive selection, please visit my lists of series chapter books featuring girl protagonists, and stand-alone books with girl characters.
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. Clementine might be my favorite 21st 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.
Marty McGuire by Kate Messner. This is an intelligent 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. (There are now more in the series.)
Lola Levine Is Not Mean! (Lola Levine series). Jewish-Peruvian Lola loves soccer, but when she accidentally hurts another kid on the field, her classmates call her “mean”! Lola knows she has a big heart and wants others to know it too, so she uses her love of writing to turn opinion around. This is the first book in a brand new series. I love the way author Monica Brown (who also wrote the magnificent, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match) integrates aspects of Lola’s duel heritage throughout the book.
Books for Future Historians
Rescue on the Oregon Trail. I predict there will soon be dozens of Ranger in Time books. My son just read this book about a time traveling search and rescue dog. This golden retriever goes around the world and back in time to help kids in peril. My son pronounced it “Good, with nothing scary,” and “sort of like Magic Tree House, but maybe better.”
Time Warp Trio. With the help of a special and mysterious book, three Brooklyn boys travel through time and space to places like Camelot, Ancient Rome and Revolutionary America. They meet neanderthals, vikings, gladiators and their great-great grandchildren. With Sciezka’s quirky humor, this makes for entertaining reading. There are loads of books in this series.
Hilarious Books for Kids Who Love a Good Joke
All of my early chapter book lists contain a number of funny books, because — let’s face it — that’s what a lot of kids want! I have a list of funny chapter books to read aloud, otherwise chose a specific interest list and search for the funny books. As always, feel free to ask me for specific recommendations!
8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos is perhaps the book that elicited the most laughter in our house ever. The story begins when a dog chases a squirrel into a nearby elementary school. The squirrel runs from classroom to classroom leaving chaos in its wake. Each chapter is narrated in the first person by the various class pets that inhabit the classrooms. The pets range from hamsters to snakes to fish to birds and getting their different perspectives on the ruckus is extremely entertaining to say the least.
Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon, Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (Tales from Deckawoo Drive series). These two books begin a Mercy Watson spin-off series by Kate DiCamillo, and I must say I can’t wait for more. The trademark humor from the Mercy easy reader series permeates these longer chapter books. Leroy and Francine, both supporting characters in Mercy Watson, get their own stories. Leroy gets his dreamed of horse and Francine, the award winning animal control specialist ,comes face to face with the first animal who might actually elude her. Laugh out loud funny and very entertaining as read alouds, too!
Dory Fantasmagory had my son in stitches as we were reading it. Dory is a highly imaginative 6 year old. Her older brother and sister invent a “Mrs. Gobble Gracker” in order to scare Dory into “not behaving like a baby,” but Dory grabs onto the idea and her imagination runs away. It’s hard to describe the whole intricate plot here, but the way Dory’s imaginary world and real world overlap is hilarious. It’s a real winner, as is the follow up, Dory and the Real True Friend!
Graphic Novels for Kids
Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye is a short graphic novel series about the “world’s fluffiest detective”. In the first book, Sasspants, PI(G) is determined to solve the mystery of the missing sandwich, going so far as to set a trap by disguising a turtle as a sandwich in order to smoke out the thief. The cast of characters in the pet shop are highly entertaining and this humorous series is great for kids who love graphic novels but aren’t ready for full-length novels.
Dragonbreath. Danny Dragonbreath has a bit of a problem: he can’t breath fire. In an effort to complete a school assignment, he drags his friend, Wendell off on an adventure, which doesn’t turn out so well for Wendell, but Danny’s breath might just finally save the day. This is a combo novel-graphic-novel book that my boys loved and I caught them laughing quite a few times.
Books for Kids Who Love to Think
These books are perhaps a little more thoughtful, a little more attentive to the emotional growth of the child as others in a realistic style– and then there is Phineas, who just loves science. The following lists may also be helpful:
My Happy Life and My Heart Is Laughing. I’ve been wanting to share these two books about the everyday life of Dani, a young girl starting school. The narration of these Swedish imports is gentle and thoughtful, allowing the protagonist to experience both the small happy moments of life (making friends, finding a place in school) and the sadness (friends moving away, losing one’s mother — years before the action of the story). The overarching feeling of the books is one of balance, but also that children have deep, complex emotional lives.
Sophie Simon Solves Them All. I adore this “humorously brusque” heroine who is a genius in spite of her parents who aren’t quite sure why she would want to learn about calculus at the tender age of eight. Sophie, on the other hand, is still learning all about what it means to have friends. A wonderful book.
Phineas L. MacGuire . . . Erupts!: The First Experiment (From the Highly Scientific Notebooks of Phineas L. MacGuire) (series) by Frances O’Roark Dowell, illustrated by Preston McDaniels. Phineas (aka “Mac”) is a fourth grader who goes through life looking at everything from a scientific angle. He observes, collects and applies data, but when he is paired with the new kid at school for a science experiment the pair have to figure out how to work together. The writing is funny and clever and kids will easily relate to the characters. The book even includes several experiments for readers to try at home.
Books for Kids Who Have Secret Powers
Want more awesome, powerful kids? You’ll find more great books on the following lists:
Freddie Ramos Takes Off (Zapato Power series). I have a great love for Freddy Ramos. After all, he and his mom love to read together. One day Freddy receives a mysterious pair of shoes which turn out to have magical powers and Freddy, being the kind of boy he is, uses their power for good. There are 5 books in the series so far.
The Princess in Black is 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. In case you are thinking this is a “girl book”, my 6 year old son LOVED these books and had me read them over and over.
Books for Kids See Magic Everywhere
Does your child want a magic-infused book to read? I don’t blame him or her. That’s what I love too. There are lots more choices here:
The Magician’s Boy. A young magician’s assistant waits patiently for the time when his employer will tell him he is ready to learn magic. When the magician’s Saint George puppet disappears, the magician throws the boy into the “Land of Story”. On his hunt to find Saint George he meets familiar story book and nursery rhyme characters. I read this aloud to the boys with much success.
The Worst Witch (series). Like the Harry Potter books, this series takes place at a boarding school for magic kids. In the introductory novel, Mildred begins her first year by getting a black cat and a broom. Poor Mildred, however, is not exactly the most skillful, coordinated witch in her class and her cat is a tabby! She mixes up potions and spells causing all sorts of chaos (and fun, of course).
Books for Young Sleuths
I have loads more mystery books here: 20+ mysteries and detective books
West Meadows Detectives: The Case of the Snack Snatcher is the start of a new series featuring two special needs kids who bond over a mystery at school. Myron, who is autistic is starting a new school. He earnestly narrates the story, describing his unique way of seeing the world, his need for structure and how his special ability to focus on the detail makes him the perfect sleuth. His energetic friend, Hajrah, who acknowledges she has a bit of ADHD, becomes his partner. This is a feel good story with a positive portrayal of a range of special needs kids.
The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure (series) is an spin off of J.J. Tully Mystery series (found on our list of mystery early chapter books ). We read the second book first, and it was one of my son’s best books of the year in 2014. We’ve since read the first book in the series about Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie, chicks with varying degrees of intelligence who solve backyard crimes that inevitably involve the squirrel population.
Clubhouse Mysteries. (series) A diverse group of four boys call themselves the “Black Dinosaurs”, build a clubhouse, decode secret messages and solve mysteries. This is a solid series from Sharon Draper that kids will like. There’s a bit of humor, appealing characters and, of course, some mystery. 6 books in the series.
Books for Who Kids Who Adore Animals
Guess what, animal lovers? I have a full list of fantastic books for you! Click here –> animal early chapter books.
The Story of Diva and Flea is a delightfully charming new early chapter book by Mo Willems and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi. In Paris, the adventurous Flea convinces the intimidated Diva to take a trip around the city to explore the wonder of life outside on the streets. Then Diva assures Flea that inside an apartment isn’t so scary and the two friends embrace how much greater their world is now, for knowing each other.
Down Girl and Sit Series is a funny, charming series told from the point of view of two dogs, who might not exactly be the brightest canines on the block. At least, they don’t always interpret their humans’ actions and intentions in the way we might expect. Very clever and great fun. 4 books in the series.
Akimbo and the Lions. Akimbo’s father is the head ranger on a Game Preserve in Africa. Each book in the series focuses on a different wild animal. Akimbo helps care for the animals and problem solves when the inevitable scrapes arise. I can’t think of another children’s book that is set on an African game preserve and McCall Smith’s conveys the story with real respect for the landscape and wildlife. 3 books in the series.
More great gift ideas:
- Book and toy combinations
- Chapter books with old fashioned flair that modern kids will love
- Math gifts kids will actually like