Just Starting Out with Chapter Books

Our older daughter recently began reading chapter books independently. Although able to decode the text in most children’s books, many of the books I remember from my childhood are still a bit too difficult for her in terms of length, emotional complexity, or subject matter. Luckily, now there is a wealth of easily accessible chapter books for newly independent readers. (Just take a peek at your local library or book store!) I’ve focused on books that come in a series because our daughters enjoy reading about familiar characters and because it simplifies the search for books for them. Some of our favorites are included below.


Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo

Tales from Deckawoo Drive series by Kate DiCamillo

Mercy Watson is a pig who is treated like a member of the family by the couple she lives with. She has comical adventures that often end up annoying her neighbors, requiring the fire department, police officers, or both to make a visit. Buttered toast, one of Mercy’s favorite foods, usually makes an appearance at the end. Even after multiple readings, our daughters still laugh out loud at these books. Selected characters featured in the Mercy Watson books become stars in the Tales from Deckawoo Drive books. Bright, funny illustrations by Chris Van Dusen fill these books. (My girls also enjoyed his picture books If I Built a Car, If I Built a House, and A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee.)


Captain Awesome series by Stan Kirby

Super Turbo series by Lee Kirby

A group of superhero-loving friends have secret identities as part of the Sunnyview Superhero squad. The scenarios are familiar for kids (e.g., a field trip, soccer game, birthday party) but each somehow requires the kids to don their alter egos along the way. The comedy has never failed to delight in our house, and as an added bonus in later books of the series, one of the members of the Sunnyview Superhero squad is a girl. Superhero books often contain violence, but the Captain Awesome books keep it mild (e.g., spraying cheese from a can at someone). Same can be said for the name calling (e.g., Queen Stinkypants). A spin-off series called Super Turbo based on Captain Awesome’s sidekick has recently been released. If anything, the Super Turbo books are funnier than the Captain Awesome books!


Annie and Snowball series by Cynthia Rylant

Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant

Henry is a boy who has a pet dog named Mudge. Annie, his cousin, is a girl who has a pet rabbit named Snowball. These books feature quaint, everyday adventures. Our girls loved these as read alouds when they were in the 2- to 4-year-old range, but the books would also work as beginning chapter books.

Scholastic Branches by various authors

Scholastic has devoted an entire line to readers just starting out with chapter books. The range of Branches books means that you are liable to find something to fit the taste of every child. The books are filled with illustrations, which is something we found to be important in our transition to chapter books, as the girls were ready for more complex storylines and characters, but didn’t want to give up the fun of illustrations. In some, the illustrations almost cover the page with little text, often the form of dialogue. In others, the illustrations take more of a back seat to the text. In our house, Princess Pink and the Land of Fake Believe with her wacky versions of timeless fairy tales are favorites. (Note that Princess hates pink and frilly clothes, but loves bugs and adventures.) Our pink-loving, frilly clothes obsessed younger daughter even requested a Princess Pink themed birthday party! Olive and Beatrix, Owl Diaries, Kung Pow Chicken, and the Amazing Stardust Friends were also well received. (More to come on Scholastic Branches books.)

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