In a previous post, I mentioned a line of books published by Scholastic called Branches. These books are geared toward readers transitioning to chapter books. The books have short chapters, lots of illustrations, straightforward plot lines, and each is part of a series.
Even within the Branches line, some books are more suited for earlier early readers and others for more sophisticated readers. In some, the illustrations almost cover the page accompanied by little text, often in the form of dialogue. In others, the illustrations take more of a back seat to the text.
We’ve sampled many of the Branches books and have included our favorites below. Enjoy!
Princess Pink and the Land of Fake Believe by Noah Z. Jones
Our younger daughter loves the Princess Pink and the Land of Fake Believe books, even though Princess hates pink and frilly clothing, while she wears almost nothing but pink and frilly clothing these days. (The fact that Princess loves bugs and adventures wins her extra points in my book.) The Princess Pink books put a wacky spin on timeless fairy tales, such as Jack and the Beanstalk and the Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Our younger daughter loves them so much that she requested a Princess Pink themed birthday party. Even after multiple readings, they come up often in the bedtime books rotation. Her only gripe with the series is that there are only four books in it! As with many fairy tales, there are scenes of physical conflict, but they are largely mild and softened by their comical nature, such as karate chopping the door of a house made of fish sticks and giving a giant a “knuckle sandwich.”
Olive and Beatrix by Amy Marie Stadelmann
Olive and Beatrix are twin sisters who approach life in polar opposite ways. Olive loves science, while Beatrix is a witch and loves to use magic. Arguments between the two get them into trouble, but the girls work together to resolve their predicaments through a combination of science and magic. Olive’s friend Eddie provides comic relief through his silly songs. I wish there were more than two books in this series!
The Amazing Stardust Friends by Heather Alexander
Ever thought about joining the circus? I suspect our younger daughter has because she was immediately drawn into the world of the Amazing Stardust Friends. After we finished the two books in the series, she assembled “Amazing Stardust Friends” outfits every day for weeks. These stories of life in the circus describe how group of girls eats, performs, and attends school in the circus. I think our daughter was intrigued by the similarities and differences between her life and circus life. The books also tackle issues of friendship, which is easy for this age group to identify with. The Amazing Stardust Friends books were the first books our younger daughter liked where there was more text on the pages than illustrations.
Kung Pow Chicken by Cyndi Marko
Truthfully, these books are not my favorite of the Scholastic Branches books, but they are big hits with both of our daughters. The Kung Pow Chicken books describe the adventures of two brothers: Kung Pow Chicken, a crime-fighting superhero, and his sidekick, Egg Drop. The boys work together to save others from dangers such as the loss of feathers and a supersonic weapon made from an opera singer’s voice. As with many superhero books, there is violence in these books, but it is largely mild and comical.
Update July 18, 2017 with a spoiler alert: We just read the third Kung Pow Chicken book (yes, we often read them out of order) and our younger daughter was terrified by the zombies in the book. The zombies did not act violently, but the concept and illustrations were enough to scare her. Our older daughter, on the other hand, was completely engaged throughout the book and wanted to read it again immediately after we finished it.
Owl Diaries by Rebecca Elliott
The first time I caught our older daughter staying up late to finish a book she was reading an Owl Diaries book. As suggested by the name of the series, these books are written in the form of a diary written from the perspective of Eva, a young owl living in Treetopolis. Eva worries about school, family, and friendship issues, all of which are easy for younger readers to relate to. Note that some readers may struggle with the way made-up words such as “flap-tastic” and “anyhoot” are sprinkled throughout the book.
A final thought
Even though the Boris, Stella and the Night Sprites, Haggis and Tank Unleashed, Looniverse, Missy’s Super Duper Royal Deluxe, Monkey and Me, and Lotus Lane books didn’t resonate as much with our daughters as I had hoped, they might be the perfect fit for the younger reader in your life!