Powerhouse Chapter Books for Early Readers

When I first started venturing out of the picture book sections of our local libraries and bookstores into the chapter book sections, these were the books that jumped out at me, mostly due to their sheer numbers. They take up multiple shelves in many of the libraries we use: the local public library, the school library, and yes, you guessed it, our home library. Enjoy!



Geronimo Stilton books published by Scholastic

Geronimo Stilton is a mouse who is a big-city newspaper publisher. Being timid and anxious, he would like to live out a quiet life—reading, writing, and drinking cheese milkshakes. However, he is also always willing to help out anyone in need, which leads him into adventures all over the world. His relatives feature prominently in the books as well: daring sister Thea, annoying cousin Trap, strict Grandfather William, and sweet nephew Bugsy. The books are fast-paced and funny, making them useful for both independent reading and as read alouds. Note that those learning to read may be tripped up by made-up words, such as “enormouse,” or the different fonts used for select words and phrases. Once we were familiar with the major characters, we started picking up whatever looked appealing at the library since it isn’t essential to read the books in order.

There are multiple spin-offs from the original series, including Creepella Von Cacklefur, Mice Kings, Space Mice, Thea Stilton, and Kingdom of Fantasy. The Thea Stilton books describe the worldwide adventures of a group of young mice who call themselves the Thea Sisters. Thea Stilton books are longer than the Geronimo Stilton books. Even longer are the Kingdom of Fantasy books. In them Geronimo has elaborate, lifelike adventures in the Kingdom of Fantasy as he dreams that involve typical fantasy characters, such as fairies, dragons, and wizards. Truth be told, I think we all love the Stiltons in our household!



Magic Treehouse books by Mary Pope Osborne

The Magic Treehouse series opens with a pair of siblings, Annie and Jack, exploring a treehouse filled with books. The treehouse magically whisks them away on adventures all over the world and through various historical time periods. Each book weaves in facts related to the place, time period, or subject of its adventure. The mystery of M builds over the course of the series.

I remain optimistic that one of our daughters will love this series as so many friends have recommended it to us. Our older daughter will happily select and read a book from the series at random from time to time, but has little interest in reading them in order and doesn’t request Magic Treehouse books to be read aloud to her. I’ve tried introducing  the series to her multiple times, and each met with a similar response. Maybe our younger daughter will be the one to fall in love with this series?



Rainbow Magic Fairies by Daisy Meadows

Rachel and Kirsty are best friends who share a magical secret: they are friends with the Rainbow Magic Fairies! Their adventures with the Rainbow Magic Fairies typically involve helping them retrieve magical items that Jack Frost and his goblins have stolen or are trying to steal. Most come in sets of 7, such as the Fun Day Fairies or the Jewel Fairies, and there are special editions that are essentially three books in one, such as the Selena the Sleepover Fairy or Brianna the Tooth Fairy. The books tend to be predictable in their plot. For example, in most books the first attempt to retrieve the missing magical item will fail and at some point in the book Kirsty and Rachel will be turned into fairies. Our daughters enjoyed being able to predict what was going to happen next, though we as grownups found the predictable nature of the books to detract from our enjoyment of them. Any violence in the books tends to be mild and many times Jack Frost sees the error of his jealous or greedy ways. With over 200 books in the series, it is more likely that your readers will lose interest in the books than you will run out of books to read!


Sunny Books for Sunny Weather


Super Happy Party Bears books by Marcie Colleen

“Slide to the right. Hop to the left. Shimmy, shimmy, shake. Strike a pose.” If you recognize this dance sequence, I’m betting that your household has also been introduced to the Super Happy Party Bears! Both of our daughters have fallen in love with this group of optimistic, upbeat group of bears. The Super Happy Party Bears love to have fun, throw parties, and want to make friends with the other residents of the Grumpy Woods. As you may have guessed, all of their neighbors are grouchy by nature and resist the efforts of the Super Happy Party Bears to befriend them. The Super Happy Party Bears don’t let this deter them, interpreting every rejection as a positive reaction from their neighbors. They solve problems that arise in the Grumpy Woods through the power of their optimism and upbeat nature, and often with a party of some sort. Our older daughter scolded our normally sunny and bubbly younger daughter out of a pouty mood one morning by saying, “You need to have a positive attitude! Be like a Super Happy Party Bear!”


Hamsters as Classroom Pets: Humphrey vs. Turbo

Do you know a hamster-loving reader? I happen to live with one! Our older daughter has been asking for a hamster for years. For now, the closest we can get is to read about the adventures hamsters have as classroom pets in the following two sets of chapter books. Both are suitable for early readers and for reading aloud. Enjoy!



Humphrey’s Tiny Tales books by Betty G. Birney

Humphrey the hamster is the classroom pet of Room 26 at Longfellow School. Unbeknownst to the teacher and students of Room 26, the lock on Humphrey’s cage is broken, allowing him to escape and have adventures when no one else is around. Another classroom pet, Og the frog, provides comic relief.



Super Turbo books by Lee Kirby

The Super Turbo books are a spin-off of the Captain Awesome series by Stan Kirby. Turbo is the classroom pet of Sunnyview Elementary School Classroom C. His superhero alter ego, Super Turbo, joins up with the other superhero classroom pets of Sunnyview Elementary School to fight evil in their school. The humor in these books never fails to delight both the kids and the adults in our house! The Super Turbo books have more illustrations and less text than the Captain Awesome books, but a similar look and feel.


Which is right for my reader?

While both sets of books are humorous, the Super Turbo books are the clear winners in our household. In the Super Turbo books, the plot tends move at a faster pace and build more suspense. However, the adventures in the Humphrey books usually involve a problem or issue to resolve, rather than a villain or villains, making them appealing for younger readers or those who prefer gentler books.

Starting Out with Graphic Novels

Our younger daughter’s radar for equity and fairness often focuses in on comparing which books she and her older sister have. Luckily, most books are relatively easy to share! However, not all of the graphic novels our older daughter is reading are both appropriate and interesting for our younger daughter. Babymouse and Lunch Lady have been winners for both girls, Super Agent Jon Le Bon and Plants vs. Zombies not so much. I’ve included some of our favorite graphic novels for even younger readers, with special thanks to my brother for introducing us to them. Enjoy!



Benny and Penny books by Geoffrey Hayes

Benny and Penny are young mice who work through typical elementary school issues and sibling squabbles, such as not being in sync about how and when to play together or not wanting to play with someone who breaks toys. The brother and sister pair always resolves their issues in ways that young readers will relate to and appreciate.



Bird & Squirrel books by James Burks

The two friends Bird and Squirrel follow in the tradition of Elephant and Piggie, Frog and Toad, and other unlikely friends. Bird is daring and optimistic, while Squirrel is cautious and fearful. The friendship persists through danger and adventures (even resulting in a theme song!) Adventures often require Squirrel to find a reserve of bravery deep within himself. Note that the pair is often chased by predators, which very young children may find scary.



Owly books by Andy Runyon

These books describe events in the everyday lives of Owly and his friends. They grapple with issues such as rain and mean insects or birds. The books are gentle, making them well suited for very young children, but perhaps not as interesting to older children. The stories are told with few words, providing young readers with an opportunity to learn about the structure of graphic novels and to make up their own narratives.


Graphic Novels for Younger Readers

Our older daughter has recently surprised me with a passion for graphic novels. Thanks to my brother, who often gives us graphic novels as gifts, we have a solid start at building a collection. Graphic novels are sometimes criticized for the level of violence in them and the way they depict women. However, my brother is well-versed in the range of graphic novels available and avoids giving us any that may fall into either of those categories. I’ve listed some of our favorites below. Enjoy!



Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

The Babymouse books were our first foray into graphic novels. These books tackle everyday tween issues, such as trying to fit in, struggles with schoolwork, coping with “mean girls,” and wanting to be popular, in a humorous way. Babymouse’s rich imagination and solid set of friends helps her survive many of the trials of growing up. Note that Babymouse is often taunted and called names by her nemesis, Felicia Furrypaws, but finds ways to cope with it. The Holm siblings have also created another graphic novel series, Squish, which is about an amoeba. While it didn’t resonate with our daughters as much as the Babymouse series did, it might be a great fit for your reader!



Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Lunch Lady and her sidekick, Betty, work together in the school cafeteria serving up meals to students until a villain comes onto the scene. They then fight back with gadgets invented by Betty, such as the spork phone and fish-stick nunchucks. The Breakfast Club, three students named Hector, Dee, and Terrence, often work with Lunch Lady and Betty against the villains. The books are fast paced. Like many superhero books, these books do contain physical violence, but the comical nature of the weapons and lack of gore keep the violence relatively mild.



Babysitters Club series by Raina Telgemeier

Based on the series by Ann M. Martin, the Babysitters Club graphic novels update a favorite from a few decades ago. A group of friends forms a club that offers babysitting services. These books navigate issues of friendship, work, health, and growing up in a relatable way. I was particularly impressed with how a diagnosis of diabetes is handled in #2 The Truth About Stacy. (Our older daughter also loved the graphic novels Smile and Drama, both by Raina Telgemeier, even more than the Babysitters Club books. Some of the themes in both of these would be best suited for more emotionally mature readers.)