Disney Chapter Books

I grew up about a 20-minute drive from Disneyland and my parents still live where I grew up. During a recent trip to visit relatives in California, our family spent three fun-filled (but exhausting!) days at Disneyland, so I have had Disney on my mind lately.

 

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Anna & Elsa books by Erica David

Anna and Elsa, the sisters from Frozen, have adventures together. Other characters from Frozen, such as Olaf and Kristof, often make appearances as well. Although we have found some adventures to be more exciting and interesting than others, the plots are all straightforward and easy to follow. There are black and white illustrations scattered throughout the books. Our daughters went through a Frozen craze a while ago, so I expected these books to be much more popular than they have been.

 

 

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Disney Fairies books by various authors

The Disney Fairies books have been much more popular in our family than the Anna & Elsa books. These books describe the lives of Tinker bell and her friends in Pixie Hollow. Each fairy or sparrow man has a special talent, such as tinkering, flying fast, manipulating water, gardening, communicating with animals, or baking. Although I have not been the biggest fan of the Rainbow Magic Fairy books (see post from July 27, 2017) or fairies in general, the Disney Fairies books have grown on me. The authors have created detailed world where each fairy and sparrow man has a distinct personality. Pixie Hollow and its inhabitants come alive in these books. The conflicts and problems that arise are sometimes internal, such as the queen’s crown going missing, and sometimes external, such as fighting between chipmunks and birds. With only one or two illustrations per chapter, there are fewer illustrations than in many other books for early readers, but they are detailed and eye catching. Although the books are out of print, they are well worth the effort of tracking them down!

 

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Disney Princess books by various authors

Each of the Disney Princess books focuses on a different princess. Familiar characters are faced with new challenges, such as Jasmine figuring out why there is no produce available or Ariel tracking down a friend who has gone missing. Like the Disney Fairies books, there are one or two beautiful and eye-catching illustrations per chapter. Both of our daughters have gone through phases where they loved the Disney princesses, so I expected these books to be more popular than they have been. A related set of books, the Disney Princess: Palace Pets books by Tennant Redbank have been more requested than the Disney Princess books.

 

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The Never Girls books by various authors

Four friends have adventures in Neverland with Tinkerbell, Rosetta, and other fairies from Pixie Hollow. The friends travel back and forth between Neverland and the everyday human world, sometimes together and sometimes alone. Like the Anna & Elsa books, the illustrations are in black and white. Part of the magic of the books that makes them enjoyable is the idea that there are connections between our everyday world and Neverland and that humans can be whisked off to Neverland.

 

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Whisker Haven Tales with the Palace Pets books by various authors

The Palace Pets are the favorite pets of the Disney princesses, such as Cinderella’s puppy,  Pumpkin, or Snow White’s bunny, Berry. The pets usually have to work together to solve problems and learn valuable lessons while doing so. These books are well suited for readers just starting out with chapter books because the text is less dense and the books are shorter than the other Disney chapter books.

Trying to choose a Disney series? Our favorites by far are the Disney Fairies books. They more successfully build suspense and tension than the other sets of books. The characters are also more vivid, with real-life personalities. I think that part of why the Disney Princess and Anna & Elsa books have not been as popular in our family as I had anticipated is that the characters are more one dimensional than those in the Disney Fairies books even when the adventures are as exciting. Our next choices would be the Never Girls books or the Disney Princess: Palace Pets books for similar reasons.

Note: I’ve just heard about the Disney Princess Beginnings books, which sound like they are well suited for readers just starting out with chapter books. More to come!

First Books to Read Independently

Learning to read is hard work and our younger daughter has been working hard at it all summer (see post from June 14, 2017). She recently read her first book independently! Our younger daughter easily identifies letters, matches them to the sounds they make, and recognizes common consonant blends. Her sight word vocabulary also continues to grow. However, reading is still hard work for her and she often runs out of steam before the end of a book. Right now we are focused on building her stamina and confidence with reading.

Easy Readers labeled with levels are one place to start, such as the I Can Read! books published by Harper Collins or the Step Into Reading books published by Random House.  However, I sometimes find that the books are still a bit too difficult for her right now (ask me again in a couple of months!) and that there can be a lack of consistency across books labeled as being at the same level. Instead, in our household, we’ve found Mo Willems to be a great source of books for this stage of learning to read.

 

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Cat the Cat books by Mo Willems

Over the course of four books, Cat the Cat makes new friends, encounters various animal sounds, discusses getting ready for bed, and explores flight. There is limited text on each page, usually one to three sentences, with a lot of repetition built in, making them well suited for those just learning to read. The illustrations are bright and funny, and there is usually a bit of a surprise waiting for you at the end.

 

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Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems

Ready to move on from the Cat the Cat books? Try the Elephant and Piggie books, my favorite books for kids just learning to read. Gerald is cautious and skeptical, while Piggie is optimistic and enthusiastic. Despite their differences, Gerald and Piggie are the best of friends. They have fun adventures together, support each other through difficult times, and work through disagreements. Early readers will be able to relate to many of the issues dealt with such as broken toys, being afraid of losing your best friend, coping with a melting ice cream cone, and wanting to cheer up a sad friend. Again, there is limited text on each page and hilarious illustrations. The facial expressions of Piggie and Elephant, along with the varied use of fonts for emphasis in the dialogue, have even allowed our younger daughter to start reading aloud with expression.

Mo Willems also has a series of books about Pigeon that are well suited for those just learning to read. While I personally find the Pigeon’s personality irritating, they may be a good fit for the reader in your life!

 

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Any picture book by Jan Thomas

While not technically a series, Duck, Cow, and Pig make an appearance in multiple books, while talking dust bunnies are the focus of a few others. The humor often comes from characters misinterpreting others or one character having a distinctly different opinion than the rest of the group. Our favorites are A Birthday for Cow, Pumpkin Trouble, Is Everyone Ready for Fun?, Is That Wise, Pig?, and Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy. Like the Elephant and Piggie books, there is limited text on each page and bright, hilarious illustrations.

A note for all of the books discussed above: Even with such limited text in these books, we sometimes come across words that are not common sight words or easy to sound out, and need to provide our younger daughter with help.

Which books you would recommend for those just learning to read? Please leave a comment!

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Unconventional Princesses for Early Readers

Both of our daughters went through a phase where they loved the Disney princesses. (To be honest, it’s still going on with our younger daughter!) In the hopes of broadening their ideas about what a princess can be, I’ve searched for books about unconventional princesses. One of my favorite stand-alone books is the Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. However, finding a series of books about unconventional princesses has been a little more difficult. While Princess Pink is the main character in unconventional fairy tales (see post from June 21, 2017), she’s technically not a princess. As she explains to others, her first name just happens to be Princess. However, there are two unconventional princesses who have become favorites in our household!

 

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Hamster Princess books by Ursula Vernon

Despite her mother’s best efforts to make her into a typical princess, Princess Harriet Hamsterbone loves to cliff-dive, sword-fight, and ride her faithful battle quail, Mumphrey. She is known throughout the land as a fierce fighter and has adventures rescuing others from magical creatures. Comic relief comes in the form of the dialogue between Harriet and her best friend, Prince Wilbur. There is some violence in the books due to Harriet fighting magical creatures. However, the descriptions are not detailed and Harriet often finds unexpected ways to defeat her foes. We love the Hamster Princess books so much in our household that we have started on the Dragonbreath series, also by Ursula Vernon, hoping to find yet another character or two to love.

 

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Princess in Black books by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

Princess Magnolia is a typical princess who wears fancy clothes and lives in a castle. However, when the monster alarm sounds, she sheds her fancy clothes in favor of a black, superhero outfit to become the Princess in Black. Blacky is the alter ego of her trusty steed, Frimplepants. Together they defend their land from monsters, especially those who like to eat goats. The books are filled with funny illustrations and fast-paced action. The descriptions of fighting in the books are mild, as are the illustrations of the Princess in Black’s fighting moves.

 

Trying to decide between the two? The Princess in Black books are better suited for younger readers. The books are shorter, contain more illustrations, and have a straightforward, fast-moving plot. At over 200 pages each, the Hamster Princess books are much longer, the humor tends to be more subtle and ironic, and the pages are more text heavy. However, Harriet Hamsterbone is a clear winner in our household for their humor and richly drawn characters.

Do you have any unconventional princesses to recommend? Please leave a comment!