With a seven and a nine year-old, our house is filled with piles of books ranging from picture books and early chapter books to middle-grade novels. Naturally, my seven year-old still loves the instant gratification and charm of picture books, while my nine year-old is getting into longer novels.
What they have in common, though, is their voracious appetite for Early Chapter Books. I’m talking teetering stacks of MAGIC TREE HOUSE and JUNIE B JONES as well as onesies and twosies of other ECB series titles and stand-alones.
Early Chapter Books are perfect for those making the switch from early readers or picture books to longer middle-grade novels. These books are targeted to lower middle grade readers (7-9 year-olds); the reading level is usually controlled to a Grade 2-3 level, the chapters are short, the storylines are often linear and there are usually line-drawn pictures to complement the text.
These ‘bridging’ books are often a newly-minted reader’s first foray into reading books broken into chapters and are designed to help kids gain reading confidence.
So, what’s on my chicklet’s bookshelf? (and on their nightstands, and the foot of their beds, and on the coffee table…) Take a look!
Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew by Carolyn Keene and Macky Pamintuan: Nancy, Bess and George may only be eight but they’re old pros at solving mysteries. A new spin on an old classic.
Description from Indiebound: River Heights, here she comes! Eight-year-old Nancy Drew has never considered herself a detective before. But while solving her first case with her friends Bess and George, Nancy realizes this mystery stuff is fun. The girls decide to start the Clue Crew to solve cases. Young readers will enjoy the simple chapter book language and deductive reasoning in the Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series. And once they read the Clue Crew, they’ll be hooked on Nancy Drew.
Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall: Two unlikely friends are up to some friendly mischief.
Description from Indiebound: The moment they saw each other, Bean and Ivy knew they wouldn’t be friends. But when Bean plays a joke on her sister, Nancy, and has to hide quick Ivy comes to the rescue, proving that sometimes the best of friends are people never meant to like each other. Vibrant characters and lots of humor make this a charming and addictive introduction to Ivy and Bean.
Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osborne: Jack and Annie are up for any kind of adventure, who knows where that treehouse is going to end up next?
Description from Indiebound: Morgan le Fay will make Jack and Annie masters of the tree house if only they can solve four riddles — which will take four books, of course! Dolphins at Daybreak begins the third set of four books in this magical (and increasingly popular) series! Jack and Annie are off in the Magic Tree House again, this time to a whole new world under the ocean. Complete with a giant octopus, a hungry shark, and dolphins to the rescue, this Magic Tree House book delivers an underwater adventure kids can dream about.
Junie B Jones by Barbara Park: Junie with a B, and don’t you forget it!
Description from Indiebound: What’s the bestest job ever? A beauty shop guy, that’s what! And Junie B. Jones is going to be one when she grows up. But first she needs a little practice. And a few volunteers. Like her bunny slippers. And her dog. And maybe even…herself? Is Junie B. on her way to a great new career? Or is she about to have the worst hair day ever?
Geronimo Stilton by Geronimo Stilton: How can a mouse be such a scaredy-cat?
Description from Indiebound: The internationally bestselling book series that stars a mouse who runs the newspaper on Mouse Island–but whose true passion is writing tales of adventure–now comes to the United States. The first four titles in the series feature full-color illustrations on each page.
Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe and Alan Daniel: The scariest bunny on the block.
Description from Indiebound: This book is written by Harold. His fulltime occupation is dog. He lives with Mr. and Mrs. Monroe and their sons Toby and Pete. Also sharing the home are a cat named Chester and a rabbit named Bunnicula. It is because of Bunnicula that Harold turned to writing. Someone had to tell the full story of what happened in the Monroe household after the rabbit arrived.
Jigsaw Jones by James Preller: Pull up a chair and have a glass of grape juice; Jigsaw Jones is on the case!
Description from Indiebound: Athena Parker has been slimed! And she doesn’t think it’s funny. Someone in Ms. Gleason’s class is playing practical jokes. And it’s up to Jigsaw and Mila to catch the clown. This could be their stickiest case yet.
Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobold: Which case will Encyclopedia crack next?
Description from Indiebound: A Civil War sword…A watermelon stabbing…Missing roller skates…A trapeze artist’s inheritance…And an eyewitness who’s legally blind! These are just some of the ten brain-twisting mysteries that Encyclopedia Brown must solve by using his famous computerlike brain.
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish and Lynn Sweat: She may shower a new mother with the garden hose or run all the way home from a baseball game but fresh cake and pie from the oven always smooth things over.
Description from Indiebound: Amelia Bedelia brings her niece — and her literal-minded zaniness — to Miss Emma’s house for a day of work. It’s a good thing Miss Emma likes to laugh because Amelia Bedelia makes her usual merry mess!
Dear Dumb Diary by Jim Benton: By the power vested in me, you’ll get lost in these diary’s pages. If you dare.
Description from Indiebound: Dear Dumb Diary, Here’s the thing about Angeline. I know that she shouldn’t really bother me that much. I mean, Angeline has even done nice things for me in the past, although I have come to believe that these were probably accidental. There’s just something so infuriating about perfect people. When she’s nice, it makes me mad. When she’s pretty, it makes me mad. It never changes. I guess the only good thing about Angeline is that she can never bother me more than she does right now. Perfect people make me perfectly ill.
Franny K. Stein by Jim Benton: Girl genius. Explosions. Plans to rule the world. What’s not to love?
Description from Indiebound: Franny K. Stein is not your average girl — she’s a mad scientist. She prefers poison ivy to daisies and piranha to goldfish, and when Franny jumps rope, she uses her pet snake.
Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry and Middy Thomas: A story about storytelling: brainwarmers included.
Description from Indiebound: There’s never been anyone like Gooney Bird Greene at Watertower Elementary School. What other new kid comes to school wearing pajamas and cowboy boots one day and a polka-dot t-shirt and tutu on another? Gooney Bird has to sit right smack in the middle of the class because she likes to be in the middle of everything. She is the star of story time and keeps her teacher and classmates on the edge of their seats with her “absolutely true” stories. But what about her classmates? Do they have stories good enough to share?
Rainbow Magic Fairies by *koff* Daisy Meadows: These fairies are like mini-winged rockstars to the 7/8 year-old set.
Description from Indiebound:
Description from Indiebound: There are some pretty weird grown-ups living in Bailey City, but could the new gymnastics teacher really be a witch?
And here are others, which we’ve read and enjoyed:
Your turn! Do you have a favorite early chapter book; series or otherwise? Please add your picks in the comments.
Hélène Boudreau writes fiction and non-fiction for kids and teens. Her eco-mystery early chapter book series ‘Red Dune Adventures’ debuted with its first volume this past spring (KEEP OUT!) with the second (WATER HAZARD), forthcoming in spring/2011. You can visit her at www.heleneboudreau.com