Starting Out on Chapter Books
Is your child ready to graduate to reading chapter books?
Picture books should be read from birth to adulthood, and nowadays publishers cater for this with a plethora of picture book choices for all ages and stages. However, the enjoyment of a longer children’s book kicks in early and the ability to sustain both attention and comprehension throughout a short chapter book is an important skill to learn.
With this in mind I’ve put together a list of the best books, which are great ones for taking the leap into short chapter books. I’ve covered this topic across three posts as the first chapter books are a progression. Part Two of my Best Chapter Books post is here and Part Three is here. Many of these titles will appeal to both males and females, but check individual book series for appeal and suitability by clicking on each title.
Chapter Picture Books
The best books at this stage are ones that are illustrated throughout, and there are a number of titles in my list that have full colour illustrations. This mix of picture book and chapter book is perfect for introducing the idea of chapter books, whilst keeping the pictures for support.
Children do not transition from picture books to chapter books, never to return. We live in an age of visuals; picture books teach visual literacy like no other teaching tool and every child should always have picture books on the go.
Best Early Chapter Books
Click on ‘Buy from Booktopia’ when shopping online in Australia to #supportaustralian. Apple and Amazon options for overseas & eBook purchases. Purchase in store from your local independent bookstore where possible #supportlocal.
‘School of Monsters’ series
by Sally Rippin
Full review of the series here
‘What Zola Did’ series
by Melina Marchetta
‘Aussie Kids’ series
by various authors
More about Belinda Murrell and the first in the series ‘Meet Zoe and Zac at the Zoo’ here
‘Hot Dog!’ series
by Anh Do
‘Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush’ series
by Zanni Louise
Full review and teachers’ notes here
‘Puffin Little Historian’ and others in this series
Penguin Random House
‘Ethan Eats’ (and others in the series)
by Ursula Dubosarsky. Illustrated by Annie White
‘Ethan Eats’, ‘Ava Adds’, ‘Rory Rides’ and ‘Violet Vanishes’. Published by Lothian Children’s Books.
I have long been a fan of author Ursula Dubosarsky so I was super excited when I saw her name on this fab series from Lothian, an Imprint of Hachette. I am always so pleased when an author of this calibre turns their attention to our youngest readers because no one should be stuck reading ‘The dog sat on the log and ate the frog.’ for too long. Each of the stories in this series is just 650 words which is comparable with many picture books, but the books are structured like novels with chapters and a strong narrative structure. The stories are utterly engaging, often very funny and good use has been made of illustrations, as well as different sized and coloured font to break up each page.
The illustrations by Annie White are full colour and utterly endearing – helping to engage readers who need the encouragement of illustrations to help tell the story. These books would be perfect for someone who is just starting to read with confidence. PudStar (5 years old) was more than a bit chuffed that she was able to read much of the text and I later found her ‘reading’ these to ChickPea using the pictures for support. Highly recommended as a very first chapter book.
‘Little Rockets’ series
The ‘Little Rockets’ series are fast-paced small chapter books for readers from about 6 years old. They have colour illustrations throughout and the font is a good size and well-spaced for younger readers who can get tripped up when faced with teeny tiny font – one of my biggest criticisms of some books for this age group. Each book has a cardboard push out rocket to create when finished to help the reader, ‘blast off on your reading journey’. Collecting these as they finish each book and making a mobile of reading rockets would be a great incentive for readers needing an incentive to finish a story.
There are some great titles in the ‘Little Rockets’ series including: ‘Hubert and the Magic Glasses’; ‘Ferret on the Loose’; ‘Silver the Silly Sorcerer’; ’Gertie the Witch’; ‘Alice the Airy Fairy’ and ‘Katie the Leprechaun’.
‘Lulu Bell’ series
by Belinda Murrell
This series comes highly recommended by young guest reviewer Amelie; you can read her review here. They are a gorgeous little series suitable for children from around 7 years old. Belinda Murrell is a fabulous author who can write beautifully for a huge range of ages. Read more about her here.
by Phil Kettle
The ‘TooCool’ and ‘Marcy’ books (below) have been around for a while now and are perennially popular. The ‘TooCool’ books are squarely aimed at young boys, but I know plenty of sport loving girls who enjoy them as much as they enjoy the companion series, ‘Marcy’. The characters in ‘Marcy’ and ‘TooCool’ are the same so if children enjoy one series, they will enjoy seeing the characters in the other.
Children from around 7 years will feel confident reading the ‘TooCool’ and ‘Marcy’ books; the mix of illustrations and text is great. The stories never speak down to the reader and they include topics from surfing to soccer to cowboys and waterslides, so they span a wide interest and age range. Lots of humour, action and sport, and some very likeable characters which children will engage with and want to keep reading about.
by Susan Halliday
‘Mates: Great Australian Yarns’ series
by various. Currently out of print. Please check your local/school library.
The ‘Mates: Great Australian Yarns’ series for newly independent readers are unashamedly Australian and would be perfect for a unit of work on Australian identity, particularly looking at Australian vernacular. The publishers of this series have teamed with some of our best writers and illustrators to produce humorous, high interest, well-packaged reads. They are stories which children (well Australian children anyway!) can see themselves in.
The ‘Mates’ series is squarely aimed at children making the transition from picture books to chapter books; though we never leave picture books behind. Full colour illustrations on each page, just the right amount of text, and words of interest in different fonts mean that newly independent readers will experience success with the series.
‘BONNIE AND SAM’ series
by Alison Lester. Illustrated by Roland Harvey
For the child even vaguely interested in horses, these are a no brainer. Unlike the several ‘shall not be named’ awful, twee series of books about horses, these are rock solid on horse facts, Lester being a competent horsewoman and owner herself. Themes of friendship, adventure and funnily enough…horses.
by Briony Stewart
Kumiko doesn’t like going to bed. She can’t sleep, and the reason she can’t sleep is because of the giant dragon that sits outside her bedroom window, every single night. So one night she plucks up the courage to ask the dragon to leave, not knowing that the truth she is about to discover is more thrilling than anything she could ever have imagined.
by Anna Fienberg. Illustrated by Kim Gamble
There must be well over 20 of these books now, and they would be over ten years old but they are still so popular. Great as a read aloud and also for newly confident readers. These books do feature ‘baddies’ – dragons, robber barons, ogres and so on – but Tashi triumphs at the end of each story, and you are the best judge of if your child is ready for these. Major boy appeal, and equally as appealing to girls.
‘Brigid Lucy’ series
by Leonie Norrington. Illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie
These are some of my favourite early chapter books. I adore Leonie Norrington’s writing, and I have been electronically stalking Tamsin Ainslie since she began illustrating. The full colour illustrations sustain the child’s interest throughout, and Leonie’s writing is pitch perfect, funny, fast paced and deals with everyday things that interest children like wanting a pet. Highly recommended.
‘Billie B Brown’ series
by Sallly Rippin. Illustrated by Aki Fukuoka
Billie B Brown is at school, so this series is aimed at beginning readers, but even pre readers will enjoy the look into the daily life of Billie at home and school; sleepovers, pocket money, friendship issues and so forth. See individual titles for specific issues dealt with.
‘Hey Jack!’ series
by Sallly Rippin
These are the ‘boy’ version of Billie B Brown and are equally as entertaining!
by various authors
‘Nibbles’ series. Honestly these things just rock. I cannot recommend Nibbles highly enough and they are a great place to start. The publishers do a great job of these…you start on Nibbles, progress to Bites, then move to Chomps which are quite a high reading age. There is hundreds in the range (I made that up but it would surely be close?) and some of Australia’s most highly awarded authors and illustrators work on Nibbles. This Nibble, ‘The Littlest Pirate and the Hammerheads’ is one of the favourites in my library at work, because, pirates. Pirates are a popular kids book theme, covered time and time again in literary and dress up form! Other favourites are ‘The Big Waves’ (full review here) and ‘The Mermaids Tail’ (full review here).