Making The Leap: Early Chapter Books for Your Young Reader


This month I’m covering one of my favorite topics: early chapter books (aka transitional chapter books).  It is that wonderful time when readers are transitioning out of those (often mind-numbing) early readers and finding fun, adventurous, and sometimes even spooky new chapter books. Transitional chapter books tend to have slightly more words on a page, large print and lots of amazing illustrations.  There are so many great new series coming out for transitioning readers that there is truly something for everyone.  

Here’s a tip for picking  “just right” early chapter books: flip to any random page and have your child read the page out loud.  Lift a finger for every word they don’t know or really struggle with. 1-2 fingers lifted means the book is probably a bit easy (but that can be ok if they love the book series and helps them feel successful!).  3-5 means it is close to “just right”. More than 5 means your child will need grow into that one in a few weeks/months.  Be aware that occasionally fantasy words and unusual names (e.g. Bobblysock) will trip up your child up.  Those don’t count. 

I hope you enjoy this completely random mix of early chapter book series.  I cannot wait to hear what your new readers are enjoying!  

Early Chapter Books For Your Funny Bone


Princess in Black by Shannon and Dean Hale and LeUyen Pham. This dream team of authors and illustrator have created such a fabulous character.  Princess Magnolia is raised as all princesses should be- refined and proper.  However, she also has a big secret.  She protects her kingdom from monsters as … the Princess in Black.  Brilliantly illustrated, humorous and action-packed, you will love this series as much as your reader.  This is the book I wish had been written when I was little.

The Infamous Ratsos. Louie and Ralphie Ratso’s dad, Big Lou, is a man of action – not words. He is tough and fierce. Louie and Ralphie want to be tough like him. The only problem is, every time they try to do something mischievous and meddling, it ends up turning into a GOOD deed! Your kiddos will love seeing how far wrong (or right!) their misdeeds can go and what Big Lou decides to do about it! Black and white sketch illustrations accompany larger print.  

Haggis and Tank Unleashed Like many newer transitional chapter books, this gem is written in comic book style.  (More on why you should let your child read comics and graphics next month…) Remember our beloved, Gerald and Piggie?  The dialog between prim and proper Scottie, Haggis, and his friend Tank, the goofy Great Dane is also in text bubbles.  These imaginative friends set off on a new adventure in each book.   Filled with play on words, silly jokes, and just enough drama, this is will be a hit, especially for the dog- lovers in your family. 

Kung Pow Chicken What do you call your average second grader who turns into a superhero? Kung Pow Chicken.  This vibrantly illustrated series with simple text about Gordon Blue and his side kick Ed (the hatchling) will have your new readers cheering for the super-chicken while you will not stop chuckling from the DC references. We could all use a new superhero about now, right?!

Chapter Books To Spark Your Imagination…


Dragon Masters.  If you have the kid who is desperate to read Harry Potter or How to Train Your Dragon START HERE.  This awesome series has it all- dragons, wizards, magic stones.  Each book follows a dragon trainer and his or her assigned dragon of the elements.  You child will love the epic amount of adventure and magic packed into this early chapter book.  

Kingdom of Wrenly. Mermaids! Wizards! Dragons! Fairies! Trolls! What is there NOT to love about 8 year old Prince Lucas and his bestie, Clara? Join them as they set of on a series of epic quests to save the kingdom or  reclaim stolen gems. Easy to read chapters and wonderful illustrations on each page make this a sure-fire winner for your young adventurer. 

Heidi Heckelbeck. Heidi seems like a normal 8 year old girl.  She’d been homeschooled so far but just moved to a public school where she has to blend in.  But Heidi has a secret. (Spoiler alert: Heidi is a witch).  When kids at school aren’t so kind to her, Heidi can’t keep her magic under wraps any longer and mischief ensues!  A perfect early series for your young witch or wizard.

For a dose everyday awesome…

Meet Yasmin I love this spunky young lady!  Meet second grader, Yasmin, who lives in “the big city” with her extended family.  With short and fully illustrated pages, every other chapter is a new problem that Yasmin has to solve- a painting that isn’t working the way she wants, no ideas for the class project, or ripping her new kameez. I love the growth mindset she uses to solve these dilemmas.  I also love the recipe, Urdu words, facts about Pakistan and craft instructions in the back.  

Diary of A Pug 
Baron Von Bubbles, aka Bub, is the adorable pet pug of Bella.  They truly are best friends.  Written in short diary entries with text bubbles and lots of labels, this girl’s-best-friend story will be quick success and quick fun for your younger readers. Don’t miss the comprehensions at the back- a great way to check in with your growing reader to make sure she understood the words she just decoded! 

For thrills and chills…

Notebook of Doom. I’ll be honest, most early chapter books are funny or sweet but some kids just love the spooky. For them we have, the Notebook of Doom! When Alexander moves to a new home and finds a notebook with DOOM written across it he starts to believe that the strange things he’s been seeing (like the Giant Balloon Goons) might be more than just his imagination…  Get ready for spooky thrills!

Special note: You’ll notice that Scholastics’ Branches publishes a fair number of these. In my opinion, they have mastered the art of high interest and diverse reading levels.  They have steadily upped the transitional chapter books game over the past few years and tend to be solid choices. However, they are not the only game in town so ask your local librarian or bookseller for more suggestions! Have fun!