The most common request I get from parents is for recommendations of interesting early readers and illustrated chapter books. Parents are looking for books to guide their kids through that window when they think they are too big for picture books (They aren’t! Keep reading them!) but they are not quite ready for middle grade novels. Today, I’m sharing a list of some of our favorite early readers and illustrated chapter books. I’ll keep adding to this list as we find other winners!

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The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

What do you get when a group of animals with bad reputations decide to be good? THE BAD GUYS, a series that will make kids laugh out loud as Mr. Wolf, Mr. Pirhana, Mr. Snake and Mr. Shark cause more problems while they try to solve them. These serve as wonderful read-alouds, too, if you can invent distinct accents for each character.

Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon

DORY FANTASMAGORY is one of my favorite literary characters. Dory lives in a state of half-reality, half-pretend. She invents a world to live in, complete with villains to fight, and she brings her friends along for the ride. Every time I finish one of these books I worry it will be the last in the series (there are currently four). Here’s to more DORY FANTASMAGORY!

Gracie LaRoo by Marsha Qualey and Kristyna Litten

The GRACIE LAROO series is about a piglet who becomes a famous synchronized swimmer. Gracie learns to balance her fame with her real life as an elementary school student. She overcomes problems with the help of her friends and teammates. The books are sweet and simple—perfect for the newest readers.

Jaden Toussaint by Marti Dumas

Jaden Toussaint is always out to outsmart whoever is standing between him and what he wants. In this first “episode,” what he wants is more than his parents’ allowed 5 minutes of screen time. The five-book series JADEN TOUSSAINT series is full of adventures and features lots of the author’s signature humor. She just gets kids.

Katie Woo by Fran Manushkin

My kindergartner is obsessed with the KATIE WOO series. Every week she comes home from the school library with a new KATIE WOO book. With so many books in the series, little readers have a lot to choose from. Each book features Katie trying something new, failing, and getting back on her feet. A new spinoff series featuring Katie’s friend Pedro is worth checking out, too.

The Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osborne

The MAGIC TREEHOUSE series can probably be considered a classic at this point. Jack and Annie find a magic treehouse that can transport them to any place and time in history. The children learn about history while rushing to escape whatever dangers they find there. There are dozens of books to try, and several spinoff series that will keep you busy.

Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi and Hatem Aly

Great early readers are hard to find. But great and diverse early readers are few and far between! MEET YASMIN! fills a huge market hole, offering a spunky, Pakistani-American main character who loves to explore, paint, build, and design. Elements of her Pakistani-American and Muslim cultures are sprinkled through the delightfully childlike stories. Yasmin can solve any problem with the creativity and imagination. Thanks to the Kid Lit Exchange network for the review copy. All opinions are our own! MEET YASMIN! publishes on August 1, 2018, from Capstone.

Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen

Another pig series! MERCY WATSON is a lovable (and mischievous) suburban pig. Her owners treat her like a child, always seeing the best in her despite her many follies. The hilarious books have a recurring cast of side characters, any of whom now have their own dedicated books. When you finish these, look for Kate DiCamillo’s other wonderful early reader series: BINK AND GOLLIE.

Narwhal and Jelly by Ben Clanton

Our friends at The Intentional Book Club introduced us to the NARWHAL AND JELLY SERIES (check out The Intentional Book Club for more book recommendations that match your family’s values). Any book with an cartoon narwhal is a winner with me. The silly, unexpected friends go on a series of mini-adventures in each chapter of these graphic novels.

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers and Diana Toledano

POLLY DIAMOND is full of imagination, creativity, and mischief. In this first installation of what looks like it will be a series, Polly finds a Magic Book that will do whatever she says. But the book has an Amelia-Bedelia-style interpretation of Polly’s wishes. Everything goes wrong, but it’s so much fun. We received a free review copy from the publisher. All opinions are our own.
Early readers chapter books covers

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