Early Chapter Books

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The Animal Family, By Randall Jarrell
Illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Early Chapter: Ages 7 years old and up

This is a story about a hunter, a mermaid, a lynx, a bear, and a little boy. Animal Family is a beautiful, magical, and playful fairy tale. The story tells how such different characters come together, have adventures, and complete each other as a family. It is a book that leaves you feeling like you are suspended between dreaming and waking. Simply told, you are so drawn in you forget it’s fantasy.

Animal Family is a Newbery Honor book from 1966, yet nothing about it feels dated. It is as fresh and beautiful today as it was then. It can be a wonderful story to read aloud and can also be read by an older reader on his or her own–it is often categorized as juvenile fiction. Although if you’re an adult who never read it as a child, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were won over by it too.

Recommended by: Marni Port, Parent Trust Child & Teen Services Manager “I read this book over and over as a child. I kept a copy and still treasure this story.”

Hannah West On Millionaire’s Row, By Linda Johns
Early Chapter Book: ages 7-10 years old

Hannah West, 12-year-old dog lover, baby sitter, budding artist, and amateur sleuth, has just moved to Seattle’s Millionaire’s Row with her Mom. Okay, so they’re not millionaires, but they are living in one of the mansions in this ritzy neighborhood. Hannah and her single mom don’t have a house of their own, but they always have a place to stay thanks to her mom’s work as a professional house sitter.

When someone starts breaking into the homes on Hannah’s new street and cleaning and straightening things up- it’s odd…but when valuable antiques start disappearing from the homes it becomes downright creepy and mysterious.

Hannah sets out to solve the mysterious happenings in the neighborhood at the same time that the reality television show “Antiques Caravan” descends on Seattle. Could the show be linked to the disappearing items?

This book is definitely written with a young girl audience in mind. The mystery isn’t really much of a mystery, but readers from Seattle will enjoy local references scattered on pretty much every page. The characters are likable, the story an easy read, and for readers who like series books, there are three others that precede this one.

The World According To Humphrey, By Betty G. Birney
Illustrator: Holly Meade
Early Chapter: ages 7-9 years old

The World According to Humphrey is a great story to read to your younger child or for kids ready to read their first chapter book on their own! This lighthearted tale is told from the eyes of a hamster named Humphrey. Humphrey was Mrs. Mac’s beloved class pet until “mean” Mrs. Brisbane takes over the class. Mrs. Brisbane refuses to take Humphrey home for the weekends so the students and their families take turns taking care of him. The families don’t know what their in for. Rather than the families helping the friendly hamster, Humphrey, the little problem solver, helps each family along the way. From too much TV to finding love for a lonely janitor, Humphrey saves the day!

This is a fun, easy read that can be fun for the whole family. Be warned, after reading this book your child might want to take home a new pet hamster!

Recommended by: Linda McDaniels, Parent Trust Associate Director
“This book is so great! Whenever a problem arises my son and I ask, ‘what would Humphrey do?’”

The Kings Equal, By Katherine Paterson
Early Chapter Book: ages 7-9 years old

Once upon a time, in a far away kingdom, a king lay dying. He called for his son, Raphael, to hear his dying blessing. His greedy son was more interested in getting his father’s crown than hearing his father’s blessing. Never the less, he listened; the king blessed that his son would not receive the crown until he married a woman that was his equal in beauty, intelligence, and wealth. Raphael was furious, “this is not a blessing that is a curse.” Where would the prince find someone who was equal to him? Raphael was very handsome, had received the best education possible, and had a king’s wealth!

Meanwhile, in a far part of the kingdom, there lived a farmer and his daughter…curious what happens next?

Recommended by: Elizabeth Haim, Parent Trust practicum student
“Catherine Paterson truly does a wonderful job of writing the true meaning of beauty, intelligence, and wealth. This book was my favorite book growing up. In a world where princesses are usually saved, this princess does the saving herself.”

The Penderwicks, By Jeanne Birdsall
Early Chapter/Chapter: ages 7-12 years old
National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Widowed Mr. Penderwick and his four daughters (ages 4-12) rent a cottage in the Berkshire mountains one summer. Their landlord is the snobbish Mrs. Tifton, whose son, Jeffrey, makes fast friends with the daughters. A children’s book of today, reminiscent of simpler children’s books of long ago. Adventures occur. Problems are solved. Lessons are learned.

“The Penderwicks” is in the vein of classics such as “Ramshackle Roost” and “Half Magic” by Edward Eager, stories of families that quibble but have fun together and love each other. No drugs. No guns. No one dies. Just easy summer fun.

Critics might find it a bit to cutesy and out of touch with modern readers. But the characters are comforting and appealing. They and the writing style draw in the reader effortlessly. Real children with real childhood behavior, minus the modern-day, soap-opera drama. Regular childhood issues are dealt with in a light, loving manner: disobeying parents, a first crush, sibling arguing. No TV. No time travel. No witches or magic. Just old fashioned, charming fun, great writing, and a terrific story.

Recommended by: Marni Port, Child & Teen Services Manager
“This book is charming; if your older tween has outgrown it, try reading it aloud to children 7-9 years old.”

Ramona The Pest, By Beverly Cleary
Early Chapter Book: 7-10 years old.

Ramona is a ‘girl who could not wait’. Was it her fault that she found life so interesting? She never meant to be a pest, and anyway–it was always the ‘slow poke grownups’ who thought she was. Of course, sometimes she needed to make a “great big noisy fuss”, but just when it was

the only way to get what she wanted. Beverly Cleary is able to capture pitch perfectly the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of a 6 year old–that is, an energetic, curious, creative, one like Ramona. This book (one in a large collection of books about Ramona and her friends and family) focuses on Ramona’s experiences in kindergarten, starting with her first day of school– the “greatest day of her life”. Adults and children will laugh out loud at her misunderstandings and misadventures, and join decades of readers who have been charmed by Ramona.

Recommended by: Marni Port, Child & Teen Services Manager
“Who can resist Ramona? Your child will giggle their way through this book!”

The Secret Museum, By Sheila Greenwald
Early Chapter/Chapter: ages 7-11 years old

Jennifer tries to help her parents, who are struggling financially. While out picking blackberries to sell, she stumbles on a tiny house filled with dolls. To her amazement, one of the dolls starts to cry real tears!

Jennifer vows to restore the dolls to their original grandeur; and as she does, all the dolls come to life and share their personalities.

With her new-found doll companions, Jennifer decides to stage plays to make money. But she is thwarted–first by a neighborhood girl, and then by the owner of the dolls who abandoned them to their fate long ago.

Recommended by: Marni Port, Child & Teen Services Manager
“This was a favorite “rainy-day reading” book of mine. I read it over and over. The magical happenings might be a bit tame by today’s Harry Potter standards, but I found it charming.”

The Legend Of Spud Murphy, By Eoin Colfer (who also wrote the Artemis Fowl series)
Illustrated by Glenn McCoy
Early Chapter: ages 7-9 years old

This chapter book is told from the point of view of 10 year old Will, the second oldest of 5 brothers. He and his older brother Marty have been told to spend the summer at the library since it’s just too wild at home with 5 boys and their friends.

“The library is educational”, say Mom and Dad. “How could it be bad?”
What Mom and Dad don’t realize is that the librarian is really a mean, potato-gun yielding maniac. The adults think she’s a nice old lady–what do they know! The kids have all heard about the scary librarian, “Spud Murphy”. And now they have to spend the summer in the boring library, under her supervision.

Will’s life seems so unfair– his little brothers get special treatment from mom and dad, now he has to worry about getting “spudded” by soggy potatoes, and of course, he’s forced to spend summer vacation AT THE LIBRARY! And in this library,“…a smile could get you thrown out; a titter could get you spudded. And if you laughed aloud, you were never seen again.”
The boys learn a few things at the library: they learn that Spud Murphy is just as mean as expected. They also learn that reading isn’t all that bad, if you have an interesting book. But what happens when they run out of interesting books in the children’s section? Dare they leave the children’s carpet and venture to the adult book section? What will Spud Murphy do if she catches them?

Recommended by: Marni Port, Parent Trust Child & Teen Services Manager
“This book is really funny (I actually laughed aloud a number of times) and the mischief the boys get into will surely entertain. The illustrations are great too!”

Where The Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
Poetry/Chapter Book Level: ages 7-170 years old
ALA Notable Children’s Book
New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year
New York Times Notable

The poems and drawings of Shel Silverstein have been entertaining readers for over 30 years. His poems are funny, strange, universal, and unique. His drawings, which accompany every poem, are equally as hilarious and creative.

Recommended by:
Thelma Dirkes, Program Director
“This was my favorite book to read to [my kids]. A kind of “hippy parent era” book of poetry for kids. There is a poem that was turned into a funny/quirky folk song for kids called “I’m Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor” (Peter,Paul & Mary) that my children just laughed & laughed at. My other favorite poem was “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out”. The kids had me read that one over and over again.