How can you know which chapter books are best for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade?
This post will help you out!
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Have you every tried to navigate the early chapter book section of the library?
There are Just. So. Many to choose from.
How can you tell which series is right for each learner?
How do you know which series are free of name-calling, potty talk and backtalk?
How can you know which series won’t feel babyish to an older, struggling reader?
Do you really have to read ALL THE BOOKS to find out?
Because I read them for you!
I’ve spent the last 6 months reading and reviewing 250 early chapter book series for kids in grades 1-3.
Curious about a particular series? Just scroll through the list to find it; they’re in alphabetical order. Or if you’re in a hurry, click here for a printable list.
The Ultimate Guide to Early Chapter Book Series
Looking for a book by title? Use these links to jump to the section you need.
Absolutely Alfie series, by Sally Warner
This is a wonderful series featuring Ellray Jakes' younger sister (see the Ellray Jakes series further down in this list). Alfie is the younger sister in a loving African-American family living in suburbia. Warner shares Alfie's interesting second grade adventures while also portraying loving family relationships. Warner's books read like good stand-alone novels, not like so many early chapter book series which feel mass-produced. Strongly recommended! (Currently 4 books in the series)
Ada Lace books, by Emily Calandrelli
Ada Lace is an 8-year-old girl who loves science and technology - and I love that the series is written by another female who loves science (and happens to have both aerospace and aeronautics degrees). It's also nice to find a series aimed at girls which isn't about fairies and unicorns. Ada is both intelligent and relatable, and the author integrates science concepts in a natural way. (Currently 5 books in the series)
The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids series, by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones
This is a classic monster series about a group of third graders. In each book they believe an authority figure is a monster of some sort, try to prove it, and don't really get any final resolution (or at least that's my take on it). The books are a little creepy, but never too scary. I've never gotten into this series, but they've been very popular since the 90's. If your learners get hooked on them, that's great - because there are over 80 books in the series.
The Adventures of Jo Schmo, by Greg Trine
Written by the author of the Melvin Beederman, Superhero series, these books are about a fourth-grade girl hero - Jo Schmo. Jo comes from a long line of crime fighters, and it's her turn to join the family business. The book is well written with clever jokes and funny wordplay. My only issue is that Jo Schmo is excessively boy crazy; while it's completely harmless, that may make this series better suited for older, struggling readers than for young advanced readers.
The Adventures of Sophie Mouse books, by Poppy Green
This is a friendly, gentle series about young animals. The books are sweet and well-written. Personally, I found them a little too sunshine-y (and sickeningly sweet), but I appreciate the positive storylines and the strong vocabulary. These are best for young readers; they might feel babyish to older, struggling readers. (Currently 14 books in the series)
Agent Amelia series, by Michael Broad
Amelia is a young girl who believes she's a very important secret agent saving the word from dastardly villains. In each book she uses her "brains, guts, and gadgets to take on evil geniuses." Each book features three secret agent case files. The plots are a bit ridiculous, but funny. Good choice for young advanced readers. (4 books in the series)
Akimbo books, by Alexander McCall Smith
This is a beautiful series by the author of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (my favorite fiction series for adults - you've got to check it out!). Akimbo's father is the head ranger on a game preserve in Africa. Each book focuses on a different animal (Akimbo and the Lion, Akimbo and the Elephants, etc.) Akimbo faces danger and adventure as he looks out for his animal friends. This is an excellent series that would also be great for reading aloud. (5 books in the series)
Alien in My Pocket series, by Nate Ball
This is an entertaining series about a boy who meets a tiny (yet powerful) alien who crashes in his bedroom. I love how the author integrates science concepts in a relatable way, but I'm not crazy about the very negative relationship between the main character and his brother. (8 books in the series)
Alvin Ho series, by Lenore Look
I love, love, love this series. It's about Alvin, an Asian American second grader who has anxiety about many things. It's laugh-out-loud funny without being mean-spirited. There's some sibling tension, but nothing too serious - and I absolutely love the close relationship between Alvin and his father. I think the content would be a little challenging for young advanced readers, but you could try reading one together first. There are about 6 books in this all-around great series.
Amber Brown series, by Paula Danziger
There are two sets of Amber Brown books, but only one is a chapter book series. Please note that this review is of the Amber Brown books and not the "A is for Amber" series. Amber Brown is a fourth grader with divorced parents who is learning to navigate new relationships.
There's a fair amount of gross talk ("farting," picking noses, etc.) and some topics that are a bit heavy for really young kids (divorced parents not getting along, etc.). That said, the books are interesting and well written; I just wouldn't recommend them for advanced young readers. (12 books in the series)
Amelia Bedelia chapter book series, by Herman Parish
While I grew up loving the original Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish, I'm less than impressed with this new chapter book series by her nephew. I find them boring and hard to get through, and I think that a lot of the jokes would go over young readers' heads. The stories aren't horrible, just uninteresting (in my opinion). At least 11 books in the series.
Andrew Lost series, by J.C. Greenburg
I tried (and tried!), but I just couldn't get into this series about a boy who travels through space and time. Similar to the Magic School Bus books, the series is a mixture of fantasy and scientific facts. The books are best read in order, as they often end with a cliffhanger. (At least 18 books in the series)
Andy Russell books, by David A. Adler
When I pick up a David Adler book, I'm reasonably confident that it will be a quality, well-written book. The Andy Russell series is no exception. Kids will enjoy reading about likable, day-dreaming Andy's misadventures. Recommended for older, struggling readers. (6 books in the series)
Andy Shane books by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
These are very basic illustrated chapter books with large font and spacing. Andy Shane is a nice little boy who lives with his grandmother and faces the typical challenges of childhood. I didn't find the books very interesting, but kids might feel differently. Worth a try for kids ready to read longer text but not longer chapter books. (Currently 6 books in the series.)
Anna Hibiscus books, by Atinuke
This is a beautiful series about Anna Hibiscus, a young girl who lives in modern-day Africa with her loving family. The stories are both entertaining and touching, and you'll find many opportunities for discussion. I was uncomfortable with the religious undertones in the book I read (Anna Hibiscus has many conversations with her dead grandfather), but other than that I highly recommend them. (8 books in the series)
Annie and Snowball series, by Cynthia Rylant
This series came after the popular Henry and Mudge series and features Henry's cousin Annie and her pet bunny, Snowball. The books have easy-to-read storylines and wholesome fun. But I personally find this series less engaging and a little too girly. (12 books in the series)
Appleville Elementary series, by Nancy Krulik
I love this simple series about adventures in first grade. The simple stories and large font make these a great transition to chapter books. They're also a good choice for advanced young readers. (4 books in the series)
Arthur chapter book series, by Marc Brown
While these books won't win any awards for outstanding children's literature, Marc Brown's Arthur books are a fine series for young readers. In each book the plot features Arthur the aardvark or one of his friends. While I don't generally promote books that are an offshoot of a television show, this series about Arthur and his friends can stand on its own. (Over 33 books)
A-Z Mysteries, by Ron Roy
This is a series of 26 books about three third graders who solve crimes and mysteries. It features one book for each letter of the alphabet. These are quick reads and great for mystery lovers who are new to chapter books.
Bad Kitty series, by Nick Bruel
This is a completely bizarre (and frankly, hilarious) set of chapter books that feel more like graphic novels. My older kids laugh out loud when reading these (and frequently read me a funny page). However, I don't recommend them for young readers because of the bizarre (and sometimes off-color) humor, the @##&* used in place of swear words, and even the political messages that the author squeezes into the books.
I think the good outweighs the bad, but these books can also be completely off-the-wall, and I don't recommend them for our youngest readers. (Currently 10 books in the series)
Ballet Slippers series, by Patricia Reilly Giff
This series combines Rosie's love for ballet with her ongoing relationships with family and friends. The occasional black-and-white illustrations give good support. (6 books in the series)
Ballpark Mysteries, by David A. Kelly
This is a great series for baseball-loving kids who also enjoy mysteries. Mike and Kate are two cousins who use their sharp detective skills to solve mysteries around the ballpark. Easy to read, and fun to help solve. Recommended! (At least 14 books in the series)
Bea Garcia books, by Deborah Zemke
Bea Garcia is a relatable, likable second grader who draws pictures of everything in her life. While the illustrations are cute, I find them a bit distracting. For that reason, this may not be the best series for kids who struggle with comprehension. Also note that the books have a fair amount of name-calling. (Currently 3 books in the series)
Beany series, by Susan Wojciechowski
This is an older series (1994-2006), but it's still very relatable. Beany's problems (not wanting to go to summer camp, being paired with a difficult kid for a science project, etc.) are timeless. These are entertaining, well-written, and just plain good books. (5 books in the series)
Bink & Gollie books, by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee
This is a fun series about two best friends - one tiny, one tall. These will be welcomed by kids who are new to chapter books because the pages are mostly full color illustrations (indeed, the pictures tell much of the story). Teachers will like them because they include strong vocabulary and plenty of opportunities for making inferences. Since each chapter is a stand alone story, these would work great for small group reading lessons. (3 books in the series.)
Black Lagoon Adventures, by Mike Thaler
This fun chapter book series mixes school, monsters, and common kid problems. It's a great choice for reluctant readers, as the stories and illustrations are engaging, and the speech bubbles give the series a comic-book feel. One odd thing about the series is that the text is very large, making you think the book is for younger readers. But many of the jokes and puns will fly over their heads, putting the series at level N. (32 books in the series)
Boris series, by Andrew Joyner
Boris is a young warthog who lives with his mom and dad in Hogg Bay. Boris is charming and likable, and the books are heavily illustrated with just a few sentences per page. This is a great series for kids transitioning to chapter books. (Currently 4 books in the series)
The Boxcar Children, created by Gertrude Chandler Warner
The original Boxcar Children is one of my favorite books of all time. It's the story of four orphaned children who run away to the woods and make their home in an old boxcar. The idea of a group of siblings trying to survive on their own in the woods is fascinating for kids of any generation.
Unfortunately, I've never enjoyed the mystery series that follows the original book. The characters are flat and uninteresting, and while I appreciate positive sibling relationships, theirs is sticky sweet. However, the books are safe and clean, and I'd consider it a win if your learners get into them. I remember that my sister loved them as a kid.
Warner wrote the original 19 books. A variety of different authors have penned the 130 books that follow them.
Bunjitsu Bunny books, by John Himmelman
Isabel, also known as Bunjitsu Bunny, is the best bunjitsu artist in her school. Each chapter tells a kid-friendly story in large text with plenty of spacing. Illustrations are plentiful. Martial arts students will especially love this series, as each chapter includes a lesson/moral that they may have already learned from their martial arts instructor. (Currently 4 books in the series)
Calendar Mysteries series, by Ron Roy
I like seeing author Ron Roy's name on a book cover, because I know that the book will have kind characters, no potty humor, and adults who are patient and dependable. This is a spin-off of the A-Z Mysteries series by the same author, but in these books it's the younger siblings who are solving the mysteries - one for each month and an extra one for New Year's. Consider it a big win if your learners get hooked on any of Ron Roy's mystery series. (13 books in the series)
Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet series, by Jacqueline Kelly
This historical fiction series is absolutely wonderful. Calpurnia Tate is an animal-loving 11-year-old who also happens to have six brothers. Since the story is set in 1901, the children have no technology to keep them busy. Instead, they spend their time outdoors observing nature and helping lost or injured animals. If you're familiar with the original novels, be aware that this spin-off series is shorter and at a lower reading level. (Currently 5 books in the series)
Calvin Coconut books, by Graham Salisbury
These are well written and entertaining books about a boy in Hawaii who lives with his mom and little sister after his famous dad left them. Calvin is in fourth grade, but the themes feel older than that. There's a lot of bullying in the book, a fair amount of girlfriend/boyfriend talk, and a live-in babysitter who is just plain mean. I call this a good choice for older, struggling readers, but not one I'd recommend for young advanced readers. There are 9 books in the series.
Cam Jansen series, by David Adler
You can't go wrong with this classic series about a fifth grade girl detective with a photographic memory. The first book was published in 1980, and the most recent was published in 2014. I loved these as a kid, and they were the series that got my reluctant second grade reader to start reading chapter books. Quality, clean fiction. (34 books in the series)
Candy Fairies series, by Helemen Perelman
The candy fairies live in Sugar Valley where jelly beans grow on vines, and chocolate eggs ripen in nests. The stories feature adventure, magic, and candy.
I started reading one of these aloud to my 5-year-old (at her request) and couldn't make it past the first few pages.
I mean, really ...
"The sun was sliding toward the top of the Frosted Mountains. Soon it would be Sun Dip, the time of day when Berry and her Candy Fairy friends got together at Licorice Lake to watch the sunset. They liked to catch up with one another and eat sweet treats."
All that said, the books are harmless - and I wouldn't discourage kids from reading them (just be sure to nudge them toward more quality literature as appropriate). At least 12 books in the series.
Capital Mysteries, by Ron Roy
This series features KC, the president's stepdaughter, and her best friend Marshall as they solve mysteries around Washington, D.C. The stories feel a bit far-fetched at times (like the fact that these two children explore D.C. unsupervised), but young mystery lovers will enjoy them. To my knowledge, the books have no crude humor, sassiness, or name calling. (Currently 14 books in the series)
Captain Awesome series, by Stan Kirby
Eugene McGillicuddy invents his very own superhero alter ego - Captain Awesome. He fights crime with his best friend and sidekick, Charlie (Nacho Cheese Man). There are small amounts of potty humor and abrasive language ("stupid," etc.), but overall I think this is a good transition book to more challenging chapter books, as it has large font and spacing. (At least 21 books in the series)
Captain Underpants series, by Dav Pilkey
This is the only children's series that I won't allow in my house. I can't even count the number of potty jokes, bullying incidents, name-calling, and other trash. I may be in the minority here - this is a hugely popular series, and it gets kids to read.
But here's the thing.What if all our kids wanted to eat was hot dogs and ice cream? Our response would not be, "Well, at least they're eating!" In the same way, I don't excuse garbage literature by saying "At least it gets kids to read!" And unlike junk food (which I think is okay in moderation), I don't think there needs to be any room for books like this.
If you think I'm overreacting, please read one for yourself before giving it to your kids. I think the length of this blog post should prove that there are many, many other series to tempt reluctant readers.
The Carver Chronicles series, by Karen English
This is a companion series to Nikki & Deja, and features the same students in their third grade classroom. The series features children of different ethnic backgrounds in a suburban setting and includes themes like bullying, making new friends, and good decision-making. (Currently 4 books in the series)
Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin
This is a classic set of books that I loved as a child. The books are beautifully written and absolutely enchanting. Mrs. Jane Tabby can't explain why her four kittens were born with wings, but she's thankful that they can fly away from the dangerous city slums where they were born. All children should read or hear Catwings before they grow up. (4 books in the series)
Charlie Bumpers series, by Bill Harley
I consider this series one of the best discoveries I made when creating this list. Charlie Bumpers is a likable, relatable fourth grader. He tends to be messy and impulsive - leading to some unfavorable consequences. Readers will identify with everyday problems - like a teasing older brother and a mother who buys him new tennis shoes that he doesn't like. The stories are extremely well-written and don't have potty talk or gross humor (hurray!). Highly recommended for both young advanced readers and older, struggling readers. Currently 7 books total.
Charlie & Mouse books, by Laurel Snyder
This series features the loving relationship between two brothers, Charlie and Mouse.Each book is a gorgeous blend of picture and chapter book, making the series perfect for kids venturing into chapter books. It's charming series worth a permanent spot on your home or school shelf. (Currently 3 books in the series).
Cinderella Smith series, by Stephanie Barden
Josephine Kathryn-Smith is a third grader who goes by the nickname Cinderella since she's always losing one of her shoes. This is a well-written, refreshing series which touches on the usual challenges of growing up (wanting ears pierced, preparing for a spelling bee, dealing with the mean girl at school, etc.). Recommended for young advanced readers as well as older, struggling readers. (Currently 3 books in the series)
Claude books by Alex T. Smith
This is a series about the adventures of an endearing dog named Wag and his best friend, Sir Bobblysock (who is a sock but still has a winning personality). The series has so much going for it - the beautiful writing style, clever story-telling, and spectacular illustrations. What I don't like is the detail in a minority of the pictures - women in curvy bikinis, large busts, and a rear-end poking out of a tightrope walker's costume. I think the series' strengths outweigh these issues, but I feel it's important to point them out. (Currently 7 books in the series.)
Clementine, by Sara Pennypacker
This is a quality series about Clementine, an energetic and precocious third grader. The books don't have the same innocence as the classic Ramona the Pest series, but the plot lines are pretty tame. I could do without the occasional boyfriend/girlfriend talk among third graders, which is why I recommend this series for older, struggling readers rather than for young advanced readers. (Currently 7 books in the series)
The Cobble Street Cousins, by Cynthia Rylant
This is a gentle, wholesome series about Lily, Tess, and Rosie, three best friends who also happen to be cousins. Young readers may enjoy following the gentle love story between the girls' Aunt Lucy and kind, shy Michael. (6 books in the series)
Cork & Fuzz books, by Dori Chaconas
This is a series that deserves to be more popular. It's an easy-reader chapter book series about Cork, a short and serious muskrat, and his friend Fuzz - a tall possum who likes to have fun. The stories are witty, funny, and sweet. I only wish there were more than 10 books in the series.
Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa books, by Erica Silverman
This is a lovely, easy-to-read series about a girl and her horse. The stories are gentle and funny, and the illustrations are wonderful. The books are quite short and similar in difficulty to Henry and Mudge, Poppleton, and Mr. Putter and Tabby. (Currently 6 books in the series)
The Critter Club series, by Callie Barkley
The Critter Club is a group of four best friends who form a rescue shelter to save lost and lonely animals. While the stories aren't anything spectacular, I think girls would like them. The characters are loyal and thoughtful, and the series has no name-calling, potty talking, or sibling nastiness. (At least 19 books in the series)
Daisy Dawson series, by Steve Voake
This is a gentle series about Daisy Dawson, a wholesome and carefree little girl who talks to animals (and understands what they say to her). You won't find anything questionable, gross, or dark in these books. A challenge, though, is that there are so many animal characters that it can be hard to keep track of them. For that reason, I wouldn't recommend this series to someone who is new to chapter books and/or doesn't do well at retelling what h/she read. But it could make a great read aloud if you are willing to change your voice for the animals. (Currently 5 books in the series
Danny's Doodles books, by David Adler
You know a book is good when you, as an adult, will pick it up and enjoy reading it all on your own. That's how I feel about the Danny's Doodles series - and I have no doubt that kids will also enjoy the adventures of Danny and his quirky friend Calvin Waffle, along with the black-and-white doodles on every page. I appreciate that the characters are realistic and relatable while also being kind, honest, and generous. This series is a welcome change from the mouthiness and name-calling we find in so many early chapter books. Highly recommended! (Currently 3 books in the series ... I hope more are coming!)
The DATA Set, by Ada Hopper
What a great series! Gabe, Laura, and Caesar are a group of smart kids that everyone calls the Data Set. The large font, fantastic illustrations, and interesting storylines add to their adventures. Bonus! The books integrate science knowledge so naturally that kids won't even realize they're learning. Recommended! (Currently 7 books in the series)
Digby O'Day series, by Shirley Hughes
This is a wonderful series about the adventures of Digby and Percy, two dogs who happen to be best friends. I love that there are just a few sentences on each page, and the illustrations by Clara Vulliamy (the author's daughter!) are pure delight. Strongly recommended! (3 books in the series)
Dino-Mike series, by Franco
Mike Evans is the son of a famous paleontologist who travels the world in search of dinosaur fossils. Dinosaur-lovers will enjoy this fast-paced mix of reality and fantasy (dinosaur eggs hatch, time traveling, etc.). The books use easy vocabulary but have an interesting enough storyline to interest older readers. I wouldn't call the books high quality literature, but they're a fine choice. (Currently 8 books in the series)
Dinosaur Cove series, by Rex Stone
Dinosaur lovers will enjoy this series about Tom and Jamie, two friends who discover the secret entrance to a world of dinosaurs. These books have short chapters and vivid black-and-white illustrations. (About 24 books in the series)
Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon
I'll start by saying that the first book in this series made me laugh so hard I cried. I read it aloud to my kids a few years ago, and we loved it. Dory is an energetic little sister with a huge imagination. She exasperates her parents and annoys her siblings, but we loved her. All that said, Dory's siblings are downright mean. And there is some questionable language ("butt," reference to bathroom talk, etc.). I think the positives outweigh the negatives, but you may not agree. (At least 4 books in the series)
Down Girl and Sit series, by Lucy Nolan
I absolutely love this clever series about two dogs who think their names are Down Girl and Sit (based on what their owners are constantly saying to them!). These illustrated chapter books talk about life from a dog's point of view. Hilarious! (4 books in the series)
Dragon books, by Dav Pilkey
This is the perfect series for early readers who are ready to move past picture books. Bumbling, not-too-bright Dragon is absolutely endearing. Each chapter is short and fully-illustrated with color pictures. We own all the books, and they make great read-alouds for younger siblings. (5 books in the series)
Dragon Masters series, by Tracey West
This is a series about children who must become Dragon Masters - to connect with and train their dragons while also discovering their creatures' secret powers. I'll just say right out that I am a realistic fiction fan, not someone who enjoys fantasy books. It was painful for me to read even half of a book about Dragon Masters and the jewels that connect them to their dragons. (BOR-ING SNOR-ING.) Even the elaborate illustrations on nearly every page couldn't hold my interest.
However, Amazon's reviews reveal that this is a hugely popular series among kids who enjoy fantasy books - so it's definitely worth a try if your readers like them. (At least 11 books in the series)
Dragon Slayers' Academy, by Kate McMullan
Wiglaf, a young medieval peasant, is one of 13 brothers. A traveling minstrel told him he was born to be a hero, so he heads off to Dragon Slayers' Academy, determined to learn to be a dragon slayer. The problem is that he can't stand the sight of blood. These are entertaining, but hard to follow. I recommend them for advanced readers, as comprehension will be difficult for children still learning to handle chapter books. (20 books in the series)
Dyamonde Daniel books, by Nikki Grimes
This is a wonderful series about a smart, kind, and determined little girl named Dyamonde. The books are extremely well written and handle issues such as divorce and separation in an appropriate, child-friendly way. My only complaint is that there are only 3 books in the series.
Echo and the Bat Pack series, by Roberto Pavanello
Echo is a mystery-solving bat who solves creepy mysteries with his human sidekicks, the Bat Pack. The stories are fast-paced, the characters are kind to each, and full-color illustrations adorn the books. (8 books in the series)
Eerie Elementary series, by Jack Chabert
Sam and his friends Lucy and Antonio are students at Eerie Elementary - where the school is trying to eat the students! As hall monitor, Sam's job is to fight the school and save the students. The premise is a little wacky for me, and you'll have to decide if the age-appropriate creepiness is too much for your young readers. Do know that the books are quality, clean reads without name-calling, bullies, or potty talk. (Currently 9 books in the series)
Ellray Jakes series, by Sally Warner
Ellray is a likable third grader who is hoping his long-awaited growth spurt comes soon. He's an African-American boy living in suburbia, and he notes that he's one of the few non-whites in his school. I absolutely love this engaging series. Not only is Warner a great author, but she portrays a loving African-American family in an early chapter book series. No name-calling, potty jokes, or sassiness in this series - hurray! (9 books in the series)
Emma books, by Sally Warner
Third grader Emma McGraw is the daughter of a single working mom. She works through making friends, fighting back against bullying, and coming to terms with her mom starting to date. The books are well-written, and Emma is a likable character - but I'm not crazy about the excessive name-calling. Not my top choice for young advanced readers, but fine for older, struggling readers. (Currently 6 books in the series)
Emma is on the Air, by Ida Siegal
This series' author is a news reporter for NBC, and the books feature Emma, a wannabe television reporter. The books are fine, but they lack substance and are nothing special. Not my favorites. (Currently 4 books in the series)
Encyclopedia Brown series, by Donald J. Sobol
This classic series was published from 1968 to 1992. Encyclopedia Brown is a very smart fifth grader who helps his father, the Chief of Police, solve cases in the small town of Idaville. Each chapter features a short mystery. My husband enjoyed these as a kid, and he liked seeing how much our 9-year-old enjoyed them as well. Struggling readers may be turned off by the "old" stories and sparse illustrations, but advanced readers will enjoy the unpredictable mysteries and creative storytelling. Good clean fun. (28 books in the series)
The Fairy Bell Sisters, by Margaret McNamara
I almost skipped this series altogether because I didn't think I could stomach another book about fairies. I'm glad I gave it a chance! McNamara is a wonderful author, and she's created a charming, well-written series about Tinkerbell's five younger sisters. Great for both young advanced readers and older, struggling readers. (6 books in the series)
Finley Flowers books, by Jessica Young
Finley is a third grader who loves to craft and create; she can make something out of anything. This is a nice diversion from the princess and girly-girl type books, but I couldn't get into the stories. (The writing isn't particularly engaging.) Apparently one of the books mentions Ouija boards, but I didn't read that one. (at least 8 books in the series)
The Fix-It Friends, by Nicole C. Kear
This wonderful series is about four friends (a brother-sister duo and two of their buddies) who help children solve problems. These books do something rare ... they teach useful problem solving skills while also being just plain good stories. The books highlight strong sibling relationships, don't have potty language, and best of all, are fun to read. Highly recommended! (At least 6 books in the series)
Flat Stanley, by Jeff Brown
The original Flat Stanley debuted in 1964. It's the story of Stanley Lambchop, a boy who survives being crushed by a falling bulletin board. Other equally bizarre adventures occur in later books, published from 1985 to 2003. I wouldn't call the books great works of literature, but they are gentle and entertaining - no bullying, name calling, or disrespect issues. (6 books in the original series)
Fox books, by Edward (James) Marshall
This classic series (1983-1993) uses easy-reader vocabulary to tell funny and, frankly, brilliant stories about the irrepressible, entertaining Fox. Please note that Fox isn't a great role model (he talks back to his mom), but he faces logical consequences for his actions. There's no name-calling, potty talk, or gross humor - and the simple drawings are absolutely hilarious.
I have been a fan of Fox ever since I first read the books as a little girl. Many years later, they still haven't lost their appeal. (10 books total) Highly recommended!
Franklin School Friends, by Claudia Mills
This is a well-written illustrated chapter book series about third graders who love school and sports. Each book features a different student in the class. (Currently 5 books in the series.)
Frankly, Frannie series, by A.J. Stern
I love books that build vocabulary; I'm not crazy about early chapter books with pretend words used as real words, as this can be very confusing for young readers. This series is full of them - impresstified, excitified, concentratey, conusifying, oftenly, and countless more.
All that said, it's a cute series about a girl who is trying to figure out her dream career - with lots of funny adventures along the way. Even though the reading level is a P, the large font and spacing makes it feel easier. The vocabulary issue leads me to say it's a better choice for older reluctant readers than for young advanced readers. (At least 9 books in the series)
Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist series, by Jim Benton
Franny K. Stein is imaginative and creative -- and also happens to be a mad scientist who wants to take over the world (she just has to finish elementary school first). Franny's adventures are just plain weird, but the series is a welcome change from the cattiness, name calling, and sassiness we find in so many early chapter books. This series will appeal equally to boys and girls. (7 books in the series)
Frog and Toad series, by Arnold Lobel
In my opinion, every young reader should read (or listen to) Frog and Toad. The simple but profound stories of friendship are funny, interesting, and worth reading again and again. Don't be turned off by the dull colors in the illustrations of these vintage books. The stories are timeless. (4 books in the series)
Galaxy Zack series, by Ray O'Ryan
This is a futuristic series about a boy named Zack who lives on Nebulon with his family in the year 2120. Fantasy books can be hard to follow, but this one keeps the sentences short and has a lot of pictures to support comprehension. It's not amazing literature, but it's clean and entertaining. (More than 10 books in the series)
George Brown, Class Clown, by Nancy Krulik
George Brown is trying to be a better student - but he's plagued by sudden, super-loud burps that compel him to do crazy, outrageous things. The gross humor is a turn-off for me, but the books are pretty harmless and are undoubtedly popular among young boys. If you don't mind the level of humor, it might be a good choice for reluctant readers. (Currently 19 books in the series)
George and Martha books, by James Marshall
These classic books (created over 30 years ago) are more picture than chapter books, but I include them because they are divided into short chapters - and these books are both witty and fun. I've long been a fan of George and Martha - two hippos who happen to be best friends. Like any best friends, they get on each others' nerves, humor each other, and look out for each other. Each chapter tells its own story, which makes these books great for kids who are working at comprehension. (At least 7 total books.)
Geronimo Stilton series, by Geronimo Stilton
Okay, let me just be up front and say I don't like these books. There's nothing wrong with them content wise, but I find the variety of colorful fonts very visually distracting. And as a teacher, it was really hard to pick up a book and quickly discern the plot. My students couldn't seem to grasp it either; their retellings were all over the place.
That said, my oldest son has loved these - and I know they're very popular.
The stories are told by the mouse Geronimo Stilton, the editor in chief of the Rodent Gazette and author of adventure stories. If this series is new to your reader, I would advise having him/her talk to you about each chapter as s/he reads it to make sure that comprehension is on track. (At least 75 books in the series)
Get Ready for Gabí series, by Marisa Montes
Gabí is a spunky Latina girl who speaks in a mixture of Spanish with English. Kids can read about her adventures and challenges with her friends and third grade classmates. (At least 4 books in the series)
Goldie Blox series, by Stacy McAnulty
After the Goldie Blox construction kits became popular, Stacy McAnulty began writing these books. Goldie Blox is a smart, quirky girl engineer who loves to invent things. The premise is great, but I don't enjoy the books. They feel hastily written, and the plots are far-fetched, unbelievable, and sometimes just plain boring. Nothing wrong with these if they get kids to read, but don't rush out to buy them. (At least 5 books in the series)
Good Crooks series, by Mary Amato
Twins Billy and Jillian want to do good and help others. The only problem is that their parents are crooks, and they're supposed to follow in their footsteps.
The premise is interesting, and kids will probably enjoy the series. But I just can't get over how awful the parents are. In one book, the father is holding a stolen poodle for ransom and threatens, "Try any funny business, and your dog is dead!" No thanks. Add a fair amount of gross humor and potty talk, and I can't recommend it. (At least 4 books in the series)
Gooney Bird books, by Lois Lowry
If your readers are ready to move beyond fairies and puppies, encourage them to try the Gooney Bird Greene books. These are considerably more challenging than most of the books in this list; the font is small, and there are few illustrations. The books are exceptionally well written (Lois Lowry is a Newbery award winner), and the quirky Gooney Bird is an interesting second grader with a knack for storytelling. Some readers are turned off by the odd student/adult dynamic (Gooney Bird tends to take control wherever she is), but I enjoyed the book that I read. (6 books in the series)
Grace chapter books, by Mary Hoffman
These are chapter book sequels to Mary Hoffman's immensely popular picture books Amazing Grace and Boundless Grace. Grace is a confident, happy, and imaginative African-American girl who lives with her loving mother and Nana. The books highlight very relatable childhood experiences, but also touch on deeper topics like divorce, death of an elderly neighbor, and internment. These beautifully written books are best for older readers. (Series includes Starring Grace, Encore, Grace!, Bravo, Grace!)
Greetings from Somewhere series, by Harper Paris
This is an easy-to-read chapter book with large font and spacing and a black and white illustrations on almost every page. It's about twin siblings who are traveling the world with their parents - and who find a mystery to solve in every country they visit. The books are a good choice for kids ready to dive into chapter books, and definitely a series I'd recommend for young advanced readers. (Currently 10 books in the series.)
Gus and Grandpa series, by Claudia Mills
This is a wonderful, gentle series that highlights the loving relationship between Gus and his Grandpa. The books have full-page, colorful illustrations and the text is simple. I should note, however, that these books lack the excitement of other early chapter book series. Some children may find them boring. (9 books in the series)
Gym Shorts series, by Betty Hicks
This is an action-filled series about sports. In each book, we meet children who enjoy sports while also learning important real-life lessons. (At least 8 books in the series)
Hamster Princess series, by Ursula Vernon
This is a hilarious series featuring a hamster who's quite different from your typical glittery princess. Harriet Hamsterbone is a fearsome warrior who slays dragons, jumps off cliffs, and cracks sarcastic jokes at the same time. Definitely worth checking out! (Currently 6 books in the series)
Hardy Boys Secret Files, by Franklin W. Dixon
This is a modern Hardy Boys series (2010-2015) about third and fourth grade boy detectives, Frank and Joe. The mysteries are tame, the boys are respectful, and the stories are decently written. These won't win a prize for best in children's literature, but they're a good choice for kids who are into mysteries. (19 books in the series)
Harriet Bean books, by Alexander McCall Smith
In the first book of this series, Harriet Bean finds her five "lost" aunts (whom her father forgot to tell her about). In later books, she solves mysteries with the help of her aunts. I'm never disappointed with McCall Smith's books for children - not only are they well written, but they are also free of name-calling and potty humor. (3 books in the series)
Heidi Heckelbeck series, by Wanda Coven
This series has a lot going for it - large text with nice spacing, interesting stories, clever illustrations, and no gross humor. I also appreciate that Heidi, though often grumpy, is not mean to her family. That said ... a big draw-back for me is that Heidi is a witch, which feels weird and out of place in a realistic fiction book. I don't like it that Heidi finds spells to cast on people that she doesn't like - something to be aware of when deciding if these are a good choice for your home or classroom. (At least 26 books in the series)
Henry Huggins books, by Beverly Cleary
These funny, timeless books (the first was published in 1950) are still popular with kids today. Henry Huggins is an average 11-year-old boy who often finds himself in unusual situations. Beverly Cleary (now 100 years old as I write this post!) has a gift for understanding children and how they think. Fans of Ramona the Pest will enjoy her appearances in this series as well. (6 books in the series)
Henry and Mudge series, by Cynthia Rylant
You can't go wrong with any of the Henry and Mudge books, a wonderful easy-to-read chapter book series about likable Henry and his lovable (big!) dog, Mudge. The books feature simple, screen-free adventures, loving parents, and engaging storylines. This series is the perfect choice for especially young advanced readers! (32 books in the series)
Herbie Jones, Suzy Kline
Herbie Jones is a likable second/third grader who lives with his parents and big sister. I would say that the book topics and writing style might be a bit over the heads of advanced early readers, but it's a good series for kids in second or third grade or even older struggling readers.Whenever I pick up a Suzy Kline book, I can feel confident that it's a well-written story without potty talk, gross humor, or disrespect. (6 books in the series)
Here's Hank series, by Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver
This is a wonderful series co-written by Henry Winkler (The Fonz from the old Happy Days series) and Lin Oliver. I'm usually not impressed by children's books written by celebrities, but this book is a big exception. Winkler, who has dyslexia, has created a funny and likable character with the same challenge. I love that the series uses the dyslexie font, which is easier to read. Friends (except for the class bully) are kind to each other, and children show respect for adults. Refreshing and enjoyable! Worth investing in the 12+ books for a home or school library.
The High-Rise Private Eyes, by Cynthia Rylant
I'm a huge fan of Cynthia Rylant, but this isn't my favorite easy-reader chapter book series of hers. I think that the choppy dialogue and off-beat humor could confuse some readers, but these books are definitely worth a try. Bunny Brown (the brains) and Jack Jones (the snoop) make a fun pair of detectives. The books are clean and funny. (5 books in the series)
Hilde Cracks the Case series, by Hilde Lysiak (with Matthew Lysiak)
This series is actually co-written by 11-year-old Hilde and her father - and is quite well done. Main character Hilde and her older sister, Izzy, interview witnesses and solve crimes all over their town. The stories are interesting, and the illustrations will help keep kids engaged. (Currently 4 books in the series)
Horrible Harry series, by Suzy Kline
I had the Horrible Harry series in my classroom for years, but I never read one myself. I didn't have high hopes for their quality, and I never actually read one until I listened to my third grader read them aloud to me. What a pleasant surprise!
These books are well written, interesting, and engaging - with a host of relatable characters. In fact, this was the series that finally got my second son comfortable with chapter books and launched a big jump in his reading ability. Horrible Harry isn't really all that horrible (mischievous is a better word). The kids learn lessons, but the books aren't preachy. It's just an all around wonderful series, and worth taking up a shelf in a classroom library. (38 books in the series)
Horrid Henry series, by Francesca Simon
The positive Amazon reviews astound me, because I cannot think of a single positive thing to say about this series. Henry isn't just horrid - he's heinous. He's horribly rude, lies, is disrespectful to his parents, has an atrocious relationship with his younger brother, and hardly ever experiences consequences for his actions. He even has a stuffed animal named Mr. Kill.
I read just one book (Horrid Henry's Underpants), and that was enough for me. These books are so bad that if my kids received them for gifts I'd throw them in the garbage. Please read one yourself before filling your shelves with the 36-book series.
Houndsley and Catina books, by James Howe
This is a sweet series about an unlikely pair of best friends - Houndsley and Catina. These friendly books have charming illustrations and large text with plenty of spacing. Great for kids getting ready for chapter books. (At least 7 books in the series.)
Humphrey's Tiny Tales, by Betty G. Birney
This is a simple series based on the longer Humphrey chapter books. These books about Humphrey (the class hamster) aren't exactly amazing literature, but the story content and vocabulary are both age-appropriate. I recommend investing in the 7-book series if you have a lot of kids reading at this level.
Icky Ricky series, by Michael Rex
This is a series about Icky Ricky (a boy attracted to slime, muck, and dirt) and his friends. Personally, I don't enjoy these books about high-energy boys who are always in the middle of something gross. But they're mostly harmless. Because of the mild language ("what the heck!") and bathroom humor, I don't recommend the series for young advanced readers. (Currently 6 books in the series)
Inspector Flytrap series, by Tom Angeleberger & Cece Bell
I love that this series is written and illustrated by a husband/wife team, which I always think is cool. I want to be able to recommend the books. I like the dry humor and the zany stories about Inspector Flytrap (a Venus Flytrap who also happens to be a detective) and his goat sidekick, Nina. But the book I read had too much crass humor for my taste. If you're sensitive to that sort of thing, I'd skip it. (At least 3 books in the series)
Iris and Walter series, by Elissa Haden Guest
This is an easy-to-read chapter book series about two best friends, Iris and Walter. These are warm, sweet books with loving families and plots that young readers can relate to. Recommended! (9 books in the series)
Ivy and Bean series, by Annie Barrows
I'm on the fence about this series. On the one hand, they're funny. Ivy and Bean are two friends who get into a lot of mischief. On the other hand ... Bean can be a bit sassy, and the relationship between Bean and her big sister is very negative (which I always find disappointing in a children's book). There's a lot of name-calling. Check the series out at the library before investing in them. (P.S. Ivy wants to be a witch when she grows up, so definitely pass on this series if you're sensitive about that.) At least 11 books in the series.
Jack Gets a Clue series, by Nancy Krulik
Jack is a third grader with the ability to hear what animals are saying. This helps him solve mysteries in his third grade classroom and on school field trips. Nothing spectacular, but nothing objectionable either. (4 books in the series)
Jada Jones, by Kelly Starling Lyons
I love that this series is written by an African-American author and features a strong African-American girl as the main character. Jada is spunky (but not sassy) and learns valuable life lessons in these easy-to-read chapter books. The books felt a little cheesy and predictable to me, but I recommend them for young advanced readers (they may feel babyish to older readers). Currently 4 books in the series.
Jake Drake books, by Andrew Clements
Andrew Clements is a wonderful author for young children, so I definitely recommend checking out this series. Jake Drake is a likable second grader dealing with familiar problems - getting into trouble as the class clown, being the teacher's pet, dealing with bullying, and more. A good choice for older, struggling readers. (4 books in the series)
Each book in the series features a different girl (boy) and a realistic plot related to a particular sport. Children who like sports will enjoy these beginning chapter books. (At least 70 titles)
Jasmine Toguchi series, by Debbi Michiko Florence
Each book in this fun series incorporates Jasmine’s Japanese-American heritage into the story line. These are well written, have engaging storylines, and promote a positive sibling relationship. Recommended! (Currently 4 books in the series)
Jasper John Dooley series, by Caroline Adderson
This may be an unfair review, because I'm basing it on just one book in the series - Jasper John Dooley Not in Love - but I thought it as awful. Jasper is being pursued by an overbearing classmate, Isabel, who declares that she's in love with him and wants to marry him. (She pushes her way into being his reading partner at school, actually licks his cheek, and plays weird games with him at recess). Jasper's parents actually encourage this uncomfortable relationship by telling him that he will eventually fall in love with her and setting up playdates, against Jasper's wishes.
Ugh. I'm guessing the other books in the series are much better, but I couldn't get over how awful the one I read was. (At least 6 books in the series)
This is a series from the 80's and early 90's about relatable Jenny Archer, an only child who finds herself in an amusing situation in each book. The covers have been updated, but the stories may feel a bit dated to today's kids. Still worth a try! (8 books in the series)
Jigsaw Jones, by James Preller
This is a fun mystery series written at an easy-to-read level but with a slightly older feel. Mystery books can be a challenge for kids new to chapter books, but this is a good one to start with. It's easy to follow, and it has lots of picture support. (Over 33 books in the series)
Judy Moody series, by Megan McDonald
Judy Moody is the spunky, impulsive, and (of course) moody third grader in this popular series. The stories are funny and well-written - and even though Judy can be sassy and mean, the books are fine overall. (At least 14 books in the series)
Judy Moody and Friends, by Megan McDonald
This is an easy reader series for young Judy Moody and Stink fans. The books are packed with full color pictures featuring the brother-sister pair. It's a good choice for kids new to chapter books.
Julian's World books, by Ann Cameron
This is a wonderful series about a loving, middle class African-American family - featuring Julian, his best friend Gloria, and his little brother Huey. The stories are old (1980's) but continue to be reprinted with new covers. I love the likable characters and entertaining adventures. I also love that each chapter is its own story - making these books perfect for small group reading lessons.
Be aware that in one book the father threatens beating and whipping after the boys eat the pudding he made; they are afraid and cower under the bed. But we quickly learn that he wants them to beat and whip the eggs as they make a second batch of pudding to replace the one they ate. (8 titles in the series; see them all here.)
Junie B. Jones series, by Barbara Park
Ah, Junie B.! People either love or hate this series. The truth is that when I taught 3rd-5th grade I thought these books were hilarious and read them aloud to my students. But now as a mother, I'm not so crazy about them. Junie B. is an energetic kindergartner who can also be sassy and sometimes just plain mean (using the words "hate," "fat," "stupid," and "dumb" way too often).
The books really are laugh-out-loud funny, but Junie is often extremely naughty and not the least bit sorry. ("Then I have to say a 'pology to her. Except for you don't actually have to mean it. 'Cause nobody can even tell the difference.") I would encourage you to read one before encouraging your learners to read them so you can make your own decision. (There are 27 books in the series.)
Justin Case, by Rachel Vail
This is a hilarious series about Justin, a lovable worrywart who worries his way through elementary school and summer camp. The stories are relatable, and the illustrations really add to the book. I would save it for older, struggling readers because they'll relate better to the third and fourth grade storylines. (3 books in the series)
Just Grace series, by Charise Mericle Harper
Grace gets the nickname "Just Grace" when she tries to distinguish herself from the other three girls named Grace in her third grade class. One of Grace's strengths is that she's very empathetic. But in her quest to fix others' unhappiness, her plans often backfire. The entertaining illustrations and bold headings move the reader along. Definitely a fun series! (At least 12 books)
Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo, by Nancy Krulik
This is a fun, engaging series about Katie Carew. In each book, a magic wind appears and turns Katie into someone else ... whether that's the girl at the top of the cheerleader pyramid, a hair stylist, or the class hamster. Katie is never prepared for the switch, and each books features one funny adventure after another. Highly recommended! (At least 35 books in the series)
Katie Woo chapter book series, by Fran Manushkin
Katie Woo, a likable first grader, is the star of these extremely short beginning chapter books with very large print and full-color illustrations on every page. The stories are not deep and have simple vocabulary - making this a very safe and friendly series for young readers (older readers will feel it's babyish). (At least 50 books in the series)
Keena Ford books, by Melissa Thomson
Keena is an energetic second grader who doesn't mean to make trouble ... but she always ends up in the middle of it! The book is superbly written, beautifully illustrated (in black and white), and features a character I wish I could meet in real life. I can't love this series more, and I hope we get to see a lot more of Keena Ford! (Currently 3 books in the series)
Keyholders series, by Debbie Dadey & Marcia Thornton Jones
This is a series of light fantasy chapter books in which Penny, Link, and Natalie are the keyholders - the children who guard the border between the real and magical world. They do this with the help of their "links" (magical helpers from the other side of the border). The series is written by the authors of the very popular Bailey School Kids series, but this one never took off. The last book ends with a cliffhanger and was never continued. (4 books in the series)
The Kids of the Polk Street School series, by Patricia Reilly Giff
This classic series (published from 1984-1991) features the imperfect kids of Mrs. Rooney's second grade class. The books are relatable and tell good stories while also teaching lessons about empathy, understanding, and friendship. This is a good series for kids to get into. (16 books)
The Kingdom of Wrenly series, by Jordan Quinn
This is a sweet adventure series for young readers. Prince Lucas and his best friend, Clara, journey around their magical kingdom as they encounter trolls, wizards, mermaids, fairies, and dragons. The stories are simple but engaging, and never scary. Their simplicity and lovely illustrations make them an especially good choice for young advanced readers. (At least 14 books in the series)
King & Kayla, by Dori Hillestad Butler
This is an easy-to-read mystery series about a lovable dog (King) who helps his human (Kayla) solve mysteries. This is the perfect introduction to mystery books for kids who are transitioning to chapter books. (Currently 5 books in the series)
Kung Pow Chicken, by Cyndi Marko
Gordon Blue is a second grade superhero (who also happens to be a chicken.) I was surprised by all the rave reviews on Amazon, because I just couldn't get into this series. In my opinion, the pages are too busy with their mixture of text, illustrations, and way too many speech bubbles. I remember that whenever my students read books like this, they had a hard time following the story and summarizing it. (And frankly, I couldn't make myself read an entire book.)
That said, judging from the Amazon reviews, these comic-book style chapter books are popular and worth trying; there's nothing objectionable content-wise. A caution, though - If your students struggle to retell a Kung Pow Chicken book, try reading one yourself and deciding if it's a good fit. It may be good for strong readers looking for variety, but I'm not sure it's the best bet for struggling readers. (Currently 4 books in the series)
Kylie Jean series, by Marci Peschke
I wasn't sure I'd like a series whose main character's dream is to become a beauty queen (and who starts telling you how pretty she is on the second page). Thankfully, this isn't the sole focus of the books; each one explores a different interest. These are cute and wholesome (and moderately entertaining), making them a good choice for young advanced readers. (At least 14 books in the series)
The Last Firehawk series, by Katrina Charman
This is an animal fantasy series in which owls and their friends try to save their forest from the dark magic of Thorn, a powerful vulture. This is a classic good vs. evil book and a good introduction to magic/quest books. The font is large with good spacing, and the black-and-white illustrations are incredible. (Currently 4 books in the series)
The Life of Ty series, by Lauren Myracle
This is a spin-off series of The Winnie Years (which I have not read), featuring Winnie's younger brother, 7-year-old Ty. Based on the reviews I've read of The Winnie Years, it is not a series I would recommend. However, this spin-off series is pretty good. I could do without the potty humor and teasing about boyfriends/girlfriends in second grade, but I appreciate that Ty is a nice kid who has a loving relationship with his parents and three sisters. (Currently 3 books in the series)
The Lighthouse Family, by Cynthia Rylant
A lighthouse keeper cat, a shipwrecked sailor dog, and three orphaned mouse children are the Lighthouse Family. Each book features another of their adventures. These gentle books are beautifully written and illustrated, but the stories may move a bit slowly for some readers. I suspect that adults will enjoy the books more than children. (8 books in the series)
Little Bear series, by Else Holmelund Minarik
The author wrote these beautiful early-reader books in the 1950's and 60's (with the exception of the last book, written two years before her death). Children have loved reading about Little Bear's adventures for generations - and they haven't lost a bit of their charm. (6 books in the series)
The Littles series, by John Peterson
This is a classic series of 17 books published from 1967-2003. The Littles are a tiny family who live in the walls of the Bigg family home. The Littles look and act like ordinary people (except for their tails). These creative, wholesome books are a great choice for young advanced readers. Be aware that the newer books are not written by the original author. (17 books in the original series)
Lola Levine series, by Monica Brown
This is a wonderful, engaging series about Lola Levine, a half-Jewish, half-Peruvian girl who embraces her multicultural heritage. Lola is smart, feisty and energetic, but she isn't naughty or sassy. The stories are well written, and the characters are well developed. Recommended! (Currently 7 books in the series)
Lotus Lane series, by Kyla May
Each of these books is written as a diary and is narrated by a different BFF and member of the Lotus Lane Girls Club. These girls are into dogs, fashion, and sleepovers. And the books have waaaaay too many exclamation points for me to stomach. I found these painful and boring, but I can see how girls might enjoy them. (Currently 4 books in the series)
Lucy Rose series, by Katy Kelly
This book, told in a diary format, is about the adventures of spunky fourth grader, Lucy Rose. Lucy Rose navigates her parents' divorce, not getting the lead in the school play, and multiplication facts. The storytelling and energy are similar to Junie B. Jones - without the sassiness and backtalk. Since the book is written as Lucy would talk, it's full of run-on sentences. This can feel a little exhausting to read, but I liked this series. (4 books in the series)
Lulu books, by Hilary McKay
This is an absolutely delightful series about Lulu and her friends' adventures as they save animals in their neighborhood. The books are beautifully written, the stories are fun and engaging, and black-and-white illustrations support comprehension. Definitely check these out! (Currently 6 books in the series)
Magical Animal Friends series, by Daisy Meadows
Best friends Lily and Jess discover the magical word of Friendship Forest - where the evil witch Grizelda wants to drive all the animals out of the woods. This is the sort of series that is just way too cute for me. But it's harmless - and it can help young readers develop fluency and comprehension, especially since there are at least 30 books in the series.
Magical Mix-Ups Series, by Lynne Jonell
This is a series about four siblings who discover that magic lies in the ground under the family's house. The children are loving to each other (almost to the point of being far-fetched), and there's no gross humor or backtalk. Unfortunately, however, the stories aren't particularly interesting. (4 books in the series.)
In the Magic Puppy series, Storm is a magic wolf who uses his spells wherever they're needed most.
In the Magic Kitten series, Flame is a magic lion who uses his spells wherever they're needed most.
In the Magic Ponies series, Comet is a magic pony who uses his spells wherever they're needed most.
In the Magic Bunny series, Arrow is a magic bunny who uses his spells wherever they're needed most.
I'll be honest. These types of series are so saccharine they make me feel ill. In my opinion, the books feel mass-produced, have uninteresting plots, and are far too predictable to be quality literature. But they're safe, harmless, and quite popular among young readers. Your learners might just love them - and that wouldn't be the end of the world. (Too many books in the series to count!)
Magic School Bus chapter books, by various authors
This is a spinoff series based on the popular picture books by Joanna Cole (with illustrations by Bruce Degen). The chapter books lack the quality of the originals; they definitely feel mass-produced. But I can imagine that fans of the TV show would enjoy these companion books as well as the science facts which are included throughout. (20 books in the series)
Magic Tree House series, by Mary Pope Osborne
I'm a big fan of the best-selling Magic Tree House books because they tell kid-friendly adventure stories while also teaching about science and social studies. A bonus is that the stories are clean (no potty talk) and feature a positive brother/sister relationship. Great choice for young advanced readers! (At least 32 books in the series)
Mallory books, by Laurie Friedman
This is a well-written series about Mallory, a third/fourth/fifth grader (depending on the book), and the drama that surrounds her and her friends (and their older siblings). Mallory is a good role model but is also relatable and likable; the books teach good lessons without being preachy. I should note that while the books are perfectly appropriate, I'd save them for third grade and up. They focus a lot on older kid themes (owning a phone, older sibling boyfriend/girlfriend breakups, etc.) At least 28 books in the series.
Mango & Bambang series, by Polly Faber
This is a beautifully written, engaging story about a girl (Mango) who discovers a tapir lost in the city (Bambang) and becomes her friend. The wonderful illustrations add a lot of charm to the book. These would make great read alouds. (Currently 4 books in the series)
Marty McGuire books, by Kate Messner
This is a really great series about an active third grade girl who likes the dirt and doesn't want to dress up like a princess. The books are well-written and should appeal to both boys and girls. (Currently 3 books in the series)
Marvin Redpost series, by Louis Sachar
Marvin Redpost is a likable and relatable third grader. Kids enjoy these books, and I don't have any big issues with them - except that the subject matter (such as teasing about boyfriends/girlfriends and a dog dying when Marvin is housesitting) sometimes feels too much for the targeted age level. Probably a better choice for struggling older readers than for young advanced readers. (8 books in the series)
Mary Marony series, by Suzy Kline
This is an older series (early 90's), and like any series by Suzy Kline, it doesn't disappoint. Mary Maloney is a clever and creative little girl who's trying to overcome her stutter and the other challenges of second grade. These feature a larger font and black-and-white illustrations. Recommended for young advanced readers. (4 books in the series)
The Masterpiece Adventures, by Elise Broach
In this charming series, we read about James and his friend Marvin, a beetle. (It's a companion series to the much more difficult chapter book Masterpiece.) The text is large with big spacing, and the books have detailed black-and-white drawings. Lots of support for young readers. (4 books in the series)
Matter of Fact Magic book series, by Ruth Chew
This classic series was originally published in the 70's, 80's and 90's, and is being republished by Random House. Each book features different children and their encounters with everyday magic (often featuring a witch). If your readers enjoy fantasy books, these will likely be a hit. (At least 14 books in the series)
Max Malone series, by Charlotte Herman
This is a well-written, older series (published in the 90's) about 1o-year-old Max and his friends. Kids will enjoy reading about Max's schemes to get rich quick, his plans to star in a commercial, and his attempts to become a magician. (4 books in the series)
Maybelle series, by Katie Speck
I never thought I'd enjoy a series about a plump cockroach, but Maybelle is an absolute delight. She's an adventurous insect who lives under the fridge in the home of prim and proper Myrtle and Herbert Peabody. Can Maybelle have fun while following all the rules for cockroach safety?
The books have large font, ample spacing, and fantastic black-and-white illustrations. These make great read-alouds too! (Currently 4 books in the series)
Melvin Beederman Superhero books, by Greg Trine
This is a goofy series about a superhero named Melvin. Melvin, a graduate of the Superhero Academy, has been assigned to fight crime in Los Angeles. He works with Candace, his best friend and partner in uncrime. Together, they thwart the plots of the McNasty brothers while trying to avoid Melvin's greatest weakness - bologna. Silly and fun. (Currently 8 books in the series.)
Mercy Watson series, by Kate DiCamillo
What? You've never heard of Mercy Watson? Please... reserve one of the books at your library, stat! These are absolutely hilarious (and brilliantly illustrated) books about Mercy Watson, a pig (excuse me, porcine wonder) who is the delight of her owners but a thorn in the side of her neighbor, Eugenia Lincoln. Each book features a hilarious new adventure, quirky characters, and plenty of hot buttered toast. These were the first chapter books that my kids listened to me read aloud, and they could usually listen to a full book in one sitting. (6 books in the series)
Mermaid Tales, by Debbie Dadey
Third-grader Shelly and her mermaid friends go to school at Trident Academy. The books address issues related to fears, fitting in, friendship, and more. I admit that a series all about mermaids is a bit hard for me to stomach, but the books are harmless and not too bad, actually. (At least 20 books in the series.)
Milo & Jazz Mysteries, by Lewis B. Montgomery
Young mystery lovers will enjoy this clever, fast-paced mystery series about Milo and Jazz, detectives in training. (And I admit it, I loved it too!) Great for fans of Cam Jansen, and a good choice for both young advanced readers and older, struggling readers. (12 books in the series)
Minnie and Moo series, by Denys Cazet
This is an easy-reader chapter book series about Minnie and Moo, two lovable cows who go on silly adventures. (9 books in the series)
Miss Mallard Mystery series, by Robert Quackenbush
This is a fun series from the 80's that's being republished. Kids will enjoy reading about world-famous duck-tective Miss Mallard and the mysteries she solves all around the world. Try to get the newer books (Quix Fast Fun Reads). I appreciate the word list and questions at the end of each book. (At least 15 books in the series)
Missy's Super Duper Royal Deluxe series, by Susan Nees
This is a really cute, fun series about Missy - a "razzle-dazzle girl who does things the Super Royal Deluxe" way. Unlike Missy, her friend Oscar is a thinker, not a talker, and it's fun to see how the two interact. Kids will enjoy the speech bubbles, charming illustrations, and all-around fun stories that will appeal to both boys and girls. (Currently 4 books in the series)
Moongobble and Me series, by Bruce Coville
This is a series about Moongobble, an "inept but endearing wizard" and Edward, his boy apprentice. It's set during medieval times and features dragons, werewolves, and other monsters. I had a hard time reading past the first chapter, so I visited Amazon to see what reviewers had to say. Many teachers and parents wrote that it did not hold their listeners' interest. (At least 5 books in the series)
Moose and Hildy series, by Stephanie Greene
The only bummer about this series is that it took me so long to discover it! It's a wonderfully funny and engaging series about two best friends: Moose and Hildy (a pig). The fantastic black and white illustrations help make this book a great transition to chapter books. Highly recommended! (4 books in the series)
Mouse and Mole books, by Wong Herbert Yee
This is a sweet (but rather slow-moving) series about two best friends named Mouse and Mole. The books have full color pictures for strong reader support. If your readers enjoy the classic Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel, they will likely enjoy this series as well. The plots and pacing are very similar. (At least 4 books in the series)
Mouse Scouts series, by Sarah Dillard
This is a delightful series about a mouse scout troop (very similar to Girl Scouts) who work through earning badges and other adventures. I love how pages from the Mouse Scout Handbook appear between pages of the story. This is a great series for young advanced readers, but be aware that the books have the word "stupid" a little too often. Other than that, I highly recommended this 4-book series.
Mr. Putter and Tabby series, by Cynthia Rylant
This is a gentle, not-to-miss series about the cautious, elderly Mr. Putter and his cat, Tabby. We love reading about their adventures with his equally elderly (but much wilder) neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry and her dog, Zeke. This a touching, beautiful series - and it's well worth investing in a box set if you get the opportunity. (25 books in the series)
Mrs. Noodlekugel books, by Daniel Pinkwater
My Weirder School series, by Dan Gutman
I wish I could recommend this popular series, but it was quite disappointing. The main character "hates" practically everything (including school), and the books are full of name-calling, potty talk, negativity, and mean-spirited humor. Many kids will enjoy this series; you'll have to decide if you want to feed that by filling your shelves with them. I definitely don't recommend them for young advanced readers. (12 books in the series)
Nancy Clancy chapter books, by Jane O'Connor
While I prefer the Fancy Nancy picture books, the Nancy Clancy chapter books (which came later) are also fun to read. Nancy and her best friend Bree are likable third graders with engaging, realistic adventures. I love that O'Connor builds vocabulary in a natural way throughout each of the books.
These books are mostly harmless; I'm not always crazy about Nancy's choices, but natural consequences usually follow. One notable exception is in Secret Admirer. Nancy and Bree jump into the truck of her teenage guitar teacher for a ride home - without consulting their parents. Yikes! (Currently 8 books in the series)
Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series, by Carolyn Keene
This series features pre-teen versions of Nancy and her friends, George and Bess. They solve mysteries such as missing dolls and lost ice cream recipes. If you're wondering how Carolyn Keene is still writing Nancy Drew books (the original series began publication in the 1930's), you should know that Carolyn Keene is a pen name and is used for all the ghost writers who write the Nancy Drew series.
And I would say that the series definitely feels like that ... books written quickly without a lot of personality. There's a place for these books, though - reading series books is actually good for kids. I'd recommend these books for girls who enjoy mysteries. (At least 40 books in the series)
Nate the Great series, by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
This classic series (the first book was published in 1972) is the perfect segue from picture to chapter books. Nate the Great is a boy detective who solves mysteries with the help of his dog, Sludge. Kids will enjoy the clever mysteries and quirky characters. This is a great series for young advanced readers, and the books appeal equally to girls and boys (this was one of my favorite series as a young reader). Over 25 books in the series.
Nikki & Deja series, by Karen English
This series features a pair of African American best friends who live next door to each other. Nikki and Deja are both relatable and likable. I had a hard time getting into the book I read (Substitute Trouble), but started enjoying it a few chapters in. (6 books in the series)
The Notebook of Doom series, by Troy Cummings
Alexander has moved to a new town, where he finds an old notebook with the word DOOM on the cover. The notebook contains top secret information about monsters, which Alexander battles in each of the books. I'll be honest and tell you that while I thought this series was harmless, it's also really dumb, and I can't imagine reading it aloud to my kids in place of the many interesting books out there that are actually well-written. I must be in the minority, though, judging by the 5-star Amazon reviews. Just consider yourself warned. (More than 10 books in the series)
The No. 1 Car Spotter, by Atinuke
I absolutely love this series about an African boy named Oluwalase Babatunde Benson - No. 1 for short. What's especially wonderful is that this is a contemporary early chapter book set in Africa. The main character is very poor, but the book is neither depressing nor happy go lucky - it's just plain good. What can No. 1's family do when Grandmother is sick and they have no money to pay for a doctor? Believe it or not, a wheelbarrow is the solution. (At least 4 books in the series)
Oliver and Amanda Pig series, by Jean Van Leeuwen
These tender easy-reader chapter books were published from 1979-2008. They were probably my first chapter books, and I remember checking them out over and over again from the library. Now as a mother, I appreciate those early books even more. The author wrote the first books when she had two young children - no wonder the stories are so relatable! The oldest books of this series are my favorite, but all are good. (20 books total)
Olivia Sharp books, by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
From the creator of the classic Nate the Great series came this series about his cousin - Olivia Sharp. Olivia is a spunky girl detective who helps her friends solve their problems. There's nothing wrong with the books, but this series lacks the charm of the original Nate the Great books, which may be why it didn't catch on. (Only 4 books in the series)
Owl Diaries, by Rebecca Elliot
This is a brightly illustrated series about Eva Wingdale, a likable little owl who keeps a diary about her adventures at home and at Treetop Owlementary. This is a good choice for second or third graders who struggle with reading but want to read chapter books. The content is perfect for younger readers as well. (At least 9 books in the series)
Peachy and Keen series, by Jason Tharp
This is about two best friends - Peachy the Cat and Keen the dog, who attend classes together at Happy Tails School. I found the writing less than compelling, and I'd had enough of the animal puns a few pages in -- but I can imagine that reluctant readers could quickly get into this series. (Currently 3 books in the series)
Pedro books, by Fran Munushkin
This is a lovely easy-to-read chapter book series about a kind, thoughtful Latino boy named Pedro. Perfect for young readers in kindergarten and first grade. (Currently 9 books in the series)
Pee Wee Scouts series, by Judy Delton
I remember how much my younger brother (now 36) loved these books as a third grader. The 40 books (published from 1988-2012) are about a group of boys and girls in a scouting group. Each book's plot typically focuses on earning a particular badge, and the stories are engaging and interesting. The kids are sometimes mean to each other, but it's nothing over the top. I do have to say that I'm really disappointed by the updated covers; try to find the original series if you can.
Pet Friends Forever series, by Diana G. Gallagher
This is a cheerful (if somewhat boring) series about Kyle and Mia, two best friends who love animals. They help people and pets find solutions to their pet problems. (At least 6 books in the series.)
Pet Rescue Adventures, by Holly Webb
This is a gentle (if predictable) series about children and the animals they rescue. The plots are rather repetitive, and the stories not all that thrilling - but it's still a good choice for young, advanced readers. Older children may find them boring. (At least 30 books in the series)
Phoebe G. Green series, by Veera Hiranandani
I quickly fell in love with this funny series about Phoebe G. Green, a spunky, likable narrator. Not only are the books thoroughly entertaining, but they also have positive messages. Highly recommended! (At least 4 books in the series)
Pinky and Rex books, by James Howe
Pinky and Rex are two best friends; Pinky is a boy whose favorite color is pink. Rex is a girl whose favorite dinosaur is a T-Rex. These books explore friendship in an endearing way. The easy-reader format makes them a great choice for young advanced readers. (12 books in the series)
Piper Green and the Fairy Tree books, by Ellen Potter
Piper Green is a spunky second grader who lives on a small Maine fishing island and commutes to school on a lobster boat. Piper is a typical kid who tends to be stubborn and moody, but she is also considerate and thoughtful. The books are exceptionally well written. Highly recommended! P.S. I should note that the series really isn't about fairies. Piper simply puts something in the Fairy Tree, and something else is left in exchange. (Currently 5 books in the series)
Piper Reed series, by Kimberly Willis Holt
This is an entertaining and well-written series about Piper Reed, a child whose family moves every few years because her father is a Navy Chief. Piper navigates new homes, new schools (while dealing with dyslexia), and quarrels with her older and younger sister. Because the older sister is a teen, there are some comments that younger readers won't "get" (and that you won't want them to). Nothing serious at all, but for that reason I'd recommend this for older struggling readers and not young, advanced ones. (Currently 6 books in the series)
The Polk Street Mysteries, by Patricia Reilly Giff
Dawn Bosco is a second grade detective at Polk Street School. This is an older series (1980's) that's been republished. It's a wonderfully written, engaging set of books without the bathroom humor and snarkiness prevalent in newer chapter books. Recommended!
Poppleton books, by Cynthia Rylant
This may just be my favorite children's book series of all time. Together, Rylant's beautiful storytelling and Teague's outstanding illustrations bring us the adventures of lovable Poppleton the pig and his neighbors - Cherry Sue (a llama), Hudson (a mouse), and Filmore (a goat).
The stories are pure and wholesome and still laugh-out-loud funny. This is a rare combination, and I highly (HIGHLY!) recommend getting the full set for your home or classroom library. You may just find yourself pulling them off the shelf to read even when no children are around (I know I do). 8 books in the series.
Press Start! series, by Thomas Flintham
My third grader loves this fully-illustrated series that features video game characters Super Rabbit Boy and his nemesis, Meanie King Viking. I'll be perfectly honest and tell you that I don't get this series at all. I find all the visuals very distracting and the plot super hard to follow. But even though we don't have video games at our house, my boys (1st, 3rd, and 4th grade) devoured all the books that I reserved from the library. Just be aware that while this may get reluctant readers reading, it will be challenging to check on their comprehension. (At least 5 books in the series)
The Princess in Black series, by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale
Princess Magnolia appears to be the perfect, prim princess - but when monsters attack, she changes into a costume and becomes her alter ego - The Princess in Black. I like the concept of a superhero princess, and kids will love the beautiful full-color illustrations on nearly every page. Personally, I didn't find the stories all that well-written or engaging. But there's nothing objectionable in the series. I suspect these would feel babyish for kids above third grade. (Currently 6 books in the series)
Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe series, by Noah Z. Jones
Princess Pink is a girl whose first name is Princess, and her last name is Pink. She has seven older brothers and doesn't like the color pink - or anything girly. What she does love is going on adventures in the Land of Fake-Believe, a secret land she enters through her refrigerator. The book is a mixture of text and speech bubbles, which can be a bit distracting. But the text is simple, the stories are entertaining, and kids will love the full-color pictures. Not great literature by any means, but worth checking out. (4 books in the series.)
Princess Pistachio books, by Marie-Louise Gay
I wanted to like these books, if only because Princess Pistachio is so much fun to say. But I was disappointed in the sassiness of the main character and the unkind teasing by her friends. Still ... the writing is clever, the stories are cute, and the illustrations are great. Worth trying. (3 books in the series.)
Princess Posey series, by Stephanie Greene
I did not expect to like this book because I'm not crazy about princesses, fairies, or any of the other stereotypical girl book themes. But Posey won me over very quickly. Posey is a first grader who lives with her mother and little brother. She deals with typical kid things - jealousy, name calling, etc. - but this is (almost) always handled with a lesson and a positive solution. The books are ideal for young readers through second grade; the books will feel babyish for older readers. The book I read did have a small amount of bathroom humor. (Currently 12 books in the series)
Princess Pulverizer series, by Nancy Krulik
This is a well-written and engaging series about an atypical princess. Princess Pulverizer doesn't want to be a princess; she wants to be a knight. Her father the king promises to send her to Knight School ... if she completes eight good deeds on a Quest of Kindness. In each book, the princess travels the countryside in search of people who need her help. The book I read was funny and did not have any name-calling or potty language. Great choice for young advanced readers! I assume that there will eventually be 8 books.
Project Droid series, by Nancy Krulik and Amanda Burwasser
This is a clever series about eight-year-old Logan and his "cousin" Java, who is really an android that his mom invented. Kids will enjoy reading about their adventures - and about Logan's attempts to keep Java's true identity a secret. (Currently 6 books in the series)
Pug series, by Laura James
This is a clever, fully illustrated series about a likable pug and his pampered owner, Lady Miranda. Pug lives in a posh English townhouse, where a footmen and housekeeper cater to him and his owner. Each book features a new misadventure (a boat ride, horseback riding, jungle safari, etc.). (Currently 4 books in the series)
Puppy Academy series, by Gill Lewis
Unlike most chapter books about puppies, the dogs are the main characters in this series. At Sausage Dreams Puppy Academy, a team of pups learn how to be working dogs. Young animal lovers will enjoy reading about school from a dog's perspective. Each book features a different pup working toward his or her dream. (At least 4 books in the series.)
Puppy Pirates series, by Erin Soderberg
This series is about a group of puppy pirates who "set sail for fun and adventure." Honestly, I find the premise ridiculous and the books painful to read. However, many children enjoy them - and they're a fine, wholesome choice. (At least 7 books in the series)
The Puppy Place series, by Ellen Miles
The Petersons are a foster family for young dogs. Each book in the series tells a different story about a new puppy that the family has taken in. This is a cute, safe series for young animal lovers - and an excellent choice for young advanced readers. (Over 30 books in the series)
Rainbow Magic books, by Daisy Meadows
The good news is that there is nothing objectionable in the Rainbow Magic books. The bad news is that they are painful to read. They are sickeningly sweet, have mediocre writing (at best), and nearly the same plot in all the books. It's clear that the author dashed these books off very quickly (no wonder there are over 200 in the series!). I couldn't even make it through one (short) book. That said, reading these repetitive books can actually be good for young readers who need to improve comprehension and fluency.
I wouldn't discourage kids from reading these books, but do remember that the goal is that they move on to higher quality books when they're ready.
Rainbow Street Shelter, by Wendy Orr
I'm not a big animal person (at all), so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this beautiful series about children and the animals they meet at the local shelter. The writing is exceptional, the stories offer just the right amount of suspense, and the black-and-white illustrations give readers the support they need. (At least 6 books in the series)
Ramona Quimby books, by Beverly Cleary
When I look back at my childhood, Ramona Quimby plays a prominent role. I absolutely loved this series of books about a little girl who starts as a pesky preschooler and grows into a relatable, likable 10-year-old. I loved reading each novel when I was the same age as the Ramona in the book. It's like Beverly Cleary could see into my head ... she "gets" children so well.
Even though the publication dates range from 1955-1999 (yes, really - Cleary is now 100 years old), the stories are timeless. This is a must-read series for every young reader. (8 books in the series)
Ranger in Time series, by Kate Messner
I highly recommend this quality series about Ranger, a golden retriever who rescues children as he travels through time. Not only are the stories engaging and wholesome, they also integrate social studies concepts as children read about different periods of history. Please do note, however, that the themes (such as slavery) may be too much for young readers who don't have the proper context. Save these for kids in third grade and up. (At least 9 books in the series)
Raymond and Graham books, by Mike Knudson
This series about two fourth grade best friends, Raymond and Graham, is entertaining and funny. I hesitate to recommend it to young readers, however, because there is a huge focus on the boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic, which feels inappropriate in a book for young readers. For that reason I think it's a better choice for older, struggling readers. (At least 4 books in the series)
Ready, Freddy! series, by Abby Klein
Ready, Freddy is a popular series, so much so that I bought some for my oldest a number of years ago. I regret it and am getting rid of all the ones I find in the house. While I don't dislike this series as much as I despise Captain Underpants and Horrid Henry, I can't recommend it.
Freddy talks back, has a horrible relationship with his sister, lies, and whines. Children call each other names, make fun of the principal, and more. As a side note, it blows my mind the way the parents listen to the older sister being absolutely horrible to Freddy and do nothing about it ("just ignore her") .
Yes, it's a popular 27-book series, but as you can see from the length of this blog post, there are many better options.
The Rescue Princesses series, by Paula Harrison
This is a friendly series about princesses who live at a princess boarding school, where they learn how to be royalty while also assisting animals in need. (Currently 12 books in the series)
Ricky Ricotta series, by Dav Pilkey
This is actually a really fun series which is part chapter book/part graphic novel. Ricky Ricotta is a mouse who regularly saves the world from invading villains with the help of Mighty Robot. While I don't like all of Pilkey's books (see my negative review of Captain Underpants), this series is a winner and a good choice for reluctant readers. (Currently 8 books in the series)
Riverside Kids series, by Johanna Hurwitz
This wonderful series from the 80's is set in an apartment building in New York City. Since it's about groups of siblings, the books feature both male and female main characters. It's fun to learn about the big city adventures and to watch the kids age up as the series goes on. Most of the books in the series are out of print, but it's definitely worth hunting down at your library. This is an especially great choice for young advanced readers, but may feel boring to older readers. Books include Busybody Nora, Superduper Teddy, Russel Sprouts, E is for Elisa, and more (14 books in the series).
Roscoe Riley Rules, by Katherine Applegate
This was a surprisingly entertaining book about Roscoe, a good-natured first grader who lives with his parents, little sister, and big brother. Roscoe finds himself in trouble a lot, but he's likable and means well. This is a great pick for reluctant readers. (At least 7 books in the series)
Ruby and the Booker Boys, by Derrick Barnes
This is a lovely series about a feisty, smart little third grader named Ruby. Her older brothers (Marcellus, Roosevelt, and Tyner) are the most popular kids at school - but Ruby isn't about to be left behind! (4 books in the series)
Ruby Lu books by Lenore Look
Ruby Lu is a spunky Asian American with a big imagination - and I absolutely love, love, love this beautiful series. So often, early chapter book series feel like they're being mass-produced without any effort at good writing. Not the case with Ruby Lu! These books are clever and engaging.
The only thing I should tell you is that Ruby, after practicing driving on her dad's lap, actually drives herself and her little brother down the block to school. I am not worried (at all) about my own kids "trying this at home," but just be aware that it's in one of the books. I can't do justice to these books in a review... please reserve one at your library! (Currently 3 books in the series)
Sam Krupnik series, by Lois Lowry
This is an older series (published in the 90's) about Anastasia Krupnik's younger brother, Sam. Sam is a precocious and absolutely hilarious 4-year-old. The books are entertaining and very well written (Lowry is a Newbery award winner), but save this series for kids who are just about ready to move into middle grade chapter books. Better yet ... read them aloud to young listeners. (4 books in the series)
Sassy series, by Sharon M. Draper
Sassy, a likable African-American fourth grader, is a breath of fresh air! The books are a lighthearted, happy look at life in elementary school. There's no questionable content. (Currently 4 books in the series)
Secret Agent Jack Stalwart series, by Elizabeth Singer Hunt
In this intense and fast-paced series, fourth grader Max Stalwart is a secret agent by night. In each book he's searching for his older brother - who, though also part of a secret agent organization, has gone missing. Jack travels the world and has exciting but perilous adventures; some of Jack's situations may be troubling to sensitive young readers. I'd recommend this for older, reluctant readers, but probably not for young advanced readers. (14 books in the series)
The Secrets of Droon series, by Tony Abbott
These are fast-moving, high interest books about kids who discover a magical word under the staircase. The kids have their own magical powers as they battle evil emperors, wicked sorcerers, and more. I should tell you that I've disliked this series ever since I was a teacher - even though I'd never read one until now. That's because it was nearly impossible to tell if kids understood these books after they read them. There are so many strange characters and twists in the plot that my third graders could never retell one of the books with any sort of clarity. (Honestly, I almost fell asleep as they tried.) I do not recommend these books for struggling readers because it's so hard to keep track of all the names and events.
While I don't personally care for these books, they're harmless and may be just the thing to get young readers started with chapter books. But just be aware that these are not high quality literature (at all). (44 books in the series)
Shark School series, by Davy Ocean
This is a hilarious series about Harry Hammer, a hammerhead shark who wishes he were one of the cool kids, and his friends at Shark School. The books are entertaining, the illustrations are great, and the stories integrate science facts in a natural way. There's a small amount of bathroom humor, but it's a minor issue. Recommended. (Currently 10 books in the series)
Shelter Pet Squad, by Cynthia Lord
This is a friendly new series about kids who find homes for animals in need. Cynthia Lord (a Newbery Honor award winner) is a strong writer, so the plot and characters have more depth than you usually see in an early chapter book series. A great choice for animal lovers and for young, advanced readers. (Currently 3 books in the series)
Sherlock Sam series, by A.J.Low
Sherlock Sam is a Korean boy who lives with his family in Singapore - and solves mysteries with Watson, his robot sidekick. To be honest, I couldn't get into it, but it's a safe series that some kids may enjoy. The vocabulary and story structure feels too complex for young advanced readers. (At least 12 books in the series)
Simply Sarah series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
This is an absolutely wonderful series for young advanced readers. The books features a very loving sibling relationship, kid-friendly storylines, and happy endings. The stories teach important life lessons without anything too deep or dramatic. One book I read was about saving a friend's Chinese restaurant from going out of business. Another was about pigeons laying eggs on Sarah's apartment balcony. Strongly recommended with the caveat that these will feel babyish to older, struggling readers. (4 books in the series)
Sly the Sleuth series, by Donna Jo Napoli
Sly and her cat/assistant, Taxi, use their reasoning to solve friends' and neighbor’s mysteries in these engaging books. The only bummer is that there are just 3 books in the series.
Sofia Martinez series, by Jacqueline Jules
I appreciate the premise of this simple series featuring 7-year-old Sofia Martinez and her family, but I just couldn't get into them. The books mix English with Spanish and include a Spanish to English glossary in the back. The books offer strong reader support with full-color illustrations and large font. (At least 12 books in the series)
Song Lee books, by Suzy Kline
The Song Lee books are set in the same classroom (3B) as the companion series, Horrible Harry. Song Lee may be the quietest person in room 3B, but she's also full of surprises! This is a lovely, gentle series - too bad there aren't more! (4 books in the series)
Space Taxi series, by Wendy Mass and Michael Brawer
Archie is an 8-year-old boy who discovers that his taxi driver father actually drives aliens through outer space. This is a fun, engaging series. (Currently 3 books in the series)
Sparkle Spa series, by Jill Santopolo
I didn't have high hopes for this series about girls who open a mini-salon for kids inside their mom's nail salon ... but it actually wasn't too bad. The series isn't just about the perfect manicure; it's also about entrepreneurship, giving back, and being a friend. (Currently 6 books in the series)
Starring Jules series, by Beth Ain
Jules Bloom is a witty and thoughtful second/third grader who also happens to be an aspiring actress. But even though Jules becomes a TV and movie star, she's a likable, relatable character. This is a quality series. (Currently 4 books in the series)
Stella Batts, by Courtney Sheinmel
Stella Batts is an 8-year-old girl whose parents own a candy store. She loves to write (and tells each book as if she wrote it herself). These are sincere, gentle books that also address mild bullying and other challenges of elementary school. (At least 10 books in the series)
Stink books by Megan McDonald
This is a fun, harmless series about Stink, Judy Moody's little brother. There's a bit of gross talk (boogers, etc.) but the second grade adventures are light and funny. (At least 15 books in the series)
Sugar Plum Ballerinas series, by Whoopi Goldberg
A series about ballerinas. A series by a celebrity. These two things meant my expectations were quite low; however, I was pleasantly surprised. Goldberg has written a lovely series about girls at the Nutcracker Ballet School in Harlem. Each book features a different girl who learns both ballet and an important life lesson. (6 books in the series)
S.W.I.T.C.H. series, by Ali Sparkes
8-year-old twins Danny and Josh live next door to a mad scientist, the elderly Petty Potts. Petty has created S.W.I.T.C.H. spray, which can turn any creature into a creepy-crawly or reptile. The twins become ants, spiders, grasshoppers, alligators, and more. Kids will enjoy these-fast paced adventures, and you'll like that the books integrate science concepts in a casual way. Be aware that the books do have mild name-calling and potty humor. (14 books in the series)
Tales from Deckawoo Drive, by Kate DiCamillo
This series is a continuation of the popular Mercy Watson series (which is written at a lower reading level). Unlike Mercy Watson, this series features different characters from the neighborhood, has more challenging vocabulary, and features black-and-white illustrations. Personally, I love them, and I'm an endless Kate DiCamillo fan, but I think that the jokes and subtlety would go over many kids' heads. (Currently 4 books in the series)
Three-Ring Rascals, by Kate Klise
What a great find! Written by Kate Klise (and illustrated by her sister, M. Sarah Klise), these entertaining stories feature the members of Sir Sidney's Circus. The stories are entertaining, the illustrations (with speech bubbles) are fantastic, and kids will enjoy the jokes and puns throughout. (5 books in the series)
Time Warp Trio, by Jon Scieszka
These are fantasy books in which a magic book sends the main characters off to different periods of history. The kids are kind to each other, and I didn't find any bathroom or gross humor. I also appreciate the way the books teach readers about historical events. Personally, I couldn't get into the series, but it's definitely worth a try. Consider reading the first book aloud before asking kids to read subsequent books on their own. (16 books in the series)
Toys Go Out, by Emily Jenkins
This is one of my favorite series. I absolutely love the story of toys who come to life - Lumphy, Stingray and Plastic (a toy ball, who isn't actually plastic at all). My one objection is that in one of the books the toys are afraid of "ax murderers in the basement." I always edit that out when I it read aloud to my kids. For that reason - and for other subtleties that younger children might not get - I recommend this for older readers.
Unicorn Princesses, by Emily Bliss
Cressida Jenkins loves unicorns and is positive that they are real. In each story, she journeys to Rainbow Realm to help a unicorn princess and her sisters. After reading the sickeningly sweet summary on the back of one of the books, I was sure I would dislike the series. But it's actually not too bad. A wholesome (and sometimes syrupy sweet) series. (At least 8 books)
Violet Mackerel series, by Anna Branford
This is a lovely and refreshingly well-written series about a young girl named Violet and her family - including her loving new stepdad, Vincent. The book addresses big topics (moving, single parenthood, parents dating, etc.) in gentle ways. The large-ish font and lots of space between lines make this accessible as an early chapter book - despite the high reading level. Great choice for young advanced readers! Quality enough for a read-aloud. (At least 9 books in the series)
Wayside School series, by Louis Sachar
This is a truly wacky series about the kids and teachers at Wayside School. It's an older series (I remember that my younger brother, now 36, loved them as a kid), but kids still enjoy them today. Be aware that the stories are outrageous and frequently very funny, but some of the stories are bizarre and a bit mean-spirited, which will be confusing for young advanced readers. Save them for third graders and up. (5 books in the series)
West Meadows Detectives, by Liam O'Donnell
This is a refreshing new series about Myron, a boy on the autism spectrum, and his best friend, Hajrah, also neuroatypical. Myron and Hajrah spend part of the school day in a special resource class, and the rest of the day in a regular third grade room. As the two solve mysteries around their school, their challenges and strengths are presented in a positive manner. The books have very little name-calling or other objectionable content. Recommended! (Currently 3 books in the series)
The Whodunit Detective Agency series, by Martin Widmark
This is an illustrated series about Jerry and Maya, two classmates who run a detective agency and solve crimes in their small town. The mysteries are interesting, but not too complicated for young detectives. There are enough clues and false leads to keep them engaged. (8 books in the series)
The Worst Witch series, by Jill Murphy
I had never heard about this series, even though the first book was published in 1974 (and apparently it's also a Netflix series). Mildred Hubble is attending Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches, and she can't seem to get anything right! From crashing her broomstick to mixing up her spells - she feels like the worst witch. This series is well-written and entertaining, and if you don't mind witches in fantasy books, I recommend it. (Currently 8 books in the series)
Yasmin series, by Saadia Faruqi
Yasmin is a second grade Pakistani-American girl. This is a lovely series for young readers; the chapters are short, the stories are relatable, and there are full-color pictures on nearly every page. It's worth investing in the series (at least 5 books to date).
Young Cam Jansen, by David Adler
Adler took his popular Cam Jansen mystery books (up earlier in this list) and created a series of companion mysteries for younger readers. This is a great series for kids who like mysteries but aren't ready for longer chapter books. (20 books in the series)
Zach & Zoe Mysteries, by Mike Lupica
This is a wholesome series about twins Zach and Zoe Walker, who love playing sports and solving mysteries. (currently 6 books in the series)
The Zack Files, by Dan Greenburg
Zack is a 10-year-old boy who gets into weird situations. And by weird, I mean really weird. So weird that I'd rather my kids not read the series. In one book, his grandfather is reincarnated as a cat. In another book, his apartment is haunted by an 8-year-old poltergeist. In yet another book, the dead Queen Victoria takes possession of his body during a seance.
The books are meant to poke fun at popular horror series, but I found them rude, inappropriate, and creepy. Not recommended. (30 books in the series)
Zapato Power books, by Jacqueline Jules
Freddie Ramos is a Latino boy who receives a mystery package containing shoes that allow him to run super fast - like a superhero. And so Freddie becomes the superhero of his school - finding lost lunches and library books and rescuing a puppy. The stories didn't grab me, but they're safe and sweet. (At least 7 books in the series)
Zigzag Kids series, by Patricia Reilly Giff
This new series is from the author of the classic Polk Street Kids. I feel that the Polk Street Kids series is more interesting and well written. This series feels a little forced and boring. However, it's a fine choice for kids who enjoy the books. The kids are kind to each other, and I saw nothing objectionable. (Currently 8 books in the series)
Zoey and Sassafrass series, by Asia Citro
This is a charming series about a little girl named Zoey, who uses science to heal magic creatures. The science is sound, the pictures are fantastic, and the stories are easy to follow. Highly recommended! (At least 6 books in the series)
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