I'm not the only person who thinks that readers and early chapter books are the hardest books for a writer to make entertaining. See, a weird thing happens when a child moves from being read to to having to read for him/herself...
The writing has to get less sophisticated.
It makes sense! A beginning reader's spoken vocabulary extends far beyond his or her written vocabulary. So children who have been treated to some pretty sophisticated picture books are suddenly faced with books that have a tendency to be written below their intellectual level.
Think "See Jane run."
So when a chapter book character or a series of early readers grabs kids' attention, parents and teachers take notice! They don't want reading to become a chore. And suddenly that character has a gazillion books!
Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
George and Harold, two well-meaning buddies who don't always thrive in an overly structured school environment, make a comic book hero out of their silly principal, Mr. Krupp. But here's the thing: when they try to hypnotize Krupp to get out of some major trouble, they manage to make the man himself believe he is Captain Underpants. And then things really start getting weird.
The Frances series, by Russell Hoban
These seven classic readers feature a little girl badger named Frances. With "distinct characters, conflict and humor" (all hard to find in a reader), Frances has stood the test of time. Our reviewer acquaints you with a particular favorite, A Bargain for Frances.
Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist by Jim Benton
Franny doesn't really fit in with the other kids her age, which is kind of to be expected, given that she's a mad scientist. High on humor (and low on science) Franny's chapter book series isn't meant to be taken seriously, but it sure is nice to see a kid who's different survive school with her bizarro self unbullied and intact!
The Frog and Toad books
There's no very nice way to say this: Frog and Toad aren't very bright. But the adventures of these dim-witted amphibians do make for a fun read, and the fun started with Frog and Toad Together.
The Hank the Cowdog series by John R. Erickson
This canine "Head of Ranch Security" manages to combine humor and adventure in his books. Writing like a human (he's the narrator!) but behaving like a dog, he manages to get things done - with a whole lot of mishaps along the way. Our reviewer takes on the 51st(!) book in the series, The Case of the Blazing Sky.
Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park
There are 24 books so far in this chapter book series that follows the funniest kid ever through kindergarten and 1st grade. Junie is all id and no editor, and the greatest testament to just how funny she is is the fact that older kids guzzle up her adventures. That's right: if you thought children only wanted to read about kids the same age and older than them, well, you haven't met Junie.
Note: parents and teachers either love or hate her.
86% of the reviews on Amazon are either 5-star or 1-star. Why might adults hate her? Well, she's poorly behaved and practices questionable grammar. Why might they love her? Uh, funniest kid ever remember? Our reviewer recommends loosening up and embracing Junie. Do you really think you're going to be able to shield your child from negative influences? Of course not. So let your kid enjoy reading and develop a sense of humor. Get Junie!
The Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne
Siblings Jack and Annie time travel in pursuit of historical and scientific knowledge...which they manage to convey to your children without your children even realizing that they're learning!
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
This delightfully humorous classic children's book series features a wise neighbor woman who knows how to cure every kind of behavior problem. Each book is really a bunch of short stories featuring natural consequences and help children see how their own questionable behaviors look to others. If that sounds like a drag, don't worry: it's not!
Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Egotist junior Nate (self-named "the Great") solves mysteries in traditional detective fashion with his dog, Sludge. As of 2009, there were 26 books in this long running chapter book series. "The mystery is solved not by luck, but by actual reasoning that a young reader can follow." Kind of a cross between a reader and a chapter book.
You don't become a brand name without good reason! Richard Scarry's readers are packed with so much comedic visual detail that kids can almost forget they're reading.
Wings of Icarus by Jenny Oldfield (part of the White Wolves: Myths and Legends series)
A modern retelling of the Greek myth, featuring a father and son held prisoner who escape by building wings but fly too close to the sun. Other books in the series include Arthur's Sword, Pandora's Box and Sephy's Story.
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