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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Early Chapter Books for Kids

I always find early chapter books a challenge.  I don't want to scare kids off by presenting a book that seems too overwhelming .... yet I want kids to feel they have moved on to bigger things and not dissapoint them with a book that seems to juvenile.  A tough balancing act!

This week I have several selections that I hope will give them confidence in reading, but still challenge them enough to see a real improvement.  Whatever you do, don't give up at this stage.  Try lots of books.  Some will stick, some won't, but give kids enough variety that they find something that ignites their enthusiasm and passion in reading.

I have tried to give you quite a selection: greek gods, animal loving students, girly girls, and fun folktales.  Here's hoping to at least one or two being a hit in your house!


Title:       Heroes in Training: Zeus and the Thunderbolt of Doom

Authors:  Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams

Target:     Grades 1-3

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:
Just how did Zeus become the King of the Olympians?  Well look no further, because this book is a basic and very funny primer to Greek mythology.  We follow a young Zeus as he confronts the Oracle of Delphi, whose fogged up glasses do not make the future very clear.  She, however, sets him on his path to get his brothers and sisters out of Cronus’ belly.  Now if only he could figure out what to do with that pesky lightning bolt!

Why I love this book:
While true to the original stories, this version is quite humorous and engaging.  Presenting Zeus as a young boy, trying to figure out his part in the narrative, is quite relatable to kids.  The funny quips and confused oracle will keep kids laughing, but the story itself will give them the basics of the Greek mythology.

Who this book is for:
This book is for kids just starting chapter books.  Bigger type and one full page picture per chapter make this book not too overwhelming, but kids must be ready for several pages in a row of text.  Great for kids who may be interested in Percy Jackson, but are too young for the books.

Final thoughts:
The start of a really fun series.

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Zeus and the Thunderbolt of Doom (Heroes in Training)  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog.


Title:       Lulu and the Duck in the Park

Author:   Hilary McKay

Target:    Grades 1-3

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:
Lulu is wild about animals.  She is so crazy about them that she even brings her dog to school, which doesn’t go over so well with her teacher.  No animals are allowed in class!  However, after the class sees dogs running wild through a park and upsetting the nests of the ducks that live there, no one realizes when Lulu saves one of the eggs.  After spending the day hiding the egg under her sweater, Lulu finds it actually hatches.  Will Lulu break the no animals in class rule?

Why I love this book:
This book was charming and well written, which is always a treat for an early chapter book.  The teacher was actually quite funny, in a realistic way, and her occasional exasperation felt very real.  Kids will certainly appreciate the humor of it.  I liked that Lulu was drawn as African American, and that nothing in the actual story hinted at her race, which I hope opens kid’s imaginations to what characters can look like.

Who this book is for:
Kids starting to move to chapter books will like this story.  There are not illustrations on every page but they are liberally scattered throughout the book.  The cover is pink which may turn off some boys, but the actually story is not girly and both boys and girls can enjoy it.

Final thoughts:
The story was sweet, but not in a predictable sugary way, which is appealing to me.

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Lulu and the Duck in the Park (Book 1)  A portion of each purchase goes back to supper this blog.


Title:       Kylie Jean: Drama Queen

Author:   Marci Peschke

Target:    Grades 1-2

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:
Kylie Jean is just starting second grade.  When her teacher tells the class they will be putting on the play Alice in Wonderland, Kylie can’t wait to try out for the part of the Queen.  However, the new girl in their class, who hasn’t been very nice to Kylie, gets the part and Kylie must decide how she will handle the news.

Why I love this book:
First let me say I hated the beginning of the book and almost didn’t read it.  The idea that Kylie aspires to be a beauty queen, didn’t play very well for me.  It felt so cliche and limiting for a second grade girl.  However, the book itself shows Kylie working hard for what she wants and choosing to behave in ways that make her a pretty person on the inside, and I loved those messages.  Once the story gets going I think it has some great messages for girls, but the beginning was a real turn off as an adult.

Who this book is for:
This is a book for a girl who likes pink and pretty.  The illustrations are adorable and are done in black and pink ink, with lots of hearts thrown in!

Final thoughts:
Pretty is as pretty does!

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Drama Queen (Kylie Jean)  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog.


Title:       The Feathered Ogre/The Mother of Monsters

Author:    Fran Parnell

Target:     K-Grade 2

Series:      Yes

What these stories are about:
Both these books tell stories from folklore, the Ogre from Italy and the Mother of Monsters from South Africa.  The rest of the series profiles monster stories from other countries.  The stories are told in an easy to read format with charming illustrations which are not in the least bit scary!  In our first story the king will give half his kingdom to anyone who brings back a feather from the Ogre to cure his illness.  In our second story, the princess Ntombi is afraid of nothing, and wants adventures, not marriage.

Why I love these books:
Books like these are why I love this blog.  It is so much fun to find a hidden gem among early reader books and I wonder why they haven’t been discovered before!  I’m not usually a folklore person, they can get a little preachy and highbrow for me, but these stories are retold in the most delightful and fun way to engage the reader throughout!

Who this book is for:
Kids wanting to start chapter books.  The text is not overwhelming and the graphics are fun and plentiful.

Final thoughts:
Culture + folklore = fun, not usually an equation I find to be true but in the case of this series, a winner!

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Feathered Ogre: A Story from Italy (Monster Stories)  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.


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