chapter book for young girl

20 Gentle Chapter Books for a Young Girl

My reader Natalie has a young daughter who has been reading enthusiastically at a young age:

My daughter  read first books of Penderwicks and Half Magic, but I should look into their sequels to return her to a more gentle universe ๐Ÿ™‚

My daughter is probably a little unusual since she is reading since she was 3, and it’s truly her favorite thing to do. We still read theme-based picture books (we really loved several of the kite books you recommended, by the way), but she is reading a lot of long books on her own.

She is a big fan of myths and legends as long as they don’t involve mummies and zombies – these are two things she is terrified of. She went crazy this summer about Percy Jackson and the Olympians – each book took her about 3 days to read, and then she reread all of them several times. Now she is reading through Famous Five by Enid Blyton. Last summer she read through Secrets of Droon, and, of course, she read all Magic Tree House and Magic School Bus chapter books.

I’ve arranged this list in the order of easier to more difficult books. So the 10th book is where I’d start your daughter and then I’d work down to the first book.

Readers, what other gentle chapter books for a young girl would you recommend? Thanks for sharing!


Old Fashioned Chapter Books for a Young Reader

10. My Father’s Dragon series by Ruth Stiles

My kids usually get this as a read aloud in first or second grade. Teachers love this  old fashioned fantasy easy chapter book series. [easy chapter book, ages 6 and up]

9.  Clementine series by Sara Pennypacker

I think of Clementine as the new Ramona of Ramona the Pest fame. She’s the spunky girl next door but this series is easier and shorter than the Ramona series. [easy chapter book, ages 6 and up]

8. The Squirrel’s Birthday and Other Parties by Toon Tellegen

We used this short story book for a book club for girls and it reminds me of updated Beatrix Potter stories. You may not have heard of Toon Tellegan, but he won a Marsh award for best children’s book in translation. [chapter book, ages 6 and up]

7. Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant

My daughter loved this book when she was in first grade. Her teacher used it as a read aloud. Extra bonus is the wonderful vocabulary and rich language used for this old fashioned dog story.

6. All of a Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor

The American Girl doll Rebecca is based on this six book series that is finally back in print — all 6 books! What’s great about this series is that it looks like a chapter book but reads as independent short stories, making for perfect bedtime reading! Set in New York City at the turn of the century, this is a gentle but realistic world of a Jewish immigrant family. [chapter book, ages 6 and up]

5. Half Magic series by Edward Eager

We are working our way through this series that has some unexpected twists and turns. In each chapter book is the element of magic. Half Magic rewards four sibling with wishes granted 50 percent. Magic by the Lake takes these same four kids to adventures of a watery nature. Knight’s Castle and The Time Garden has  a fun twist of four cousins whose mother’s are in Half Magic. [chapter book, ages 7 and up]

4.  Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall

The first book of the Penderwicks series won the Newbery award and each chapter book in this 5 book series — 3 out so far — is excellent and can be read as a standalone. Though a recent series, it has a timeless, old-fashioned quality that speaks a bygone time of unlocked houses, siblings that always seem to get along, and adventures where everything always turns out all right. [chapter books, ages 8 and up]

3.  The Saturdays series by Elizabeth Enright

Brothers From Another Mother … The Saturdays remind me of the Half Magic series minus the magic element. The Melendy siblings have similar gentle adventures but they have to do it without the aid of magic. [chapter book, ages 6 and up]

2. Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

Chester Cricket accidentally ends up in New York City’s Time Square Penn station following a picnic basket mishap. Some kind animals at the station try to help him return home to Connecticut but first he wants to help out the family that runs the newspaper stand. Can his musical talent save them? This is actually a series but sadly the rest of the books are not as good. [chapter book, ages 6 and up]

1. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

This Newbery honor chapter book has so many wonderful elements:  a strong girl character who discovers her passion for the natural world, a historical fiction-y feel set in 1899 in Fentress, Texas, and wonderful story of self discovery. It also appeals to boys! [chapter book, ages 8 and up]


A few more …

Cobble Street Cousins series by Cynthia Rylant

This is an early chapter book series so it might be too easy for your daughter but it’s a very sweet six book series about three cousins living with their Aunt Lucy while their parents travel with the ballet. They introduce Aunt Lucy, who runs a flower shop and lives in a lovely old Victorian house, to a nice young man and by book six, they are planning a wedding! This is a very gentle world that may have existed in a small town somewhere a long time ago. [early chapter book, ages 6 and up]

Betsy Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace

I loved especially the early chapter book series Betsy Tacy which I read when I was young. As the girls get older, the books shift from early chapter books to chapter books but I think your daughter would be able to handle the genre change assuming she likes this series of three best friends living in 1800s and early 1900s in the midwest.

Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

My girls didn’t love this series but I did as a child and it seems lots of girls are still reading and loving it. [chapter book, ages 7 and up]

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater

The chapter book is nothing like the movie! It’s completely different and much, much better.


Advanced Picture Books for an Advanced But Young Reader

Best Picture Books You’ve Never Heard Of

I have a list of the picture books my kids and I have loved that you might not have heard of. It’s a pretty long list but I’ve pulled three picture books to give you a sample. [picture books, ages 4 and up]

One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey

Gentle stories seem to harken back to the past and if your daughter likes these old fashioned times, I didn’t want her to miss out on an advanced picture book favorite of mine. [advanced picture book, ages 5 and up]

Any picture book by Patricia Polacco (except Pink and Say)

Patricia Polacco writes and illustrates her advanced picture books drawing on her past. She has dyslexia and her teacher Mr. Falker helped her overcome it. An adventure with her older brother coming to the rescue is chronicles in My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother. She and her best friends are mistakenly accused in Chicken Sunday but hard work by the children brings this story to a satisfying conclusion.(Pink and Say is the story of her relative who survives The Civil War at the expense of his new friend. I’d avoid that one just because of the violence of her true family story.) [advanced picture books, ages 5 and up]

Any picture book by Emily McCully Arnold

I picked a few strong girl character books for your daughter from author Emily McCully Arnold’s works that my kids have really enjoyed but you can’t go wrong with this author. All her advanced picture books are excellent! [advanced picture books ages 5 and up]

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

chapter book for young girl

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Mia, this is a great list and thanks for writing it based on my request! We love Patricia Polacco books and we read some of the longer chapter books in your list even though we seem to be jumping between series a lot here ๐Ÿ™‚ I am looking forward to more fantasy reviews from you, since Smarty has been so much into fantasy lately. She is now finishing up the second book in Inkheart series and then plans to switch back to The Lost Years of Merlin.
    Natalie recently posted…More Math Resources for Advanced LearnersMy Profile

    • Hi Natalie,
      Your daughter might like the gentle chapter fantasy book series Swordbird by Nancy Yi Fan. What is fun is that Nancy was 11 years old when she wrote it and 12 when it was published by Harper Collins. The head of Harper Collins Children’s Books approved it himself (I think it was a he) — not because she’s a kid — but because it was a great book!

      It’s anthropomorphic birds who are fighting and a mythical bird that is going to set the birds free.

      My oldest also like the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. It was not my favorite but young girls who are advanced readers seem to love it (at least, my young friend Tess), and it’s anthropomorphic feral cats who live in clans that are constantly feuding. Some cats die but it doesn’t seem to bother the young readers too much.

      Hope that helps! We don’t read much fantasy unfortunately. Only my oldest liked that genre but she liked realistic fiction and action adventure more.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…20 Gentle Chapter Books for a Young GirlMy Profile

  2. What a fabulous list! I also have a daughter who reads like crazy and it is challenging to find books that are appropriate for her, so we will definitely be keeping this list handy!

    Some other great books that we love are the American Girl series, the Whatever After series, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I’ve tried to introduce other Roald Dahl but without much success), Judy Moody, the entire Oz series (I thinks she’s on book 4), Cam Jansen, A-Z Mysteries, the Ramona series, Judy Blume (she just read Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great), and Charlotte’s Web.

    My daughter is still firmly planted in princesses and fairies, but obviously we have books that fall out of that zone as well.
    michelle recently posted…exciting adjectivesMy Profile

    • Thanks for your great suggestions Michelle! My middle daughter also liked The Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume so thank you for that reminder of a wonderful author that I left out by grave oversight!

      I LOVED the Oz series as a child. Maybe Natalie’s daughter would like that too!

      Love your book suggestions!

      Thanks again Michelle!!!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…20 Gentle Chapter Books for a Young GirlMy Profile

  3. Thanks for this list! Do you have similar books to recommend that feature more boys? My son is similar to Natalie’s daughter.
    maryanne recently posted…Studying RocksMy Profile

  4. I’d like to suggest my middle-grade, The Magical Ms. Plum, about a magical third grade teacher. I’ve been told by librarians and teachers that boys like it as much as girls. It’s “gentle” and funny and contemporary and, so it’s not just me bragging on my own book, (I hope) I’ll mention that it won the Washington State Book Award.

  5. Thank you so much for this post. I have a 6 year old with a voracious appetite for books, but have been struggling to find books that both challenge her and are age appropriate. Thanks so much!
    Jenny recently posted…Read Aloud! Grow, Brains, Grow- 10 Ways to Read to a Busy ToddlerMy Profile

  6. Lori

    I love all these books! Another gentle chapter book that I love is Caddie Woodlawn (around level R). I also LOVE The Hundred Dresses and that is on the easier side (level O).

    To help the commenter above, in regards to boys, The Mysterious Benedict Society series is a fun one. Also, Holes, Hoot and Hatch… Depends on the age and reading level, however.

    Thanks Mia- I love your lists!!
    Lori recently posted…Book Notes: WeslandiaMy Profile

  7. I love all of these books! So glad to see you also included Squirrel’s Birthday. I love that one!
    Erica recently posted…Halloween Coloring Page (Plus a Giveaway!)My Profile

    • Hi Erica,
      My mom friend Katherine picked it for a book club for it making little notes and hiding them. They had so much fun! And such a sweet book! Glad you love it too! We have very similar taste in children’s books which makes it so easy to love your lists, every single one of them!!!
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  8. Thanks for sharing this set of chapter book recommendations at After School! I will definitely need to look into some of these for my daughter.
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  9. Christy

    I loved the Little House series as a child, but I look back now and think, why do we keep recommending for children a series where one of the main lovable characters says “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
    Christy recently posted…Christina Rossetti – philosophical questions within her poetry & lifeMy Profile

    • Hi Christy,
      I do remember that line but I can’t remember who says that. I vaguely remember the girls’ father being more accepting of Indians but I don’t quote me on that!

      I loved the Little House series as a kid too but I couldn’t get my two girls to give it a try. They read a few pages of Little House in the Big Woods and thought there was no plot. It’s funny, but kids these days need an immediate hook by the first page and books from long ago were written at a much slower pace. I think some kids still like this series but very few that I know.
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  10. Jennifer L.

    I love this list! I have a few more to add, because it is a challenge to find just right books for younger readers (without pre-reading all of them!). We love all the Anna Hibiscus books by Atinuke, the Lulu series by Hilary McKay, the Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin.

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