Best vintage easy readers, best early readers

Top 10: Best Old Fashioned Easy Readers

While not all these books are from when I was young, they all have an old fashioned, innocent feel.  In fact, my number one pick, Ling and Ting:  Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin reminds me so much of my favorite Little Bear early chapter book series in that it has a tight story line that is both silly and sweet.  Easy readers are a rite of passage for both kids and parents.  I remember searching for easy readers that were not mind numbingly boring as both parent and child are reading together during this period of literacy.

My oldest HATED reading out loud.  It was too much like a dreaded performance for her.  She had annual piano recitals during this same period and she always looked like she was going to the gallows when walking onto the stage.  Her favorite Easy Readers chapter books included Little Bear, Mr. Putter and Tabby, and Cam Jansen though I discovered Young Cam Jansen a tad too late for her.

My middle child loved to read out loud and still does.  She loves the undivided attention and always wants to be the center of attention. I think it’s a middle child thing. She tends to be loyal to one author and, as a result, we own every Yoko and Friends book ever published, and it is a great series.  She also loved the Mr. Putter and Tabby series.  This series gives you the grandfather that we never had as both their grandfathers passed away decades ago.

My youngest is just embarking on this literacy journey of reading and he’s happy both to read aloud or be read to.  He loved Ling and Ting and we read it once and then promptly misplaced it.  It still hasn’t turned up yet.  I’m trying to sell him on Frog and Toad because I love it so.  He thinks it is hi-lar-ious but found Ling and Ting even funnier.  I’m hoping to by pass Yoko and Friends with him; they are wonderful books but I think I’ve had my fill. I tried the new Pam Muñoz Ryan book with him and it was a hit!  She’s an author my oldest loves but for her middle grade chapter books.

And, of course, there is always, ALWAYS Henry and Mudge.  The workhorse of the Easy Reader Genre.  Dependable.  Reliable.  Plentiful.  It’s also a rite of passage to read at least a few dozen with your kids. Unfortunately, they tend to be one-hit wonders with my kids.  We read them once… maybe twice, and then we are done with that book but there are always more to be had.  These are best to borrow or get from the library.

What are your favorite easy readers? Please share!


Best Easy Reader Books for Kids

10. Little Bear series by Else Homelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak [We own the entire series which I purchased myself when my oldest was a toddler]

I found A Kiss for Little Bear was probably one of the first books that my kids could read independently but the entire series is delightfully old fashioned, sweet, and innocent with anthropomorphic animals– Little Bear, Duck, Owl, Cat, Hen–  all playing sweetly together, and even with a little girl and her doll, Lucy.  The only parents, Father Bear and Mother Bear, are warm, nurturing, and constantly feeding the crew.

Little Bear Maurice Sendak pragmatic mom

9. Young Cam Jansen series by David A. Adler

I love this series for girls who love mysteries.  My girls, at this age of just reading independently, wanted to only read books with girls as the main characters.  Young Cam Jansen is smart and always solves the mystery and I think she’s a great role model for little girls.  If your kids like this series, they can grow into the chapter book series, Cam Jansen, which my girls also loved.

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8. Nate the Great series by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat [We own a few of these books, but beg/borrow/steal them.  Ok.  We do return them and we probably never stole them.  If so, it would be mystery to solve!]

I just had a discussion with my neighbor who tired of this series.  It is full of quirky characters and we didn’t read it exclusively as her daughter did.   It’s slightly more advanced than the rest of the books. Nate’s dog is a prominent character also, so this series also appeals to dog lovers.  I also find that this series has unisex appeal.  Nate is Jewish so that is another interesting angle in this mystery series.

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7. George and Martha series by James Marshall [We don’t own any but I am not sure why.  We checked out the entire series one by one during one summer from the library]

These short quirky stories about the friendship between two hippos, George and Martha, are curiously funny.

6. Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Sucie Stevenson [We own a handful of these books which I bought myself.  The kids mostly read them at school in their assigned reading bag.]

This is such a workhorse series that every child seems to go through that I used to communicate my child’s reading ability by saying this series, “Well, she’s reading Henry and Mudge level books right now…”  And EVERYONE — teacher, librarian, mom — would know exactly what I meant.  I love Cynthia Rylant and I think this series has wonderful illustrations.  My only beef is that these books seem to warrant reading over and over and over again.  Once or twice and then it’s time to move on.

best easy reader beginning book pragmatic mom

5. Yoko and Friends series by Rosemary Wells [We own the entire series with some duplication because we have all the books individually plus a book with multi-books bound inside.  I bought them all myself.]

This is one of the best series to introduce kids to situations they encounter in school or even preschool:  separation anxiety, bullies, teasing, non-hand washers who spread germs…  I read these so much with my middle child that we have them practically memorized.  It’s a wonderful series from an author who never disappoints!

4. Cornelia and the Great Snake Escape by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Julia Denos [The publisher offered me a catalog of books and this was one that I selected that they sent to me.]

My youngest loved this book because it has a surprise ending that was fun to try to guess.  It was one of the longer easy chapter books we read with 5 or so short chapters.  Some pages had a full page of text which made him tire so we took turns reading every other sentence each to get through.  For an easy reader, it has a great plot centered around choosing a pet from a pet store and having the new pet fit into the family.

Cornelia and Great Snake Escape, best easy reader

3. Mr. Putter and Tabby series by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard [We own a few of these which I bought myself.  I stalked multiple libraries in different cities to find them all.]

This is a wonderful series featuring a grandfather type, Mr. Putter, and his geriatric cat, Tabby.  They get into all kinds of funny adventures but love the most to be cozy and snug at home.

Mr. Putter and Tabby, best easy reader pragmatic mom

2. Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel [We own a collection of them which were gifts.]

A Dad Friend described this as a zen-like series.  To me, it’s Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street in a more Zen state.  My older two daughters dabbled in this timeless series but my youngest is really enjoying it but most of all, I am loving reading this series all over again.  By the way, Frog is Ernie, and Toad is Bert — did you think it could be any other way?!

1. Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin [I asked the publisher for this and they were nice enough to send this. I wonder if I ask for a replacement copy if they would oblige?]

It shouldn’t surprise me that Grace Lin created such a crazy-good Easy Reader; she’s an author that never seems to disappoint but I have to say that I was curious and skeptical when I first found this book online and asked the publisher for it.  One jaded part of me thought, well… the Easy Reader genre is a desert of bad books.  I wonder if Grace Lin is just trying for an easy hit.  But then I read the book and was TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY by how excellent the book is.

The first story is about identical twin girls, Ling and Ting.  One can sit still; the other is squirrelly.  They both get haircuts and the squirrelly one accidentally moves and gets a chunk taken out of her bangs.  Now you can tell them apart.  My son and I thought this first vignette was hilarious yet charming. If you look closely at the cover illustration, you can see the differences in their hair cuts!

I fervently hope this becomes a series.  The book is laugh out loud funny, sweet, and with a tight story that circles back at the end for a satisfying conclusion.  This is an instant classic that will stand the test of time along with Little Bear and Frog and Toad.  Please, please, please let this be a series.  And fast too, because we won’t be in Easy Reader territory for long and this is my last child!!!

Best Early Readers Honorable Mentions

Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff

Syd Hoff writes gentle old fashioned stories that kids can relate to. Danny’s dinosaur is a gentle playmate that Danny finds in a museum. When he goes to sleepaway camp with Danny, the camp counselors find that the dinosaur fits right in.

The Horse in Harry’s Room by Syd Hoff

Harry wished he had a horse and one appeared but only Harry can see it. When Harry’s parents take him to see horses in the country, Harry worries that his horse should be free too.

The Fire House Cat by Esther Averill

Pickles becomes a fire house cat when a fire station adopts him. He turns out to be great at helping the firemen!

Mouse Tales by Arnold Lobel

A father mouse tells these tales to his mice children as bedtime stories. Each story is short and sweet.

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

Best vintage easy readers, best early readers

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. I am so putting ling and ting on my to read list, I have not heard of it and aim all about multicultural perspectives!

  2. Nina Smith

    You probably already know this but the Frog and Toad audio books are so very good. We listened to them so many times. When my youngest started reading them, I wasn’t sure if he was just remembering the audio book word for word.

    • Hi Nina,
      We are not a big audio book family so thank you for that recommendation!!! We love Frog and Toad deeply and passionately!! It is a CD or cassette tape? We’d probably use the ebook. Must look into this!!!

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