My reader Natalie has a young daughter who has been reading enthusiastically at a young age:
My daughter read the first books of Penderwicks and Half Magic, but I should look into their sequels to return her to a more gentle universe 🙂
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. An 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 siblings 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 mothers 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 a 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 the 1800s and early 1900s in the midwest.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
The chapter book is nothing like the movie! It’s completely different and much, much better.
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]
Advanced Picture Books for an Advanced But Young Reader
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]
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 chronicled 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 of her advanced picture books are excellent! [advanced picture books ages 5 and up]
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