Friday, June 17, 2011

Great chapter books for 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders (ages 7 - 9)

This year we've had a great time at our school library encouraging students to read "just right books", ones that they find interesting but ones that they can read smoothly by themselves. We've increased our selection of transitional chapter books, nearly doubling our holdings. We've celebrated series books like Magic Tree House and Ivy & Bean. And we've worked with students to have them slow down when choosing a book, reading the first few pages and seeing if it's a "just right book".

Transitional chapter books fit in between early readers and regular fiction. Magic Tree House is a classic example, as are the Rainbow Fairy books. Students love reading series at this stage in their reading development, getting to know the characters, enjoying the comfort of predictable plots but enjoying the anticipation of what might change.

I wanted to take a look at the most popular chapter books to see what books students were loving. Here's our list:

Ricky Ricotta's Giant Robot vs. the Mutant Mosquitoes from Mercury (Ricky Ricotta, No. 2)10. Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot Vs. The Mutant Mosquitoes from Mercury
by Dav Pilkey
NY: Scholastic, 2002
available on Amazon or at your local library

Our new readers adore Ricky Ricotta as he and his Mighty Robot take on the evil creatures of the universe. This chapter book is full of ridiculous humor and is great for readers new to chapter books. They love the action, the illustrations and Pilkey's sense of humor.

Stink and the Incredible Super-Galactic Jawbreaker (Book #2)9. Stink and the Incredible Super-Galactic Jawbreaker
by Meagan McDonald
MA: Candlewick, 2006
available on Amazon or at your local library

In our library, seven year old Stink is definitely more popular than his older sister Judy Moody. In this book, he discovers that he can get free samples by writing letters to candy companies - sweet!! Stink's dad helps him work through friendship troubles and think about what's really important.

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot Vs. The Jurassic Jackrabbits From Jupiter8. Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot Vs. The Jurrasic Jackrabbits from Jupiter

by Dav Pilkey
NY: Scholastic, 2002
available on Amazon or at your local library

Our new readers really do adore Ricky Ricotta! In this book, the fifth in the series, General Jackrabbit and his Robo-Rabbits from Jupiter attempt to take over the world on Ricky Ricotta's birthday.

Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty7. Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty
by Nick Bruel
NY: Roaring Brook, 2009
available on Amazon or at your local library

Clearly, humor is a real draw for readers at this age. Nick Bruel's Bad Kitty series makes me laugh out loud, with its blend of Garfield the cat grouchiness, big and bold line drawings, and wacky nonfiction tidbits. It’s Bad Kitty’s birthday, and she’s wishing for a special gift. If she doesn’t get it, well . . . things won’t be pretty for Chatty Kitty, Strange Kitty, Stinky Kitty, and her other neighborhood friends.

Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (P.S. So Does May)6. Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (P.S. So Does May)
by Barbara Park
NY: Random House, 2005
available on Amazon or at your local library

Junie B. still draws kids in, with her sassy attitude and honest view of growing up. Kids love Christmas, so what better way to relive the excitement than reading all about it! In this book, Junie B. is so excited for all her classroom festivities, but then she gets stuck with Tattletale May as her Secret Santa partner.

Ivy & Bean Take Care of the Babysitter (Ivy & Bean, Book 4)5. Ivy & Bean Take Care of the Babysitter
by Annie Barrows
CA: Chronicle Books, 2008
available on Amazon or at your local library

Bean was sure that she would never be friends with Ivy, but indeed they are best friends. And this series is incredibly popular with our 2nd and 3rd graders. We're tremendously lucky here to have had Annie Barrows visit our school and local bookstore, Mrs. Dalloway's. In fact, Ivy & Bean's school is named Emerson School after our very own school!

Ivy and Bean Doomed to Dance (Book 6)4. Ivy & Bean Doomed to Dance
by Annie Barrows
CA: Chronicle Books, 2009
available on Amazon or at your local library

Yes, our school truly does love Ivy and Bean! This book had me laughing so hard when I read it with my youngest daughter. Second-grade best friends Ivy and Bean beg for ballet lessons, then, when they are cast as squids in their first recital, scheme to find a way out of what seems to be boring, hard, and potentially embarrassing. But, you haven't seen the last of Ivy and Bean at Emerson!

Bound to Be Bad (Ivy and Bean, Book 5)3.  Ivy & Bean Bound to Be Bad
by  Annie Barrows
CA: Chronicle Books, 2008
available on Amazon or at your local library


Again, students love reading this series - three of the top 5 chapter books are Ivy & Bean books! Here, Ivy and Bean learn that being very good, or very bad, can be a real challenge when they set out to become like a man Ivy heard about who was so pure of heart that birds and animals followed him. If you have a chance to invite Annie Barrows to your school, she is an amazing, wonderful speaker. She energizes students, makes them laugh and draws girls and boys to this series.

by Megan McDonald
MA: Candlewick, 2005
available on Amazon or at your local library

Oh, Stink's big sister Judy Moody is going to be in a mood when she realizes that Stink made our top 10 list twice! Since he's the shortest kid in the second grade, Stink decides to learn all about the shortest president of the United States, James Madison, when they celebrate Presidents' Day at school. This summer I'd like to try listening to Stink on audio - it's narrated by Nancy Cartwright who is the voice for Bart Simpson. Stink's a winner at our school, and I think that young kids would have a blast listening to this as well as reading Stink!

by Derrick D. Barnes
NY: Scholastic, 2008
available on Amazon or at your local library

Ruby is a wonderful character - full of good spirits, but also someone who's determined to find her own way to shine. In this book, Ruby wants to get back at her brother Roosevelt because he played tricks on her and her friends at her last slumber party. Kids love the way Ruby and her friends have fun, but I also think they really respond to the warmth and optimism of Ruby's character.

What chapter books and series have been home runs for your kids? I'm always looking out for new series that use humor to draw kids in and make them want to read the next in the series.

Many libraries shelve these chapter books in their own section, while others file them with the general fiction. What does your library do? What do they call that section? We've been really happy having a go-to section for kids who have moved beyond the early readers but are just starting with longer books.

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Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

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