I wish there were more books published that fit into this category: chapter books for the 7-to-9-year-old crowd that are substantial without being too heavy, that still have illustrations, and that are great to read aloud or independently. Here are five of my favorites that fit that description this year.
The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman, illustrated by Tracy Nishimura Bishop
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
At 272 pages, this is pretty long for the “early chapter book” genre, but I’m including it on this list because it would make a great read-aloud for that audience. It’s also perfect for those precocious second- and third-grade readers who have out grown the true early chapter books but aren’t quite ready to tackle some of the topics in a lot of middle-grade fiction. And it has a lot of great illustrations!
Real Pigeons Fight Crime by Andrew McDonald, illustrated by Ben Wood
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers
We here at A Kids Book a Day take pride in our eclectic tastes and are not tied to some pretentious definition of “great literature”. So yes, Real Pigeons is on this “best of” list, okay? It’s funny, it straddles the graphic novel/chapter book divide, and there’s plenty of action. I would be proud to recommend this to any second grader who asks me.
A Collie Called Sky (Jasmine Green Rescues) by Helen Peters, illustrated by Ellie Snowdon
Published by Walker Books/Candlewick
I haven’t seen too much of this British import series, but I really liked it and would recommend it to any kid who loves animals. Jasmine seems poised to follow in her veterinarian mother’s footsteps, being smart and passionate about animals. It’s a bit long for an early chapter book (160 pages), but has plenty of illustrations to keep things moving along.
A Long Road on a Short Day by Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Published by Clarion Books
Short enough (64 pages) for a second- or third-grader, yet with enough substance to keep a fifth grader engaged, this is a perfect introduction to historical fiction. I think Gary D. Schmidt and his late wife Elizabeth Stickney are the only authors to make it on to two of my favorites lists this year.
Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson, illustrated by Nina Mata
Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Another longish book (192 pages), but with a large font and enough illustrations to make it a perfect third-grade read. This book felt like a modern-day Beverly Cleary book and would be great to read aloud, as each chapter is its own small story. Be excited book that 2 coming out in the spring of 2021!