B4U: Chapter Books

The New Kid at Schoo;Dragon Slayers Academy Series by Kate McMullan
First Book:  The New Kid at School
Genre:  Fantasy, Comedy
Publication Date: May 12, 2003
Publisher:  Grosset & Dunlap

What’s The New Kid at School about:
When a traveling minstrel foretells that he is to become a hero, Wiglaf sets out to fulfill his destiny: he signs up at the Dragon Slayers’ Academy. But how can he ever hope to be a dragon slayer when he can’t even stand the sight of blood?

Our Thoughts:  The characters in this series are ones that you would enjoy having as friends, and we delighted in the amusing plots the author wrote.  We recommend this whenever we get a chance to both boys and girls.  Dragon Slayers Academy is a fantasy series, so it has a wizard and fantasy creatures.  It makes for a good starter book into fantasy novels; not to mention, it helped us to become fluent in Pig Latin (which we all can agree is necessary for the education of most 10-year-olds).


Let's Pretend This Never HappenedDear Dumb Diary Series by Jim Benton
First Book: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
Genre:  Slice of life, Comedy
Publication Date:  July 1, 2004
Publisher:  Scholastic

What’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened about:
Take a peek inside the diaries of Jamie Kelly! She’s cool (sometimes), nice (mostly), and funny (always). Kid-friendly humor & art, along w/JKBenton’s signature style make this series a standout!

Read the hilarious, candid (& sometimes mean) diaries of Jamie Kelly, who promises that everything in her diary is true…or at least as true as it needs to be. In this book, Jamie contends with Angeline, the school’s prettiest, most popular girl (who Jamie thinks is a goon!) and the impending visit of her troll-like little cousin. Will Jamie survive? Will she go mad? Will she send her mom’s nasty casserole to starving children in Wheretheheckistan? You’ll just have to read the first installment of Dear Dumb Diary to find out!

Our Thoughts:  Fans of Diary Of a Wimpy Kid will definitely enjoy this hilarious page-turner.  Though the main character is a girl, we could see boys possibly liking it.  There is an irreverence to everything including authority figures; we didn’t let this effect us, but we wanted to let you know in case this is an issue.  This is a series that we still grab the most recent release despite the fact that some of us are now in our late teens and early twenties; because let’s be honest funny is funny.


The Field GuideSpiderwick Chronicles Series by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
First Book: The Field Guide
Genre:  Fantasy, Mystery
Publication Date:  May 1, 2003
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Children’s

What’s The Field Guide about:
After finding a mysterious, handmade field guide in the attic of the ramshackle old mansion they’ve just moved into, Jared; his twin brother, Simon; and their older sister, Mallory, discover that there’s a magical and maybe dangerous world existing parallel to our own—the world of faerie.

The Grace children want to share their story, but the faeries will do everything possible to stop them…

Our Thoughts:  They made the characters feel real, with real problems and imperfections.  We loved the depth they went into describing the creatures.  As children, we could imagine ourselves going out and looking for them (at least the benevolent ones).  There are magical creatures and magic in this series, but it is more like fairy magic than witchcraft.  We know that most people have heard of this series, especially after the movie came out several years ago; but it has been a while since the hype died down, and we enjoyed this series so much that we wanted to make sure it is not forgotten. (Also, as a side note check out the companion trilogy, Beyond Spiderwick Chronicles, which is equally as good.)


Beezus and RamonaRamona Series by Beverly Cleary
First Book: Beezus and Ramona
Genre:  Slice of life, Comedy
Publication Date:  1955
Publisher:  William Morrow

What’s Beezus and Ramona about:
Having a little sister like four-year-old Ramona isn’t always easy for Beezus Quimby. With a wild imagination, disregard for order, and an appetite for chaos, Ramona makes it hard for Beezus to be the responsible older sister she knows she ought to be…especially when Ramona threatens to ruin Beezus’s birthday party.

Our Thoughts:  We enjoyed this series; although the books are really closer to stand alone books that loosely fit together, so don’t worry overly much about the order that you read them in.  Ramona is cute, spunky, imaginative, and gets into hilarious hijinks.  We fell in love with the character over and over again with each new book.  This is a series that is thoroughly entertaining and will keep you laughing for hours.


National Espionage Rescue Defense SocietyNERDS Series by Michael Buckley
First Book:  National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society
Genre:  Mystery, Comedy, Action
Publication Date:  August 1, 2010
Publisher:  Amulet Paperbacks

What’s National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society about:
NERDS combines all the excitement of international espionage with all the awkwardness of elementary school, and the results are hilarious. A group of unpopular fifth graders run a spy network from inside their school. With the help of cutting-edge science, they transform their nerdy qualities into incredible abilities! Their enemies? An array of James Bond–style villains, each with an evil plan more diabolical and more ridiculous than the last.

Our Thoughts:  We recently read the first book in this series aloud to our little brothers, and were delighted to hear them laugh at the parts we remembered to be funny.  Seeing the smiles as we discussed the characters and predicted where the plot would go next, cemented our conviction that this series was a good addition to our collection.


The Hero RevealedThe Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy Series by William Boniface
First Book: The Hero Revealed 
Genre: Comedy, Superhero, Action
Publication Date:  February 26, 2008
Publisher:  HarperCollins

What’s The Hero Revealed about:
In the town of Superopolis, everyone has a superpower. Everyone, that is, except Ordinary Boy. But things are not so super in Superopolis these days with the evil Professor Brain-Drain on the loose! To make matters worse, Ordinary Boy and his friends are thrown into the middle of a baffling mystery. Forget the regular superheroes. In a city where everyone is extraordinary, this just might be a job for . . . Ordinary Boy.

Our Thoughts:  This creative, whimsical world was the first that we had ever seen, and made us really think about how ordinary people can be heroes.  By the second book, the plot line kept us guessing what would happen next (which is not easy when you read as much as we do ☺).  These imaginative books are riddled with facts about the world and pictures that are unique and well drawn.  If you are or know a young fan of superherodom, then you will really enjoy this series.


Mrs Piggle WiggleMrs. Piggle-Wiggle Series by Betty MacDonald
First Book: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
Genre:  Fantasy, Children’s Etiquette
Publication Date:  1987
Publisher:  Scholastic

What’s Mrs. Piggle Wiggle about:
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lives in an upside-down house ans smells like cookies. She was even married to a pirate once. Most of all, she knows everything about children. She can cure them of any ailment. Patsy hates baths. Hubert never puts anything away. Allen eats v-e-r-y slowly. Mrs Piggle-Wiggle has a treatment for all of them.

The incomparable Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle loves children good or bad and never scolds but has positive cures for Answer-Backers, Never-Want-to-Go-to-Bedders, and other boys and girls with strange habits.

Our Thoughts:  We all know that “a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down”, and that is certainly how we felt with these delightful books.  We learned a little something with the children she was helping and wanted to read on.  Her fanciful solutions were not always based in reality, but just as everything in the story worked out, we too understood the lessons that she was trying to teach.


The Bobbsy Twins of LakeportThe Bobsey Twins Series by Laura Lee Hope (pseudonym)
First Book: The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport
Genre:  Mystery
Publication Date:  1904
Publisher:  Grosset & Dunlap (current)

What’s The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport about:
When their elderly neighbor Mrs. Marden reports that some of her valuables have gone missing, the twins investigate.

Our Thoughts:  We read the Classic Edition (which was most likely the post-1960 revised version).  They were written by the same group that brought us Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, but these were written for a younger audience and for both genders.  The mysteries are lighthearted and fun while introducing you to an assortment of locations.  If your child really gets into these, this will open up a whole world of great mystery books.


Clarice Bean That's MeClarice Bean Series by Lauren Child
First Book: Clarice Bean, That’s Me
Genre:  Slice of life, Comedy
Publication Date:  August 4, 1999
Publisher:  Candlewick

What’s Clarice Bean, That’s Me about:
Lauren Child evokes the (mostly) joyful chaos of family life—through the eyes of an observant young narrator.

I know lots of people, most of them in my family.
Some of them live in our house,
and some of them just visit.
We are always raising a ruckus,
but that’s the way we (mostly) like it.

When your annoying little brother shares your room, your older brother is in the tunnel of adolescence, your dad hides in his office eating rocky road ice cream and swaying to Frank Sinatra, and your mother listen to foreign language tapes in a candlelit bathtub, what can you do to get away from it all? Meet the feisty Clarice Bean and sympathize with her search for just a little peace and quiet amidst a family many of us will recognize only too well. In a brilliant picture book debut, Lauren Child’s witty text and jazzy illustrations capture the wonderful wacky chaos of a large extended family from the hilarious vantage point of one of its youngest members.

Our Thoughts:  This kooky, imaginative series has the feel of a scrapbook.  Clarice may have a pity party at the beginning of these diaryesque chapter books, but by the end she always sees her way to contentment and discovers that her life is not so bad after all.  Though the writing is enjoyable, I could see a boy having a problem with reading this, but girls will love the interplay between Clarice and her family, friends and acquaintances.


Junie B Jones and the Stupid Smelly BusJunie B. Jones Series by Barbara Park
First Book: Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus
Genre:  Slice of life, Comedy
Publication Date:  July 28, 1992
Publisher:  Random House

What’s Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus about:
Meet the World’s Funniest Kindergartner—Junie B. Jones! Remember when it was scary to go to school? In the first Junie B. Jones book, it’s Junie B.’s first day and she doesn’t know anything. She’s so scared of the school bus and the meanies on it that when it’s time to go home, she doesn’t.

Our Thoughts:  We meet Junie B. Jones as she is starting kindergarten and are brought along with her as she moves into first grade.  Though we can’t exactly agree about whether to recommend the first grade series (Some of us continued to enjoy Junie’s unique point of view while others of us felt that its humor petered out.  Yes, we sat around and had a philosophical conversation on the merits of Junie B. Jones, First Grader), we are all in agreement that in the first series the author captures the perspective of a five or six year old that is out going and loud and whose mouth is filter-less to a tee.


Final Thoughts:  These were the first chapter books that we thought of/think of when asked for recommendations from people.  (We have more, but those are
for another list at another time.)  This is a tricky time for readers.  You don’t know what you like yet and you’re not completely convinced that taking time from playing to read is worth all that your Mom and Dad says it is.  Our Mom gave us a great gift during this time.  She brought home from twenty to thirty different books every other week from the library for us to try and gave us permission to not like a book.  If we read a chapter or two and didn’t enjoy reading it, we were told it was okay to stop reading it and move on to a different book.  We were able to try everything from non-fiction to biographies to various genres of fiction without it feeling like a chore till we discovered the joy of reading for ourselves.


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