My Favorites Reads: Great books for new and emerging readers

It’s no secret that I LOVE giving books as gifts to kids in my world, so I was happy to oblige the request of several family and friends to make a list of some of my favorite books of the year. This might be a handy gift-giving guide or list to keep handy when you head to the library. In this latest installment, I’m sharing my favorite books for younger readers including easy-readers, early chapter books and graphic novels.

Much of the reading I’m doing is geared toward slightly older readers, but I’m always excited by great books for readers who are either just starting out or are ready to try easier chapter books. Here I share some of my favorites that have been published in the last couple of years and give a suggested age range. I definitely seem to have a penchant for books with girl characters, but there are several in here that even the boys will like.

Find some other great suggestions from other educator/book blogging friends:

All of the book covers will link to a more thorough synopsis of a book over at Goodreads!


If you don’t know Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie, you need to fix that pronto. Especially if you have anyone under the age of nine in your life. This is the most recent installment in the easy reader series. Words are at a minimum and much of the story is told though expressive pictures. In this book Elephant and Piggie plan a trip but find out it isn’t going to go as they planned. These books are great to read together and give new readers lots of confidence and chances to practice their expressive reading. A bonus–you will all be in stitches after reading it. (Easy Reader/preschool and up/2012)


Meet Penny, the newest character from author Kevin Henkes whose many, many books include Lilly and the Purple Plastic Purse, and Owen. These are the first two installments in this very early chapter book series. These are great for kids moving beyond the early, easy reader books. It is amazing the confidence kids get from tackling “books with chapters”, even if they are still filled with lots of sight words and picture clues. Henkes crafts sweet stories broken in to small chapters with sweet illustrations. My personal favorite is Penny and Her Doll, but young readers will be charmed by both. (Very Early Chapter Books/ kindergarten-2nd grade/2012)


Bink and Gollie remind me in many ways of Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad stories. The girls are two seemingly different people who share a friendship and adventures together with lots of humor. Like Lobel’s Frog and Toad stories, these also have smaller chapters within the book. I love these because they have lots of sight words and ways for kids to practice using context clues in reading, but the books also have more challenging vocabulary to practice as well. I can’t wait to read the next Bink and Gollie scheduled to come out in 2013. I think boys will enjoy this quirky pair of friends a lot, too. (Very Early Chapter Books/ kindergarten-3rd grade/2010 and 2012, respectively)


Hannah’s hands are named Sadie and Ratz and they help her act out her darker moods and emotions. Kids will really relate to the family life and sibling issues, as well as Hannah’s struggle to be good and patient. This is another easy reader done in an early chapter book style. (Very Early Chapter Books/ kindergarten-3rd grade/2012)


This is a charming reader done in an early chapter book format. It is a sweet story of a girl getting her first horse and a horse learning to trust his first girl. Great illustrations, too! I’m hoping this isn’t the last we see of Bramble and Maggie. (Very Early Chapter Books/ kindergarten-3rd grade/2012)


Both the Babymouse (sixteen books to date and counting in this series) and Squish (four books to date and counting in this series) graphic novel series are created by the sister-brother team of Jenni Holm and Matt Holm. I love the Babymouse books because they are full of humor of school and friendship issues that most kids can recognize. Some of the humor and pop-culture references might float over the heads of the youngest readers, but I don’t think they detract from the story or reading experience. Kids gobble these up and they’re great for reluctant readers due to the humor and the fact that they can be consumed a bit faster than a chapter book. Boys might be wary of the pink cover, but they’ll love Babymouse, too. Like Babymouse, the Squish series has humor, but with science references, too. If your child is new to graphic novels, I suggest you sit down and read one of these together to make sure they understand the flow and role of the “narrator voice” in graphic novels. You may even want to start with very early graphic novel books, like the Benny and Penny series. (Graphic Novels/ 2nd grade and up/2012)


This is a 2009 book, so I’m late to the Binky party, but there are a three more books in the series published between 2010-12 that I haven’t yet read. This graphic novel geared for grades 2/3 and up is great fun. Great vocabulary and funny illustrations. Binky is certain he is destined to be a space cat. The story follows his preparations as he continues to live with his beloved humans. (Graphic Novel/ 2nd grade and up/2009)


Frankie Pickle books are part graphic novel and part chapter book. Whenever Frankie thinks through things with his imagination the story is told in fun-filled adventure-style graphic novel panels. “Real life” is portrayed through a more traditional chapter book format. Kids will love his adventures that also include his dog Argyle. (Graphic Novel-Chapter Book Hybrid/ 2nd grade and up/2009-2011)


Fans of the Fancy Nancy picture books and easy readers will love this step up to easier chapter books. It has lots of pictures to enjoy along the way and a fun adventure with Nancy and her best friend Bree. I love all the references to Nancy Drew. This book is longer than the very early chapter books mentioned above, and has a slightly higher reading level. (Early Chapter Book with illustrations/ 2nd grade – 4th grade/2012)


I LOVE Marty McGuire! She is spunky and has a tom-boy streak running through her that will make her appealing to boys and girls. She will remind you a lot of Ramona from the Beverly Cleary books in the ways that she tries really hard to be good but sometimes falls short. A great mix of humor and warmth. I hope we don’t have to wait too long for another Marty book to be released. (Early Chapter Book with illustrations/ 2nd grade – 4th grade/2012)


2 comments on “My Favorites Reads: Great books for new and emerging readers

  1. Beth S. says:

    I adore Elephant and Piggie. We currently have the quote Drive! Drive-Drivey-Drive! Drive! on the book quote wall in my 6th grade classroom. Even sixth graders love Elephant and Piggie. 🙂

    Though I have to admit I didn’t get Sadie and Ratz at all. I didn’t even finish reading it.

  2. Lorna says:

    @Beth–I can understand the mixed reviews on Sadie and Ratz. It’s not perky, cheery, or really funny like so many other early readers. It does capture that anger and dark moodiness that kids sometimes act out upon(or at least my youngest!). I suspect not all kids will relate, but I can think of a few who will.

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