First chapter books

The alternate title for this post was ‘more books to give to slightly older children that they won’t already have’ but I wasn’t sure how catchy that was.

There’s a funny stage when children are a bit beyond the best picture books, but too young for the content of most chapter books. Sure, they still enjoy a good Julia Donaldson, but they need something with a bit more plot development.

They might be happy to listen to some Enid Blyton chapter books, but maybe not the Roald Dahl collection (especially for bedtime reading- they are pretty dark!)… or in our case, you could let your 5 year old read the whole Willard Price Adventure series which, while brilliant, does leave you dealing with some pretty serious nighttime wake-ups worrying about how to best fight off an attacking shark.

The stuff of dreams. Just not always good dreams.

A pretty specific genre, but nonetheless one for which I struggled to find much guidance. So here’s what I’ve discovered!

The bears on hemlock mountain

I think I read a recommendation for this in the Guardian. It wasn’t one I’d read before – but is an excellent intro to chapter books, a pretty dramatic plot line and a good one for an early reader to have a go at independently.

No flying in the house

A childhood fave, bit emosh in parts but also featuring a talking 3 inch dog called Gloria so most children seem pretty taken by it.

The ‘Captain Mack’ series –

This series is weirdly obscure – I say weirdly because they are such excellent first graphic novels that I can’t believe they aren’t everywhere – great illustrations and fun themes (monstrous moon mites and the abominable snow monster). My son loved them at 4 and still flicks through them now at 6. Not the most sophisticated of plots but a lot nicer than the standard Marvel graphic offerings for this age range.


Fantastic series with a bold female protagonist; say no more. My 2 year old likes to sit with it, my 4 year old likes to listen to it at bedtime and my 6 year old reads it solo. We love Ottoline.

The magic faraway tree

I think this may have been our first foray into chapter stories for bedtime. I do censor Enid Blyton a bit given how dated some of the language is, but she has some great stories if you can forgive her the casual misogyny et al.

Bill Peet

Bill Peet is one of those North American institutions who, I think, perhaps never quite made it to the UK in quite the same way. Like a sophisticated Julia Donaldson, he weaves fairly complex plots with a really nice and varied vocabulary, often rhyming. But with longer stories, less preschool-y illustrations, and normally with a good dose of morality in the mix.

Also- if your child likes airplanes as much as ours, I can’t say enough about the Aircraft definitive visual history Book, with enough information to keep them busy until they are teenagers and real life images to flick through and enjoy.

Ps. Looking for more posts on children’s books? Try these:

Books to give to children that they won’t already have

Children’s books, revisited

Children’s books, again



  1. Martha Martin
    December 23, 2016 / 12:34 pm

    How about some longer picture books, Hannah? I’m thinking Patricia Polacco for example? How old is your eldest?

    Sent from my iPhone

    • December 23, 2016 / 1:04 pm

      We’ll have to give her a try – I’m not familiar with her, but thanks for the suggestion! Our eldest is 6.. H 🙂

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