Finding Good Chapter Books

The Challenge of Finding Good Chapter Books


On a recent trip to a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Colorado, I searched for the chapter book section. It took awhile. I finally found the one tiny shelf sandwiched between the massive picture book area and the almost-as-big middle grade aisles. Even the infant book section was bigger.

To my dismay, the paltry offering was limited and uninspired. About half the books were in the Magic Tree House series, and all the rest were spin offs from toys and cartoons or polished fluff of dubious quality. You know the books: pink, dazzling with glitter, shoddy writing and stock illustrations. Rubbish.


Then on a recent trip to Paris I happened upon the sweet children’s bookshop Jeux Lis Là in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Curious, I searched out its chapter book section. Comment magnifique! Lovely, smooth, heavy paper enclosed little tomes of festive, active, unique, subtle illustrations set between ample white space, easy text (if I could decipher some, you know it is an easy read) and funny topics. And not one bit of fluff.

chien cover

With my hobbled French and the proprietor’s limited English, we had a spirited conversation. She explained that the author/illustrator Alan Mets is particularly popular. Interestingly, his books were listed on a flyer I picked up as ages 2—10. What this tells me is that the story and illustrations are entertaining enough that parents are introducing their not-yet-readers to the joys of these chapter books.

alan cover

I’m sure I could find an independent bookstore in Colorado, such as the excellent and extensive Tattered Cover and Boulder Bookstores, that had a better, more elegant selection than the Barnes & Noble. And I’m sure I could have stumbled into some other larger store in Paris with less delightful choices.

But it got me wondering… what is available for our kids, all around the world? Because it makes sense that our kids can only enjoy what they can obtain. I’ve been amazed at the number of people who see this blog from around the world—from Pakistan to South Africa to Australia to America. So let’s start the discussion: what is available to your kids? Good quality or fluff? Paper or e-book? What do your chapter book readers really read?

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

(A note: in the well-stocked middle grade section at the aforementioned Barnes & Noble, there were many books that fall into the chapter book category… and thus the confusion of chapter books vs. middle grade continues.)



4 thoughts on “Finding Good Chapter Books

  1. My son first delved into chapter books at four years old reading a series from Australian author Sally Rippin. The series, Hey Jack!, was the perfect length, added occasional pictures and used great vocabulary. The author also has a series for girls, Billie B. Brown. He has since enjoyed reading the Magic Tree House series for fun. He just broke into a new series, Oliver Moon, by English author Sue Mongredien. Magically entertaining!

  2. I’m a teacher and a writer in New Zealand. Our school libraries are usually well stocked with excellent reads for children, as are most of our public libraries.

    In contrast with your experience, I find the larger stores are better stocked with chapter books / early middle grade than the independent stores! The exception to this is NZ authors. Indie stores stock NZ authors much more than the big guns.

    As a teacher, I’ve found the majority of kids get hooked into one series, and only read books from there. Perhaps they feel safe in that world? At the top of the list is Geronimo Stilton, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Captain Underpants. Alex Rider’s becoming popular, too, but that’s more MG.

    • I, too, have experienced kids getting hooked into a series and not going elsewhere until they’re sated. And it’s heartening to know NZ bookstores keep a good stock of work by local authors. Thanks for the comment!

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