C: Chapter Books, A Dozen
According to About.com, the definition of a chapter book is: Generally, a children’s book that is long enough to be split into chapters, yet not long enough or deep enough to be identified as a novel, is known as a “chapter book.” Chapter books are often illustrated, but not anywhere nearly as much as a picture book. Chapter books tend to be particularly popular with 7-10 year-olds as transitional books between beginning reader books and novels. Chapter books also tend to appeal to reluctant readers of all ages.
However, in the last few years, there has been a tendency on the part of many children and some schools and libraries to refer to any book with chapters as a chapter book, which has really confused the issue as to what a chapter book is. As far as I am concerned, there are two main types of chapter books: brief beginning reader books, generally for kids in grades 1-3 and slightly longer books (65 to no more than 200 pages) for more advanced readers in grades 2-5.
Here are a dozen favorite chapter books, in no particular order. Which ones have you, or your children, read? Are there any that sound interesting? Which ones would you add to your ‘To Be Read’ list?
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White: Some Pig. Humble. Radiant. These are the words in Charlotte’s web, high up in Zuckerman’s barn. Charlotte’s spider web tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, who simply wants a friend. They also express the love of a girl named Fern, who saved Wilbur’s life when he was born the runt of his litter.
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle: It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.
“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”
A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg: When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere — to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and, preferably, elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing that her younger brother Jamie has money and thus can help her with a serious cash-flow problem, she invites him along.
Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at auction for a bargain price of $225. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master, Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn’t it? Claudia is determined to find out. Her quest leads her to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue, and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett: “Where you tend a rose my lad, a thistle cannot grow.” ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
The Secret Garden is a classic children’s novel about a little girl who goes to live with her uncle and discovers a great secret.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN is a novel by Mark Twain, first published in the United Kingdom in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885. Commonly named among the Great American Novels, the work is among the first in major American literature to be written throughout in vernacular English, characterized by local color regionalism. It is told in the first person by Huckleberry “Huck” Finn, a friend of Tom Sawyer and narrator of two other Twain novels (Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective). It is a direct sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart: Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children-two boys and two girls-succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they’ll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you’re gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.
Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo: A classic tale by Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo, America’s beloved storyteller. One summer’s day, ten-year-old India Opal Buloni goes down to the local supermarket for some groceries – and comes home with a dog. But Winn-Dixie is no ordinary dog. It’s because of Winn-Dixie that Opal begins to make friends. And it’s because of Winn-Dixie that she finally dares to ask her father about her mother, who left when Opal was three. In fact, as Opal admits, just about everything that happens that summer is because of Winn-Dixie.
Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinell: Jeffrey Lionel “Maniac” Magee might have lived a normal life if a freak accident hadn’t made him an orphan. After living with his unhappy and uptight aunt and uncle for eight years, he decides to run–and not just run away, but run. This is where the myth of Maniac Magee begins, as he changes the lives of a racially divided small town with his amazing and legendary feats.
James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl: After James Henry Trotter’s parents are tragically eaten by a rhinoceros, he goes to live with his two horrible aunts, Spiker and Sponge. Life there is no fun, until James accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree and strange things start to happen. The peach at the top of the tree begins to grow, and before long it’s as big as a house. Inside, James meets a bunch of oversized friends—Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybug, and more. With a snip of the stem, the peach starts rolling away, and the great adventure begins!
Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell: Far off the coast of California looms a harsh rock known as the island of San Nicholas. Dolphins flash in the blue waters around it, sea otter play in the vast kelp beds, and sea elephants loll on the stony beaches.
Here, in the early 1800s, according to history, an Indian girl spent eighteen years alone, and this beautifully written novel is her story. It is a romantic adventure filled with drama and heartache, for not only was mere subsistence on so desolate a spot a near miracle, but Karana had to contend with the ferocious pack of wild dogs that had killed her younger brother, constantly guard against the Aleutian sea otter hunters, and maintain a precarious food supply.
More than this, it is an adventure of the spirit that will haunt the reader long after the book has been put down. Karana’s quiet courage, her Indian self-reliance and acceptance of fate, transform what to many would have been a devastating ordeal into an uplifting experience. From loneliness and terror come strength and serenity in this Newbery Medal-winning classic.
Sideways Stories From Wayside School, by Louis Sachar: There has been a terrible mistake. Wayside School was supposed to have been built with thirty classrooms all next to each other in a row. Instead it was built with the thirty classrooms all on top of each other – thirty stories high! That may be why all kinds of strange stuff happens at Wayside School. Especially on the thirtieth floor. It is a school full of unusual characters too. Mrs Gorf, the meanest teacher in the world. Terrible Todd who always gets sent home early. John who can only read upside down. It is a crazy mixed-up school, brilliantly brought to life by the irresistible Louis Sachar.
A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck: Each summer Joey and his sister, Mary Alice—two city slickers from Chicago—visit Grandma Dowdel’s seemingly sleepy Illinois town. Soon enough, they find that it’s far from sleepy…and Grandma is far from your typical grandmother. From seeing their first corpse (and he isn’t resting easy) to helping Grandma trespass, catch the sheriff in his underwear, and feed the hungry—all in one day—Joey and Mary Alice have nine summers they’ll never forget!