Chapter books for a first grader who loves animals but not scary things
April 12, 2018 6:56 AM   Subscribe

My daughter spends much of her free time in school and in her after school program reading books, but the school itself doesn't really have a library. We need chapter book suggestions that will get her through the rest of the year and into the summer.

First, thanks to you all for the help in getting her reading. Your suggestions did the trick and set her on the path reading on her own just over a year ago. She read 50 books over the summer and has maintained her momentum ever since.

She's now in the first grade and devouring chapter books at a rate of about two a week. I'm running out of suggestions. She prefers books with a little humor and suspense, but nothing scary like people getting hurt or parents dying. Books on the 700-800 lexile reading level (3rd-5th grade) seem to be about the right difficulty.

We're working our way through the Bunnicula series, and will likely go for the Great Cheese Conspiracy or How to Train Your Dragon next. I'm combing these two earlier threads for ideas, but I'd love to hear your suggestions. We're good on Captain Underpants for now.
posted by Alison to Education (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
If they're not too violent for her, the Warriors series about cat clans could keep her in reading material for a long time. They seem to be hugely popular with kids who are around your daughter's reading level. My own kids loved them and were reading them around the same age they were reading the How to Train Your Dragon books (2nd grade and beyond.) Cats do get hurt and die, though. Maybe the Common Sense Media page on the series can help you figure out if she's ready for them. And if she likes those books, there are other series about dogs and bears by the same "author" (actually a pseudonym shared by multiple authors.)
posted by Redstart at 7:39 AM on April 12, 2018

I bet she'll like Hank the Cowdog and the Animal Ark series.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:45 AM on April 12, 2018

The Magic Tree House series

the original Nancy Drew series

Ursula Vernon has a series about a Hamster Princess that are fun
posted by MadMadam at 8:03 AM on April 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Two that I've read to our 1st grader recently that I suspect might be up her alley:

Pearl Buck: The Little Fox in the Middle

Sandy Clifford: The Roquefort Gang

Not animal related, but he loves the Magic Treehouse, Jigsaw Jones, and Dory Fantasmagory books, and the "reboot" of Amelia Bedelia.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:09 AM on April 12, 2018

Though the school may not have a library, does your area have public libraries? If so - book time with a librarian, this is absolutely a service provided by them as they're constantly connected to what's new/good/age appropriate.

If not - search some of the public library websites in your surrounding areas/bigger ones like NYC...many libraries regularly publish lists of books for various age groups/interest types on staff blogs or in childrens/teens websites. In-branch, this service is often called "readers advisory" which might be a useful search term.
posted by notorious medium at 8:09 AM on April 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

My first grade daughter loves The Princess in Black series. There's a princess with a secret identity and goats and a Goat Boy and the goats need protecting from the Monsters who pop out of Monster Land. The monsters are not frightening at all. They're just bad listeners. It's a really excellent series.
posted by zizzle at 8:11 AM on April 12, 2018

Princess in Black. The Owl Diaries series. The Mercy Watson books and the Bink and Golly books by Kate DiCamillio (really any early readers by her). The Clementine books (also great on audio). Ivy and Bean. Narwhal, Unicorn of the Sea. The Chicken Squad.

If you have access to an Usborne seller, they have a couple of really great series too. My daughter loved EJ12 and there's a series about rescuing animals that I can't think of right now.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:19 AM on April 12, 2018

It's a really excellent series.

Eh - I have mixed feelings about it, given its repeated message that being pink and frilly is the image you're supposed to project to the world, and that you have to hide being a monster-ass-kicking, black clad hero from your insufferable, prissy royal friends.

A few more from looking through our shelves that might work:

Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog

The Mercy Watson books

The Adventures of Sophie Mouse series

The Bad Guys series
posted by ryanshepard at 8:24 AM on April 12, 2018

I babysat for a little girl who liked the Junie B. Jones books.
posted by radioamy at 9:13 AM on April 12, 2018

The Captain Underpants books! And even though it isn't a chapter book, Shel Silversteen's books of poetry are fun for the little ones (my 7-year-old grandson has all of them and loves them). Dave Pilkey (?) also writes a couple of dog books.
posted by byjingo! at 10:16 AM on April 12, 2018

I recommend A Cricket in Times Square and its sequels. From what I can remember, the reading level is approximately that of Bunnicula and I don't remember anything scary about them either.

Also, EB White's Trumpet of the Swan. It's not quite as good as Charlotte's Web (but what is?) but I love it.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 11:03 AM on April 12, 2018

I remember loving the Encyclopedia Brown, Danny Dunn, and Alvin Fernald books, although I haven't re-read them since childhood and am not sure how well they've aged. (EB, I know, had some issues with cultural assumptions - some of the solutions are based on small-town 60's USA tropes that aren't universal knowledge.) I especially loved Alvin Fernald, Superweasel, and that was probably my introduction to environmental activism.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:13 AM on April 12, 2018

Super recommend Ursula Vernon’s Hamster Princess books—my niece loves them! The Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary are classics—maybe start with “Henry Huggins”, “Henry and Ribsy”, and/or “Ribsy” about Henry and his dog? They are older and will be dated in some ways, but they have both boy and girl characters as well as Ribsy.
posted by epj at 12:58 PM on April 12, 2018

The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall are a little too advanced for your daughter but I'll mention them for the future or if you just want to read them to her. Four books have been published with the fifth and final book, The Penderwicks at Last, set to be published this coming May 15.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 1:23 PM on April 12, 2018

This is when I read the Ramona books, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (which has some weird morality tales but is mostly fun and also there is magic), the first few Little House books (later they get more challenging), and all the other frontier girl books (Caddie Woodlawn, the Felicity books from American Girl, the Dear America books).

Also putting in a plug for my favorite chapter book ever, The Ordinary Princess. The Paper Bag Princess is more well known, but I identified so strongly with Amy! She's just...ordinary, and it is totally okay.
posted by assenav at 3:53 PM on April 12, 2018

Ramona for sure! Also My Father's Dragon (trilogy), the shorter Judy Blume books (Freckle Juice, The Pain and the Great One series), The Mouse and the Motorcycle et al., Mercy Watson.

My students also looove the Black Lagoon chapter book series, which are funny and suspenseful but not really scary at all. There are also a billion of them.
posted by raspberrE at 4:01 PM on April 12, 2018

Ivy and Bean. It’s a funny series about second graders — my kindergartener who is VERY sensitive to violence LOVES them. (Read to her—she’s not quite there yet on her own. To read to herself, she likes Critter Club. But Ivy and Bean is quality writing in a way Critter Club isn’t.)

Sorry no links—am on mobile.
posted by kestrel251 at 4:34 PM on April 12, 2018

My daughter liked the Geronimo Stilton and Thea Stilton books at that age. There are chapter books as well as graphic novels.
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:47 PM on April 12, 2018

My son is in 4th grade, he also likes books about animals, some favorites fromr a few years ago were Abel's Island, Mouse and the Motorcycle, (and other Beverly Cleary), Cricket in Times Square (bit of a mouse theme, you see). "Heartwood Hotel" books. A series about foster dogs called "Puppy Place". He's into the "Warriors" series mentioned above now, it has some conflict and scary parts, not sure what age it's best for. It has a fantastical/mythological aspect. Also "Foxcraft" series, similar, but it's much less "safe"-- it's about conflict and struggle for survival between different magical foxes, has some definite scary/violent parts.
posted by thefool at 5:48 PM on April 12, 2018

Scholastic has an imprint that is called Branches (Owl Diaries referenced by another poster is part of it) that is perfect for your child's age. There is one called Kung-Pow Chicken, another about a warthog named Boris and a number of other series in the imprint, some with more pictures than others. Finally Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea is super cute, though maybe a little too low for your child.

Another suggestion, that has nothing to do with what you asked, is the biography series calle Who is/Who Was- also known as the bobble-head biographies- children really love them.

And for old books- my children love Ginger Pye and Pinky Pye by Eleanor Estes- they are part of The Moffat series- books from the 1940-1950s. I called books like this "books where nothing happens" sort of like Seinfeld- just tales about daily life with a family. Finally, Roald Dahl is often perfect for this age as well- especially for children who read at a slightly higherreading level.
posted by momochan at 7:24 PM on April 12, 2018

Nthing the earlier Hamster Princess books, with a shout out for Ursula Vernon's standalone book Nurk. Everybody loves shrews.

I am also fond of James Kochalka's Peanutbutter and Jeremy's Best Book Over, featuring Peanutbutter the Business Cat.

(basically all my other suggestions are above already, and good job with the Bunnicula series, the first thing that ever made vegetables interesting to my little brother)
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 8:14 PM on April 12, 2018

Thanks for the suggestions! Just to clarify, she *loves* books like the Narwhal series and the Bad Guys, but she seems to polish off anything resembling a graphic novel in an hour or less. I'm looking for something with a picture every few pages or less and will take her at least a few hours to read; the Ramona books suggestions seem to be spot-on

I'm going to collect all of the suggestions here and visit the big branch of our city library this weekend. Please keep them coming!
posted by Alison at 8:25 PM on April 12, 2018

Some more books that are about the right reading level and appropriate for a first grader:

No Flying in the House - Betty Brock
The Night Fairy - Laura Amy Schlitz
Toys Go Out - Emily Jenkins
Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren
The Children on Troublemaker Street - Astrid Lindgren
Catwings - Ursula K. Le Guin
The Doll People - Ann M. Martin
Did You Carry the Flag Today, Charley? - Rebecca Caudill
The Jamie and Angus Stories - Anne Fine

Some of these have sequels.
posted by Redstart at 8:52 PM on April 13, 2018

My kids are now teenagers, but when they were little, we were very fond of Cynthia Rylant's Mr. Putter and Tabby series, about an old man and his cat. The Magic Tree House books were fun, Ms. Frizzle has both chapter books and comic books. My Father's Dragon, especially the first one, were great. We adore the How to Train Your Dragon series but those can get a bit scary, especially as you get further into the series, which is nothing like the movies.
posted by ceejaytee at 12:43 PM on April 14, 2018

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