Finding picture books with a substantial story.
January 16, 2020 5:12 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for books to read with my daughter. We've graduated past the standard Dr. Seuss style picture books, but my daughter is losing interest with longer stories that don't have any illustrations to support the text.

We've started reading the Captain Underpants series, which she loves, and it has a more extended chaptered storyline that we can read over several nights. As much as we might enjoy this series, I would like to expand this selection. Potty humor is fine but would be appreciative of perhaps other genres (is potty humor a genre?) as well.

We have also tried graphic novels, but those are difficult to read aloud. I prefer a condensed text isolated from the illustrations that include more than just spoken words.

I'm also aware that the books we've attempted might have been the issue, like the Wind in the Willow and Winnie the Pooh. As much as I love those stories, the writing style felt very dated, and I rebuked them as much as she did. I'm sure there's a whole catalog of books that I am overlooking that could very well satiate both of us. So if there any books that might fill this void, I would be quite appreciative of receiving those suggestions as well.

Thanks for any suggestions!
posted by wile e to Writing & Language (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The 13 Story Treehouse series was up to 117 stories last time I looked. It's pretty fun.

Lafcadio, the Lion who Shot Back is almost as old as I am but has held up rather better. Suggested age range is four to eight years but I've never stopped enjoying it.
posted by flabdablet at 5:22 AM on January 16, 2020

Try the Dragonbreath series by Ursula Vernon.
posted by lyssabee at 5:24 AM on January 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Roald Dahl books illustrated by Quentin Blake were very popular with my kids. They're of course fairly old, but Dahl's writing feels pretty timeless to me.
posted by pipeski at 5:28 AM on January 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Dinotopia and Voyage of The Basset. Both of these are 20+ years old and I haven't reread them in awhile but my whole family adored them. They are kid novel length books with gorgeous illustrations. Both are about Victorian explorers that somehow end up in fantastical situations.
posted by carolr at 5:46 AM on January 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

My kids loved Magic Treehouse. Also, seconding Quentin Blake illustrated Roald Dahl (such as The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me)
posted by lucasks at 6:43 AM on January 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

The illustrated versions of Harry Potter are very pretty.
posted by rockindata at 6:49 AM on January 16, 2020

Cynthia Rylant's Poppleton books and Kate Di Camillo's Mercy Watson / Deckawoo Drive books. Both are funny and offbeat, with excellent and relevant illustrations. (Poppleton is more like short stories, but the Di Camillo books are longer tales in very short chapters.)

If those seem too gentle and you are ready for a bit more peril, Susan Cooper's The Magician's Boy mushes together several fairy tales that may be familiar, and the D'Aulaires' Greek Myths and Norse Myths are problematic but also wondrous.
posted by miles per flower at 7:09 AM on January 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ask your local children's librarian!

I think you'll still be able to find great choices in the traditional picture book section (and in fairy tales and folk tales!) - longer picture books are not very on-trend these days but there are lots of great classic ones, by Patricia Polacco, William Stieg, Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman, Allen Say, some of Kevin Henkes's books, Jon Scieszka. For newer books I'd try A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Erin Stead.

Early readers - Frog and Toad, James Marshall's George and Martha books, Little Bear, Ling & Ting, Charlie & Mouse, Henry & Mudge, Houndsley & Catina

Illustrated chapter books (some of these are sparser on illustrations, but still illustrated, and the more contemporary subject matter and writing styles may help too) - Alvin Ho series, Amber Brown series, Cam Jansen series, Anna Hibiscus series, Toys Go Out, Clementine, Judy Moody
posted by Jeanne at 7:11 AM on January 16, 2020 [7 favorites]

Ursula Vernon's Hamster Princess series, perhaps?
posted by jeather at 7:17 AM on January 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by parmanparman at 8:14 AM on January 16, 2020

Seconding asking your children's librarian! And don't stop with picture books--they often include a more complex story and vocabulary than early readers/books meant for kids to read to themselves because they are written to be read by adults to children.
posted by zem at 9:04 AM on January 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

For another Dav Pilkey (but with less potty humor), Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot.

My kid also liked Geronimo Stilton, particularly the Kingdom of Fantasy series.
posted by statsgirl at 9:05 AM on January 16, 2020

Seconding the Magic Treehouse series and Dinotopia. My 5-year-old devoured both of them.
posted by not_the_water at 9:27 AM on January 16, 2020

Look for Caldecott and Newbery award winning books.

And yes, ask the librarians! We love love love helping you find the right books!
posted by LaBellaStella at 9:28 AM on January 16, 2020

Daniel Pinkwater writes books for every age, and they are all weird and excellent. Blue Moose is a great illustrated early chapter book.
posted by rikschell at 9:28 AM on January 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Don't forget Amelia Bedelia! The illustrations and word play are extremely silly and there are a ton of them. Same with Frog and Toad. Look for other old school beginning reader series like "The Fire Cat", "Harry and the Lady Next Door" and "A Bargain for Frances". If you're interested in science education look for Ruth Heller books. The illustrations are full of detail and though they are lighter on text what there is opens the door for conversations about the natural world around us.

There are a ton of interesting contemporary early chapter books with illustrations, and the benefit of those is you can write the authors and almost always will get a response back. Tracey West's "Dragon Master" series has a bunch of different kids and dragons and lots of magic.

My kid wanted to be read epics every night for a long while, and the illustrated versions of Ramayana (Sanjay Patel) and the Illiad and the Odyssey (Gillian Cross) were in heavy rotation even though I'm know she did not understand all of it.
posted by Phyllis keeps a tight rein at 10:39 AM on January 16, 2020

Dory Fantasmagory!
posted by the_blizz at 11:45 AM on January 16, 2020

The Princess in Black series is exactly this, as is Mercy Watson/Deckawoo Drive and they are all delightful. You might also try Geronimo/Rhea Stilton? My daughter also went through an Isadora Moon phase, which are short, illustrated chapter books and pretty fun.

I might also look for picture books with high word counts, there are a lot of them and they are fun and a good break for your early reader's brain!

We also have quite a few illustrated story anthologies from Usborne, things like Greek myths and shorter versions of classics like Black Beauty and longer illustrated fairy tales that are sometimes good and might have updated language to better suit your taste?

Also my kid is suuuuuuuper into graphic novels (Babymouse, Phoebe and the Unicorn, Babysitters Club, Guts). Those are also very cool and fun for her but I don't recommend if your little one isn't reading independently yet. It's okay to help or correct her reading with those but reading a graphic novel out loud is no fun at all.
posted by cheese at 1:54 PM on January 16, 2020

More in the timeless classics vein: The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay, first published in 1918, is an experience without which no childhood could possibly be complete.
posted by flabdablet at 2:48 PM on January 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seconding Hamster Princess! My son and I are enjoying them.
posted by pepper bird at 4:14 PM on January 16, 2020

Jillian Jiggs books are super fun because they rhyme and are full of adventures. Also, Franklin the turtle
posted by leslievictoria at 7:33 PM on January 16, 2020

Especially if you have to re-read - the Asterix and Obelix series are sufficiently entertaining for an adult brain to survive multiple repetitions. And you can have lovely digressions about the language.

Also well-written are the "How to Train Your Dragon" series. Bonus - nothing at all like the movies/TV series.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 7:02 PM on January 19, 2020

Thank you, everyone, for these excellent suggestions!

I spent a good portion yesterday at the Strand in the children/young adult section finding and reading a lot of these books.

Roald Dahl has been on my radar, I was hoping the illustrated versions would be more pronounced, but still, they are wonderful stories.

I am quite excited by the Geronimo Stilton Kingdom of fantasy series, The Magic Treehouse series, and the Princess in Black.

Thanks again!
posted by wile e at 7:26 AM on January 20, 2020

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