Today, I had the pleasure of reading Neil Gaiman‘s Fortunately, The Milk for the first time and laughed out loud, particularly at this line:
“We have spoons. Spoons are excellent. Sort of like forks, only not as stabby.” -pg. 6
It reminded me of a whole host of books that are equally delightful in their content: amusing stories where the text encourages the imagination (supplemented with exquisitely rendered illustrations) without talking down to the reader. These books are all enjoyable to read out loud, or to encourage readers who are getting into chapter books to read by themselves.
Here is a list of short chapter books with illustrations that will appeal to children and families of children ages 6-10:
Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Skottie Young
A father runs out to get milk and arrives home with a story about his jaunt down the road that captivates his young son and daughter. (Dinosaurs, pirates, aliens, and ponies are all involved.)
Kenny and the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi
Tony DiTerlizzin pays homage to his favorite children’s classic, A Wind in the Willows, with this gentle story about a rabbit who befriends a dragon, despite the fear of his town. A book about friendship, Kenny must use all of his wits to keep his best friends – who both have Kenny’s best interests at heart – from a duel against each other.
Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist, Book 1: The Flight of the Phoenix by R.L. LaFevers, illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Nathaniel Fludd is a little bit timid, but slowly starts to emerge from his shell as he follows his aunt, a famed beastologist, around the world on her adventures documenting the world’s fantastic and magical creatures. He even makes friends with a gremlin and saves the day once or twice!
Madame Pamplemousse and Her Incredible Edibles (first in a trilogy) by Rupert Kingfisher, illustrated by Sue Hellard
A delicious tale about a little girl, a magic cat, and a sweet shop.
Clementine (first in a series) by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee
I like to call this series the anti-Junie B. Jones. I’m not a Junie B. fan. In my opinion, she’s more naughty than precocious, is misunderstood by all of the adults in her life, and demonstrates bad language, not good. In contrast, while Clementine does get into scrapes and mischievous circumstances, she doesn’t mean to be naughty, and so lessons are gently taught by the caring adults in her life. Best of all, good grammar and no naughty words!
Ottoline and the Yellow Cat (first in a trilogy) by Chris Riddell
One of my favorites on this list, the text and the illustrations go hand-in-hand in this adorable mystery series. Who – or what – is stealing jewels and lapdogs from the neighborhood? Only Ottoline and her companion, Mr. Monroe (a creature that resembles Cousin It in looks only, not personality), can solve the mystery.
Lulu and the Brontosaurus (first in a series) by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith
Another book series that is similar to Junie B. but in my opinion has more redeeming qualities, not the least of which are the illustrations and decorative text throughout the book, which people should recognize as classically Lane Smith. Unfortunately, they change illustrators in the third book of this series, but the writing stays charmingly the same – Lulu, a little girl used to getting her way in all things, learns a lesson in each installment.
Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom (first in a series) by Eric Wight
This is a great gateway book for struggling readers. It’s half-graphic novel, half-regular novel. Every time Frankie Pickle goes into his imagination, it becomes a graphic novel scene. So when he’s told by his mother to clean his closet, an Indiana Jones-like adventure emerges in the pictures.
Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute (first in a series) by Jarrett Krosoczka
What if your lunch ladies were actually secret agents in disguise? That is the premise this daring series takes on, as the courage of a group of intrepid lunch ladies and some curious school kids are put to the test in each book in the series.
Sir Lancelot the Great (first in a series) by Gerald Morris, illustrated by Aaron Renier
If you’ve ever wanted an absolutely hysterical account of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table in the Middle Ages, look no further!
These three books I have not read personally, but I plan to very soon! They come highly recommended as being similar to the other books I’ve listed on this list, and I’ve read books both written and illustrated by everyone mentioned below and enjoyed them very much, so I know they should be the same literary and art quality as the books above. Don’t miss out discovering some new books with me!
The Princess in Black (first in a series) by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Publisher description: Who says princesses don’t wear black? When trouble raises its blue monster head, Princess Magnolia ditches her flouncy dresses and becomes the Princess in Black! Princess Magnolia is having hot chocolate and scones with Duchess Wigtower when . . . Brring! Brring! The monster alarm! A big blue monster is threatening the goats! Stopping monsters is no job for dainty Princess Magnolia. But luckily Princess Magnolia has a secret —she’s also the Princess in Black, and stopping monsters is the perfect job for her! Can the princess sneak away, transform into her alter ego, and defeat the monster before the nosy duchess discovers her secret? From award-winning writing team of Shannon and Dean Hale and illustrator LeUyen Pham, here is the first in a humorous and action-packed chapter book series for young readers who like their princesses not only prim and perfect, but also dressed in black.
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (first in a series) by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Publisher description: Leroy Ninker has a hat, a lasso, and boots. What he doesn’t have is a horse — until he meets Maybelline, that is, and then it’s love at first sight. Maybelline loves spaghetti and sweet nothings, and she loves Leroy, too. But when Leroy forgets the third and final rule of caring for Maybelline, disaster ensues. Can Leroy wrestle fate to the ground, rescue the horse of his heart, and lasso loneliness for good? Join Leroy, Maybelline, and a cast of familiar characters — Stella, Frank, Mrs. Watson, and everyone’s favorite porcine wonder, Mercy — for some hilarious and heartfelt horsing around on Deckawoo Drive.
Bink + Gollie (first in a series) by Kate DiCamillo + Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile
Publisher description: Meet Bink and Gollie, two precocious little girls — one tiny, one tall, and both utterly irrepressible. Setting out from their super-deluxe tree house and powered by plenty of peanut butter (for Bink) and pancakes (for Gollie), they share three comical adventures involving painfully bright socks, an impromptu trek to the Andes, and a most unlikely marvelous companion. No matter where their roller skates take them, at the end of the day they will always be the very best of friends. Full of quick-witted repartee, this brainchild of Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo and award-winning author Alison McGhee is a hilarious ode to exuberance and camaraderie, imagination and adventure, brought to life through the delightfully kinetic images of Tony Fucile.
Updated October 2015: I had a chance to read and review The Princess in Black!