In addition to being the Curator of the Wallace Children's Literature Collection, I am also the mother of a 5-year-old girl. This past winter, the two of us made the leap from Potter, Milne and Lobel to add chapter books to our nightly reading ritual. He's a sampling of what we've read together so far.
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
This book won the Newbery Medal in 1949 and remains a perfect first chapter book to read aloud with a child, boy or girl. The chapters are short, there are frequent illustrations, and the story is sharp and engaging.
Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry
The Gooney Bird Greene books (there's four of them now) are a delightful alternative to the more pedestrian Junie B (First Grader) series. Gooney Bird is a born storyteller who never, ever lies. Not only will she entertain both parent and child, she may even teach both a little something about the craft of writing.
Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little by E.B. White
I like the cut of Stuart's jib, but my daughter (well both of us, really) preferred Charlotte's Web by a long shot even though I feared it would be too mature for her. She loved it to pieces despite her attention wandering a bit in some of the descriptive bits. I, of course, bawled like a baby when Charlotte died (the chapter in which she dies is some of the best writing ever in a children’s book). My daughter wasn’t affected by Charlotte’s death per se, but she became frantic when Charlotte’s babies fly away and leave Wilbur.
Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows
The seventh book in this series of best-friend adventures will be out this fall. My daughter and I have read the first two together and, while we both like them a lot, I would prefer to have her wait until she is comfortably reading chapter books on her own to finish the series. In my opinion, their humour is more suited to the child as solitary reader than in the read-aloud context.
Daisy Meadows' Fairy books
There's what, a million of these books? My daughter got one for her 5th birthday which we read together. She has since insisted on reading three more with me. She loves them and I am all for her devouring them, but I will, however, happily consign the rest of the series to her independence as a reader. Life's too short for predictable, gender-typed series fiction that gives nothing back whatsoever to the adult reader.
Iggy and Me by Jenny Valentine
There's two books in this series about sisters, Iggy and Flo; a third one will be available this fall. Unlike the previous two series I mentioned, Valentine's books make excellent read-alouds. They're also wry, British and as funny as all get out. My daughter loved LOVED them. So did I.
Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart-Lovelace
These books were written in the 30s and are the historical precursors to best-friend books like Ivy and Bean. The first one begins at Betsy’s 5th birthday party when she meets her new neighbour, Tacy. By the time the series is done Betsy is married off and Tacy is starting a career. My daughter and I have read the first 2 books, Betsy-Tacy and Betsy-Tacy and Tib. We love them. They are smart and gentle and perfectly paced for 5-7 yr-olds.
Twig by Elizabeth Orton Jones
Another chapter book from the 30s. Twig is a little girl who befriends a little boy Elf in the garden of her tenement house. My daughter and I both liked it but not as much as we liked the Betsy-Tacy books.
My Naughty Little Sister Stories by Dorothy Edwards
Just as Ivy and Bean owes a debt to Betsy-Tacy, Iggy and Me is a modern retelling of the My Naughty Little Sister stories from the 1950s. The short-story format of these books makes them easy to read with a young child because you can easily pick them up and put them down: there is no need to sustain narrative continuity from one story to the next. They are definitely a hit in my house despite the sometimes stilted voice of the narrator. And you won't even believe what happens in "The Naughtiest Story of All." Suffice to say, my daughter let out an audible gasp that woke the neighbours when she learned the awful truth.
The End Of the Beginning: Being the Adventures Of a Small Snail (And an Even Smaller Ant) by Avi
Avi is a master of puns and wordplay and the humour that comes from multiple, unintended layers of meaning. While I acknowledge the craft of this book, its simple sophistication was beyond my daughter even if the plot-line wasn't. She found it a dull slog and I kept wishing it were just me reading it by myself.
What's in the pile by the bed?
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
The Hundred Dresses and The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
The Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson
The Clementine books and Stuart Goes to School by Sara Pennypacker
The Doll People books by Ann Martin
All those wonderful Ramona and Henry books by Beverly Cleary
...and, of course, stacks and stacks of picture books because one format does not give way to another.
Anyone care to add to our reading list? What chapter books have you shared with your not-quite-reading-yet or recently-learned-to-read child?