Pauline's List of Chapter Books
for Young Gifted Readers

When kids learn to read "early", that is, chapter books before they're 8 or so, it can be hard to find gentle books at their reading level.
Here's my list of suggestions, in no particular order.

Kids are all different.
You will want to look over the books yourself to see if they fit your values
and your child's ability to handle the information and situations that are presented.

See also my general page about gifted kids.

A good education for every child does not mean the same education for every child.

"If everyone thinks alike then no one is thinking."

Please use what works for you and ignore the rest.

This Web Page by Pauline Harding for Art Nurk,
Contents may be copied for personal use if credit is given.

Page updated 4/04.


The Magic Tree House series is great. There are 25 or so of them - small chapter books - and each is about a certain time in history. Reading these is all of the history you need for a lower-elementary age child.

Pippi Longstocking. There are several books in this series. We've also seen some badly-dubbed movies.

The Moffats, Ginger Pye (a Newberry winner which involves a lost dog), The Witch Family, etc., by Elanor Estes. I really like the way she writes - there's a style to it that's all her own.

The Borrowers, by Mary Norton (and sequels) - little tiny people who "borrow" things they need. Often inspires much play with small dolls and dollhouses.  Several books in the series.

The Littles. Like the Borrowers, but shorter books at an easier reading level.

Danny Dunn, especially for the scientific type of kid!

Henry Reed, who also has a kind of scientist/inventor spirit.

Our very special favorite Homer Price. Tame and very much fun. You MUST read "the donuts" chapter of Homer Price aloud to your kids sometime during their childhood (and I do voices for the characters, which is pretty easy with this one).

Gone Away Lake and Return to Gone Away - very gentle and nice, by Elizabeth Enright

Little House on the Prairie, etc.

Boxcar Children. (Warning - in the first book the children's parents have died and they are on their own. Also, due to the short, easy-to-read sentences, this book makes a lousy read-aloud.)

Wizard of Oz - there are quite a few books in this series, and they're not as scary as the movie. My oldest has read them over and over again.

Alice in Wonderland, of course - my favorite.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.

We like the Berenstain Bears Chapter Books. They do tend to have an "issue", but it's presented in a somewhat complex way - take a look at one - it's better than you'd think. And there's a picture on every page, and the characters are familiar from the picture books - great as a first chapter book.

Mary Poppins - there are several books in the series.

I couldn't forget good old Ramona! This is the classic age for Ramona the Pest, her sister Bezus, etc. by Beverly Cleary. Also try Mouse on a Motorcycle.

Charlotte's Web (Warning - Charlotte dies at the end.) Trumpet of the Swan, and whatever the other one by that author is.

Oh and of course Paddington Bear by Michael Bond - these are just perfect and there's a zillion of them. (Warning - they're very English and some of the words may be unfamiliar.)

Encyclopedia Brown. Each chapter is a stand-alone mystery, and there are a whole bunch of these. We also got a video from the library once - not bad.

Time Warp Trio series (Knights of the Kitchen Table (I think?) and others) - a nice follow-up to the Magic Tree House books.

The Eddie and Betsy/Billy books by Carolyn Haywood. Very gentle.


For horse lovers, there's the Black Stallion books by Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry's books (Misty, etc).

The Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace.

The American Girls books are have some parts that are not for sensitive kids. There are several series of them, each about a girl from a different period in American history. There are six or so books in each series. (You can also spend a small fortune on the dolls and their accessories.) My boys refused to have anything to do with them, till I played one of them on tape - they were mesmerized after a minute or two. However, we listened to the Colonial ones on tape, and the "man who was mean to the horse" was pretty scary. Kirsten's series seems to have a death in almost every book. .

While not chapter books, we like the "Something Queer" series by Elizabeth Levy. She's also done a couple of time travel chapter books.

Also not chapter books - classic comic books - Calvin & Hobbes, Rupert Bear, Snoopy.
Tintin is also a favorite here, classic good guy/bad guy stories written in the '30's and translated into every language known to man (well, almost), but check the content and see if you're comfortable with it first.

The very excellent Usborne puzzle/maze books. (We've got "Time Trip to Ancient Rome" at the moment.)

Non-fiction books by Usborne.


Chronicles of Narnia.

My just-8-year-old enjoyed Harry Potter, but it's full of some seriously scary stuff - not for the younger set.

We like the Famous Five series of adventures, by Enid Blyton, but catching bad guys is the theme (and these are hard to find in this country).

All-of-A-Kind Family is a nice series by Sidney Taylor. Jewish kids growing up in New York early in the 20th century.

I keep putting The Great Brain series in front of my kids, but they've rejected it - I really enjoyed it.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien

The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - a classic Newberry winner by E.L. Konigsburg - two kids run away from home, hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and solve a (non-scary) mystery.

The Childhood of Famous Americans series of biographies (I read all of the ones my library had when I was young.)

The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. This does not work at all as a read-aloud, because it's hard to catch all of the puns and double meanings. Schools tend to teach this book in sixth grade, but my kids read it MUCH earlier.

Five Children and It, by E. Nesbit (and anything else she's written - we like The Wood-Be-Goods, also The Story of the Treasure-Seekers) - may be a little scary for younger children, but do consider it later on.
Edward Eager has done a number of Nesbit-like books that are gentler and more American.

Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh.

Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome. A series with lots of camping and sailing.

I haven't read these, but others have suggested them...

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater

The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden

Owls in the Family, by Farley Mowat

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

More input from others:

E-mail me ( if you have thoughts you'd like me to add here...

From Sissy:

I wanted to mention that my young reader was thoroughly traumatized in Little House on the Prairie when Jack, the dog, is left to swim the river. The river floods and Jack (presumably) drowns. Laura beats herself up over it and pounds the point home about terrible it is. I wish that I had told my daughter that he survives BEFORE she read that part, and rejected the book as "too horrible". Many months later, after much coaxing and assurances that Jack, indeed, survives, she has finished the book. She still refers to it as the horrible book where they drowned the dog.
We would like to recommend The Trumpet of the Swans by E.B. White. It has settings in the Philadelphia Zoo as well as the same park in Boston made famous in Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McClosky.

From Barbara:

All of these were high interest for us/my early reader.

1. Junie B. Jones -- My daughter loved the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park. She read it mostly as a Kindergartener/First grader.  But we have re-read for fun as a second grader even though they are now way too easy.

2.Cam Jansen, by David A. Adler -- The back of the book says for ages 7-10, but we feel they are easy chapter books for a first grader.

3. A to Z Mysteries, by Ron Roy -- The books say grades 2-4. I agree with the 2nd grade. (Note from Pauline - my daughter is loving this series!)