This Best Chapter Books for Kids Reviews Page contains a growing list of our favorite Chapter Books for children and teens!
Watching our kids progress from picture books to chapter books is an awesome thing to see. We have read hundreds of books aloud as a family, and our kids have read thousands of chapter books on topics that they were interested in. This is an ever-growing list of some of the best chapter books for kids that we’ve read.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 1 Encyclopedia Brown – Donald Sobol
- 2 Jim Kjelgaard Adventure Books
- 3 The Box Car Children – Gertrude Chandler Warner
- 4 Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
- 5 The Little House Series – Laura Ingalls Wilder
- 6 Landmark Books – Various Authors
- 7 Matt Christopher Series of Sports Books
- 8 The American Girl Series – Various Authors
- 9 Marguerite Henry Books for Horse Lovers
- 10 The Black Stallion Series – Walter Farley
- 11 Mr. Popper’s Penguins
- 12 Childhoods of Famous Americans
- 13 The Riverboat Adventures Series
- 14 Walt Morey – Gentle Ben and Other Titles
- 15 The Hardy Boys
- 16 Where the Red Fern Grows
Encyclopedia Brown – Donald Sobol
Leroy Brown is a genius. He’s also the son of the local chief of police. As a result, he loves to find and solve mysteries. Many cases are ones that his dad brings home and has been unable to solve. That is of course until Leroy gets involved. Besides solving mysteries for his father, he also runs a neighborhood detective agency out of his garage. For a small fee, he’ll solve any problem that his neighbors bring him.
Each book contains eight to ten mysteries. If you can’t figure out “who did it” by the time you reach the end of the story, you’ll find a section in the back of the book that tells how Encyclopedia Brown solved the case.
Jim Kjelgaard Adventure Books
Jim Kjelgaard was an outdoorsman and animal lover. His descriptive style and rugged themes will keep you sitting on the edge of your seat.
If you have a child who loves animals and adventure, you’ll have trouble getting them to put the books down. We have read a couple of Kjelgaard books as a family and have all enjoyed them.
Kjelgaard authored 45 books in his lifetime. The most widely recognized is BIG RED, his third book, which was made into a Disney movie in 1959.
His love of dogs reveals itself in many of his stories where dogs or wolves along with boys or young men become the major characters. SNOW DOG, STORMY, and, of course, BIG RED illustrate that affection and understanding between man and canine.
Kjelgaard books we’ve loved:
Many of his books are out of print, but we have been able to locate them at used bookstores and on eBay. In 1992 Bantam books began reprinting a few titles which are now available at retail bookstores.
The Box Car Children – Gertrude Chandler Warner
Gertrude Warner created the Boxcar Children on a day that she couldn’t go to work as a teacher because she was sick at home. It was inspired by her childhood dreams. As a child, she had spent hours watching the trains go by near her family’s home.
She read the story to her classes and rewrote it many times so the words were easy to understand. Many pupils spoke other languages at home and were just learning English. The Boxcar Children was a fun story that was easy to read.
Originally published in 1942 by Scott Foresman the series is now published by Albert Whitman & Company. There are a total of eighteen Alden children adventures written by Ms. Warner. The series has been continued, written by other authors.
Gertrude Chandler Warner died in 1979 at the age of 89 after a full life as a teacher, author, and volunteer for the American Red Cross. Her stories have been enjoyed by the boys in our family. Full of adventure and mystery this series keeps you wanting more. Two brothers and two sisters live together in an abandoned boxcar in the wilderness. Soon their grandfather finds them and they live together helping each other through many adventures. Similar in style to Hardy Boys stories but with younger children.
Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
Charlotte’s Web is the best-selling children’s paperback of all time. Most of you have probably read this story and fondly remember the warm feelings you had for the ingenious and heroic spider named Charlotte. It is a heartwarming story of friendship and deliverance that occurs on a farm. It’s a great way to teach kids about the value of friendship and sacrificial love. This book has also been reproduced as a wonderful animated movie.
The Little House Series – Laura Ingalls Wilder
If you haven’t read these books, they are a must. If you have read them, read them again. Our copies of ”The Little House on the Prairie Series” are loved by our entire family and very well worn. This series of eight books penned by Laura Ingalls Wilder chronicles American pioneer life and the westward expansion movement. From farming and building log cabins to butchering and gardening, every aspect of life is woven into the ongoing saga of the Ingalls and Wilder families.
When Laura started writing her family’s story, she had no idea she would become famous; she was simply trying to preserve the stories and lifestyle of a bygone era in American history. Beyond preserving history, she created endearing and memorable sketches of herself and her family. These stories remind us of the hardships that our forefathers endured securing our nation’s land.
They also describe the value of hard work, a mindset of conservation and an awareness of letting very little go to waste. We’ve read these stories as a family at bedtime and dinnertime. The kids have read them individually and seem to never grow tired of them.
Landmark books present very accurate historical topics and biographies in easy to read stories that teens and young adults will appreciate. RandomHouse commissioned and published 122 titles between 1950 and 1970. Because of the era in which they were published, they are free from the political correctness and rewriting of history that skews many of the books now being published.
Many of these books are out of print, some titles are available as new, but only in paperback cover. We have compiled our collection of original hardbacks from used bookstores, thrift stores, and library book sales. There is usually a race to be the first to read each new arrival to our house.
Some good titles include:
- The Voyages of Christopher Columbus;
- The Landing of the Pilgrims;
- Paul Revere and the Minute Men;
- Our Independence and the Constitution;
- Lee & Grant at Appomattox;
- The Wright Brothers;
- The Sante Fe Trail;
- Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia;
- Mr. Bell Invents the Telephone;
- Abe Lincoln;
- The Story of D-Day;
- Wyatt Earp U.S. Marshall;
- The Early Days of Automobiles;
- The Witchcraft of Salem Village;
- and Remember the Alamo.
Matt Christopher Series of Sports Books
If you have a young sports lover in your house, you need these books. There are over 130 books in this series written about a wide variety of sports and sporting figures. Matt Christopher’s books are fast-paced, action-packed, sports novels. He weaves an abundance of sports facts and history into his fascinating fictional tales. The heroes in all of his books are kids who participate in a wide variety of sports including baseball, hockey, basketball, soccer, football, volleyball, rollerblading, skateboarding, snowboarding, dirt biking, mountain biking and tennis.
Most of the heroes are boys, but our son Joseph is quick to add, “all the books have girls in them.” We own about 30 books in the Matt Christopher series and are always looking for additional titles to fill out our collection. We can usually find them at thrift stores or used book sales.
Matt Christopher was born in Bath, Pennsylvania in 1917, and was a gifted athlete. Being the oldest of nine children he had lots of siblings to practice with. He participated in football, baseball, and soccer in high school. In the 1930’s he played for a semi-pro baseball team in the New York Yankees organization. His first book, The Lucky Baseball Bat, was published in 1954 by Little, Brown, and Company, who published all of his subsequent titles.
Check out all of the Matt Christopher Titles
The American Girl series is a darling set for girls. Each book is set in a
specific time in American history and revolves around the life of a girl and her family. From the Revolutionary War to the 1950’s these stories make history fun and memorable.
Our daughters have loved them and they’ve even been appreciated by the entire family at the dinner table.
Note in recent years newer books have been published and people we have spoken to have said that the series has changed and the newer books have left them disappointed.
The titles that we have read or our kids own include:
- Kaya – 1764 Life as a Native American
- Felicity –1774 Revolutionary War
- Josefina – 1824 Life in the Southwest
- Kirsten – 1854 Westward Expansion
- Addy – 1864 Escape from slavery
- Samantha –1904 Industrial Revolution
- Kit –1934 Depression Living
- Molly –1944 World War II
For more details visit AmericanGirl.com
Marguerite Henry Books for Horse Lovers
It is amazing to us that many of our country’s most creative or ingenious thinkers were often those who were sickly in their childhoods. Marguerite Henry is no exception to this observation. She was stricken with rheumatic fever at the age of six and bedridden until she was twelve-years-old. Yet, she was first published at the age of eleven when a short story she had written about a collie and a group of children was sold to a magazine for $12. She wrote about numerous animals—dogs, cats, birds, mules, and foxes, but her deepest passion was for horses.
If you have a horse lover in the house—boy or girl—they’ll love Marguerite Henry books. Some of our favorites are Misty of Chincoteague, Stormy Misty’s Foal, Sea Star, Misty’s Twilight and Brighty of the Grand Canyon.
Other titles include:
- Justin Morgan had a Horse,
- King of the Wind,
- Brown Sunshine of Sawdust Valley,
- Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West,
- San Domingo: The Medicine Hat Stallion,
- Born to Trot,
- Black Gold,
- Album of Horses,
- White Stallion of Lipizza,
- Five O’Clock Charlie and many others.
Both Misty of Chincoteague and Justin Morgan had a Horse are Newberry Honor Books and King of the Wind received the Newberry Medal.
The Black Stallion Series – Walter Farley
“In the Black Stallion,” Alec Ramsey is onboard a ship bound for home after visiting his Uncle in Africa. In the midst of a storm, the ship is wrecked, and most of the crew and passengers are lost. On board was an untamed stallion who manages to escape from the wreck and swim to shore, towing Alec with him. It is a riveting story full of adventure. Eventually, Alec gets to be involved in horse racing, as a jockey.
Walter Farley grew up in New York City. As a child, he never owned a horse, but because his Uncle was a professional horse trainer, young Walt had plenty of access and experience with them.
Mr. Farley began to write The Black Stallion when he was in High School. He later finished the book while attending Columbia University. In 1941, when he was 26 years old, Random House finally published it.
Our daughter Becky says that these books are a must read for any horse lover. Walt Disney turned the original book into the movie in 1979 and then created a sequel, The Black Stallion Returns in 1983. In 1989, when Walt became too ill to continue writing, his son, Steven Farley, took up the torch and began writing the Young Black Stallion series.
There are 21 Black Stallion and Island Stallion stories that are still in print. In total, he wrote 34 books in his lifetime.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Mr. Popper’s Penguins is the story of a poor painter who is enamored with expeditions to the South Pole. He reads all he can about Admiral Drake and his great conquests. When Mr. Popper writes a letter to Admiral Drake and receives a penguin in return, the fun really begins.
He soon acquires another one from the zoo and then the multiplying starts. After a short time, he teaches all of the penguins to do tricks and they begin to perform shows. Soon fame and wealth follow and Mr. Popper is no longer poor. The story ends when he finally gets to live out his dream and go on a polar expedition. All of the kids in our family have read this book and they rate it as a 7 (on a scale of 1 to 10) for enjoyment and “funniness.”
Childhoods of Famous Americans
The Childhoods of Famous American series chronicles the foundational years of some of Americas greatest leaders, visionaries and inventors. Truly an inspiration for any child that dreams of changing the world. Seeing the humble beginnings of many of these men and women is enough to spur your child to dream big dreams and achieve great things. And what we really need right now in the world are more kids who not only dream, but who take action to achieve greatness to benefit all of us.
Names in the series include Presidents and Patriots: George Washington; Thomas Jefferson; Abraham Lincoln; Betsy Ross, Paul Revere, Molly Pitcher; Teddy Roosevelt and Clara Barton. Inventors: Benjamin Franklin; Thomas Edison; Henry Ford and the Wright Brothers. Other notable Americans include: Davy Crockett; Annie Oakley; Knute Rockne; Daniel Boone, Buffalo Bill Cody; Lou Gehrig; Helen Keller and Babe Ruth and hundreds more (click here for a complete listing)
Our kids have read and re-read these books multiple times.
The Riverboat Adventures Series
The Riverboat Adventures series of stories written by Lois Johnson will grab your kids and keep them reading. All of the stories revolve around 12-year-old Libby Norstad and her friends as they confront mysteries and deal with issues that arose in the 1850s when the Underground Railroad was rescuing slaves from oppression.
History is taught with a mix of social activism and moral righteousness. Kids will be encouraged as they read that they can do what is right even in the midst of a world gone wrong. The Riverboat Adventures are not only about faith in God and believing that He will help you no matter what your circumstances, but also, about the power of trusting your friends and the decisions you have to make.
Walt Morey – Gentle Ben and Other Titles
Walt Morey was born in 1907, in Jasper, Oregon. He once said, “I was the only person in the state of Oregon to go through the first grade three times.” In third grade, he could read but barely write.
At age thirteen, Walt’s English teacher realized that he was headed for trouble. She knew he was a sharp kid, but hadn’t yet discovered the joy of reading. Realizing that Walt’s next-door neighbor was one of Montana’s greatest painters, she gave him a book called Chip of the Flying U, a biography of Charles M. Russell. Walt struggled through the first forty pages then his imagination caught hold of him. He read incessantly from that day on.
After he graduated high school, he spent the next 30 years searching for a job he loved. He was a prize fighter, worked in movie houses, built ships, milled lumber, and built buildings. Then a friend invited him to go to Alaska and work for a summer as a deep sea diver. The adventure changed his life. He came back home with a burning desire to write.
Walt was in his early 50’s when he wrote Gentle Ben, the book that launched his career. He went on to write sixteen others, most of them based in Oregon, Washington, or Alaska.
- No Cheers, No Glory;
- Death Walk;
- Kavik the Wolf Dog;
- Deep Trouble;
- Gloomy Gus;
- Home is the North;
- Run Far, Run Fast;
- Scrub Dog of Alaska
Morey’s books will keep you on the edge of your seat. Our daughter, Becky says, “He doesn’t overwhelm you with descriptions. He gives you just enough information to let your imagination play.” She adds, “And his endings will usually catch you off guard.” Annette’s mother, Carol, remembers reading Walt Morey’s books as a child and says they were fabulous.
You can read more about Walt Morey here. Morey died in 1992.
The Hardy Boys
The Hardy Boys is an adventure story series for boys. There are 59 titles in the original series which trace the detective adventures of two brothers, Frank and Joe Hardy and several of their friends. Frank and Joe’s father is a real detective and the boys follow in his footsteps tracking down spies, capturing smugglers, discovering kidnappers and freeing captives. Our middle son, Roy, says that “These adventures are really exciting because the things you read about could only happen to guys.” There is a very clear delineation between good and evil. Good always wins.
The Hardy Boys series was conceived in 1926 by Edward Stratemeyer. He was the founder of the Stratemeyer Writing Syndicate. After he created the plot and outlines, he advertised for ghostwriters to actually write the stories. The most well-known author was
Leslie McFarlane who wrote 19 of the first 24 stories. In total 21 authors have contributed to this series.
The books have been revised numerous times so that the writing style stays fresh for each new generation of readers. The Hardy Boys is the all-time best selling and longest-running series of books for boys and has been published the world over in many languages. We’ve found most of the Hardy Boys books we have at used book stores, thrift shops, and garage sales.
Where the Red Fern Grows
Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls is a children’s chapter book classic and an incredibly heartwarming story about a boy and his dogs.
Billy Coleman dreamed of having his own hunting dogs, but because his family was very poor, he needed to work and save his own money to achieve his dream.
Finally, after two years of selling fruit and bait to fishermen, he purchased two pups. He named them, Old Dan and Little Ann, and they became some of the best coon hunting dogs in the county and state.
If you are a dog lover, you’ll find this book to be full of emotion. The love and adventure shared throughout the book will transport the reader to a faraway time and place which leaves this story etched in your memory forever.
Woodrow Wilson Rawls grew up in Scraper, Oklahoma on a small farm. Because the Rawls children didn’t attend school on a regular basis, their mother, Winne, decided to teach them at home. She ordered books from catalogs and spent hours reading to her children. Wilson thought most of the stories were “girl stories,” until she read Jack London’s Call of the Wild.
Wilson was hooked on reading. He read and re-read that book, even resorting to reading it out loud to his dog. It was this experience that forged his dream to write a story about a boy and dog that would affect the world as much as the Call of the Wild.
Where the Red Fern Grows was published as a three-part series in The Saturday Evening Post in 1961 and later published in book form by Doubleday.
If you have a favorite Chapter Book for kids that isn’t listed, please mention it in the comment section below and we’ll consider it for this page.