I primarily feature picture books here, but I’ve been reading so many great chapter books over the last couple of years (plus, they have pictures too!), that I wanted to round up some recent favorites. I hope you’ll add in the comments any chapter book gems I’ve missed.
A range of page counts are included here, in no particular order, and many if not most of these are part of a series with more than one installment for kid readers to gobble up. (Disclosure that some of these I read quite some time ago and aren’t as fresh in my mind for fully fleshed out descriptions as others. But know I enjoyed them all!)
Meet Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Hatem Aly (2018).
The first installment (with more in the series!) is a compilation of four delightful short stories with illustrations to match. The MC, Yasmin, who is Pakistani American, is creative and bold while also finding her way through sometimes being worried or unsure. Relatable and full of spirit and fun, this one is a true treat.
Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic (2017).
The ace design of this cover is a perfect preview to what lies inside this terrific book. I like the relatability of a girl who wants to do something designated for older kids, and for boys. I also like that this explores the tradition of making mochi for the new year, and other aspects of Japanese and Japanese American culture. The drawings complement the story beautifully.
Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes (2017).
A wonderful chapter book about friendship, flexibility, and change with a uniquely funny and charming character at its (upside down) heart. “Some losses were worse than others. A secret base was replaceable. Lenny Santos was not.”
Jada Jones: Rock Star by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton (2017).
In this sweet, engaging chapter book, Jada Jones is not the kind of rock star that first comes to mind. Nope, she loves rocks! A budding geologist, she’s navigating a science project and friendships after her bestie moves away, finding solutions and never giving up.
Juana & Lucas by Juana Medina (2016).
Juana is clever and funny as she tells the reader about her life. I adore how she introduces the characters (Lucas her dog, her friend Juli, the city of Bogotá where she lives, her tía, abuelo, and more) by way of illustrated diagrams. Plus, while Juana is learning English in the story, readers are either learning or recognizing the Spanish words weaved in.
Two Dogs in a Trench Coat go to School by Julie Falatko, illustrations by Colin Jack (2018).
An exceedingly funny chapter book about two dogs who, worried about this school place their boy has to spend his days, impersonate a student in order to protect and investigate. Turns out, these dogs LOVE school! Needless to say, hilarity ensues.
Power Forward: Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream by Hena Khan (2018).
Lucky for readers, Hena Khan, author of Amina’s Voice and several exquisite picture books, is bringing her writing to the chapter book arena. I was lucky enough to hear her present this book at Once Upon A Time Books in Los Angeles. A nicely paced story about basketball, following your passion, and a warm and well-drawn family you’ll definitely want to read more of.
Stella Díaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez (2018).
I had the great pleasure of blurbing this book! Stella’s story is relatable, honest, and warm-hearted. She certainly has a lot to say to young readers as she learns that just like the starfish who shares her name—Estrella—she is stronger than she thinks.
A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold, illustrated by Charles Santoso (2017).
This book, its title main character, and the baby skunk he cares for are all delightful. Shout out to the well-drawn sibling and parent characters in this one, too.
Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome by Sarai Gonzalez and Monica Brown (2018).
Filled with family and positivity, this book was inspired by the story of real eleven-year-old Sarai Gonzalez. In the fictional story, Sarai’s grandparents are forced to leave their home so Sarai hatches a plan to raise money to help them—with chicha morada and cupcakes.
Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers and Diana Toledano.
This one had me at the concept. Polly receives a book that makes anything she writes actually happen! Full of magical misunderstandings and charming illustrations, it’s perfect for developing readers (and writers!) who are fans of magic and imagination.
Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.
The most adorable illustrations and girl power adventures make this series another winner.
King & Kayla by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers.
Who doesn’t love a gentle mystery to solve? My favorite part about this series is that Kayla’s dog, King, is the one leading the way and figuring out clues before the human characters do. It’s a fun, inventive twist and has humor and repetition to boot.
Heartwood Hotel by Kallie George, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin (2017).
A sweet and thoughtful story with tender adventure and the theme of finding one’s place and home.
Lola Levine by Monica Brown, illustrated by Angela Dominguez (2015).
The irrepressible Lola is a spunky soccer player who wants to be in the school play. I read this one quite a while ago as a library borrow, but Lola made a lasting impression.
Super Happy Party Bears by Marcie Colleen.
A tittle to dance about! The stars of this series are super happy party bears indeed, but they live in the Grumpy Woods. Not to worry though, nothing gets them down and they get others to come around as well. A lively, bright, snappy story.
Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay (2017).
Zoey follows a clue to find out that her mom secretly helps magical animals. In this story, Zoey discovers her own magical animal in need. Magic + the scientific method = a terrific combination.
Your turn! What’s one of your fave chapter books?