2013 Finalists: Early Chapter Books

Ursula Vernon
Nominated by: sara the librarian

Ursula Vernon is as wackily hilarious as ever in this ninth installment in the Dragonbreath series, featuring Danny Dragonbreath (the only mythical creature in a school of reptiles, who’s still working on his fire-breathing skills), his friend Wendell (complete geek, afflicted with a health food-addicted mother and a best friend who likes, ugh, adventures), and his frenemy Christiana (super logical, doesn’t believe in dragons. Or fairies, even after the whole kidnapping episode). Their investigation of the theft of Grandfather Turlingsward’s dentures is sprinkled with snarky asides on everything from pre-regulation hospital toxic waste to respecting (or not, as the case may be) the elderly.


Vernon’s unique humor and characters will attract young readers looking for fantasy, adventure, and humor. The inclusion of illustrations, comic panels, and speech bubbles will encourage readers who might not feel ready for a longer chapter book. Start your Dragonbreath experience with this latest installment or go back to the beginning and enjoy the whole series from sea monsters to mutants!


— Jennifer, Jean Little Library

James Preller
Feiwel & Friends
Nominated by: Jennifer

Where can a young reader find a good scare these days? There’s a shortage of keep-all-the-lights-on early chapter books, which makes Home Sweet Horror extra sweet. If you can call a book sweet that features a ramshackle house, eerie scratchboard art, and slumber party crasher Bloody Mary. Eight-year-old Liam is fighting grief, big family changes, creepy noises in the basement, and a dangerous, ghostly villain.

This plot-centered story has an emotional core, too, and it’s a satisfying and creepy read for all your thrill-seekers. There’s some leeway for a logical explanation of events, but, really, it’s just a darn good ghost story! Sit down, buckle up your courage, and enjoy the read!

–Laura Purdie Salas, laurasalas.com/blog

Claudia Mills
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Linda Baie

Author Claudia Mills introduces us to her first young readers’ book in the Franklin School Friends series. When Principal Boone announces a school-wide reading contest, Kelsey is determined to lead her class to victory. But, how will her class win a pizza party and special certificates if some classmates don’t want to read or work on winning the contest? And then there is Simon, who might be lying about the number of books he read just to try and beat Kelsey’s reading record. Kelsey learns a lot about her classmates in her quest to win. Which class will win the party? Will Kelsey be the top reader in her class?  Does principal Boone shave his beard? Young readers will be chuckling throughout the story to see how it ends!

A black-and-white illustration in each chapter helps the reader to visualize story details. Young readers learn about all the different kinds of readers each class holds. Readers even walk away with a reading list of books they can read just like Kelsey!

— Jodie Rodriguez, Growing Book by Book

Hilary McKay
Albert Whitman & Company
Nominated by: lwad

Lulu loves animals of all shapes and sizes. So it’s no surprise that, while on a family beach vacation, she is determined to make friends with the dog everyone has warned her is trouble. Lulu and the Dog from the Sea is perfectly-paced, sprinkled with gentle humor, and home to realistic and lovable characters, both human and canine. Filled with charming illustrations, this early chapter book will appeal to animal lovers of all ages. Even those of us who don’t wish to bring home a stray dog will be rooting for Lulu and her unlikely new friend.


— Janssen Bradshaw, Everyday Reading

Lauren Myracle
Dutton Juvenile
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

Many children will relate to Ty’s sense of adventure, especially when seeing him on a class trip at the aquarium. Ty is likable and readers will connect with how this seven-year-old views the world due. A new sister causes anxiety and frustration for Ty when his mother is tired with the demands of caring for a baby. His school routine changes because his older sister, Sandra, has to drive him.  His best friend is currently in the hospital with cancer, and Ty visits him there. A change occurs when Ty finds the penguin exhibit on his class trip and a new plan emerges in his mind.


As you read this story about Ty and his family, you’ll see how they come together when he needs their help the most.  This is a great beginning chapter book at only 128 pages, with illustrations that highlight Ty’s adventures.

— Diana Pettis, Find a Book Guided Reading
Anna Branford
Nominated by: Mary McKenna Siddals

In this third book from the Violet Mackerel series, Violet wants to help small things. Unfortunately, her attempt to help a ladybug by giving it a new home (complete with tinsel, a wishing stone, and cheese-on-toast) ends in disaster. Talking about her mistake with her big sister, Nicola, makes Violet realize that an animal should be left in its natural habitat and sparks an idea that is truly helpful.

Violet’s personality permeates every one of the 100 pages in this short book. Glimpses of her inner world, along with plentiful black-and-white illustrations, radiate seven-year-old charm. The relationship between Violet and her sister is authentic and refreshingly supportive, as Nicola helps Violet face realistic consequences. Large font size, generous margins, frequent illustrations, and an engaging story make this perfect for readers who are just ready to make the jump to chapter books.

— Danyelle Leach, Bookshelves in the Cul-de-Sac