Unlike picture books for younger readers, a chapter book tells the story more through the use of prose than just illustrations. Unlike senior reader books, chapter books typically contain a varied number of pictures, but also more words than a standard picture book. The name refers to the fact that the stories are often divided into short chapters. This offers children the opportunity to stop and then continue reading if there is an interruption or their attention span is not long enough to finish the book in one sitting. Chapter books are usually works of fiction, but they also extend to non-fiction. Page numbers vary, but are longer than the typical 32-page picture book.
From the confusing files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, EL Konigsburg: Claudia lives a typical life in the suburbs, but she despises it. She doesn’t feel that her parents really appreciate her for what she is or could be. He dreams of going to an impressive and elegant place. He finally chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art and drags his younger brother, Jamie. Living in the museum, they are engulfed in a mystery surrounding a statue that was possibly created by Michelangelo. In her quest to discover more about the sculpture, Claudia meets the incredible Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the first woman to deliver the statue to the museum. Through this experience, Claudia discovers more about the statue, but, more importantly, she learns more about herself.
The ghost toll booth, Norton Juster: One day, a listless boy named Milo receives a magical toll booth, through which he decides to drive in his toy car. The toll booth then transports him to the Kingdom of Wisdom, where he experiences many fantastic adventures, including the quest to rescue two princesses, Princess Rhyme and Princess Reason. The author includes lots of funny puns and idioms (that is, Milo literally jumps to the Island of Conclusions) that add a double layer of entertainment to readers.
Sarah, plain and tall, Patricia MacLachlan: A quiet widowed farmer with two children, Anna and Caleb, announces a wife. When Sarah arrives, she is homesick for Maine. The children fear that she will not stay, and when she goes to the city alone, young Caleb, whose mother died in childbirth, fears that she is gone forever. But he returns with colored pencils to illustrate the beauty of Maine and to explain that although he misses home, he would miss them more. The tale gently explores the themes of abandonment, loss, and love.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl: Charlie lives in the poorest part of town with his mother and both sets of grandparents. His town is the type where he always catches you wondering why it hasn’t collapsed yet. Willy Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory rises above the town. It seems like it has absolutely no staff in charge, yet it’s still churning out loads of the most tempting chocolate candies. One day there is an announcement that buried in several chocolate bars will be a golden ticket. This ticket will allow the lucky recipient to enter Wonka’s factory. Inside the factory one finds the strangest cast of characters and the most outlandish inventions ever witnessed by modern man. This is one of the favorites.
Holes Louis Sachar: Stanley Yelnat’s great-great-grandfather was cursed, so his grandson, Stanley, has the worst luck imaginable. After being wrongly accused of a crime, he is sent to Camp Green Lake, a correctional facility. In this center for the sick, under the watchful eye of a brutal warden, children are forced to dig holes in the ground in the scorching sun all day. Finally, the boys realize that the director is looking for something specific. As the plot unfolds, three different subplots intertwine as Stanley tries to figure out what the warden is so desperate for and why he wants him so badly.
Maniac Magee, Jerry Spinolli: Jeffery Magee’s parents are killed in a cart when a drunk driver collides with them. At just three years old, Jeffery goes to live with his strict Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan, who are apparently always arguing over something, including the boy. When Jeffery is old enough, he runs away. Finally, he finds himself some two hundred miles away, in a city divided on the basis of race and color. This is where the Maniac nickname is earned and you’ll soon find out why. His physical exploits become legendary and he has not built ugly racial boundaries.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney: Greg is suddenly introduced to the perils of high school, where small-sized wimps share the hallways with taller, nastier, and already shaving kids. His mom makes him start keeping a journal, and he does so despite her misgivings.
Greg is a soul in conflict – he wants to do the right thing, but the nascent drive for status and girls seem to be unduly tempting him. He wants to be a winner in the popularity race (where he thinks he is 52nd or 53rd), but there is always a stumbling block. Readers cheer on Greg because he is vulnerable and empathize with his struggles, even though he doesn’t realize his enormous weaknesses.
Wagon Children, Gertrude Warner: This book was written decades ago, but its history has stood the test of time. It is amazing how many, now adults, tell how this book turned them into avid readers. And they have passed the series on to their own children. The story is of four children who travel in an empty wagon without the supervision of their parents, a captivating story for children constantly controlled and directed by adults. Somehow, children find ways to survive through chance or ingenuity.
Frindle, Andrew Clements:Nick Allen once again annoys his teacher and she assigns him an additional report on how new words are added to the dictionary. Suddenly, this triggers the best idea for Nick. Coins your own new word “frindle.” His new word greatly annoys his teacher. The war of words escalates, resulting in after-school detention, a principal’s home visit, national publicity, even generating money for local entrepreneurs, and eventually the addition of frindle in the dictionary. Amazing!
Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson: Jess Aarons dreams of being the fastest runner in fifth grade. Practice all summer running in the fields of the field. Then a tomboy named Leslie Burke moves to the farm next door and can run. After getting over a beating from a girl, Jess begins to think that Leslie might be okay. The two create a secret kingdom in the forest called Terabithia, where the only way to enter the castle is by swinging over a ravine with an enchanted rope. Here are the king and queen, battling imaginary giants and the undead, sharing dreams and plotting revenge on nasty children. Jess and Leslie find comfort in the sanctuary of Terabithia until tragedy strikes and the two are separated for good. An important book on loss.
Dahl’s Matilda and Gardiner’s Stone Fox are also highly recommended.