Early chapter books are the overlooked middle children of the kid lit world. While picture books get ooohs and aaahs for their beauty and cleverness, and young adult books get attention for their edginess and quirky characters, beginning chapter books sit quietly on the shelf, ignored — until you need them.
And we do need them. Early chapter books give young readers a story long enough to sink their literary teeth into without overwhelming. They build confidence and a feeling of satisfaction at having read an entire book — a real book, with chapters. One that doesn’t say “beginning reader” on its cover.
Because I love watching kids learn to read — and especially, learn to love to read — I have a soft spot for these slim little books, usually illustrated in black-and-white. The best are simple and yet compelling, with memorable characters, an interesting setting, and enough action to hold their readers’ attention.
Series are popular with young readers. They help children identify a new book they can feel confident they’ll like, based on past experience. The characters are familiar and the format consistent, which adds to that important feeling of mastery — I can do this! Series stories also make it easier to slip into an imagined world, like revisiting a place you enjoy and discovering new delights each time.
The Seldovia Sam books by Susan Woodward Springer stand out as Alaska’s best offering in the early chapter book realm. Oddly enough — or maybe not — also illustrated by Amy Meissner!
Published by Alaska Northwest Books.