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12 Short Chapter Books to Get Your Reluctant Reader Reading

July 11, 2013

Having trouble getting your elementary-schooler to start reading chapter books?  Then give these book a whirl!  They are sure to delight and entertain even the most reluctant reader. 

(The books are listed in alphabetical order by title, not in order of preference.)

Abel1. Abel’s Island by William Steig

Ages: 8+

This Newbery Honor book is a classic castaway story about being stranded alone on an island, except for the tiny fact that Abel is an anthropomorphic mouse!  How he survives a winter alone and eventually escapes is a delightful story and a testament to his humanity…oops, I mean “mouse-anity.”



2. Bbunnicula2unnicula by Deborah and James Howe

Ages: 8-12

Chester the cat and Howie the dog are contented house pets until the day that a new pet, a rabbit, enters the household and starts exhibiting strange behavior.  Could it be true?  Could Bunnicula be….a vampire rabbit?  Bonus:  If your reluctant reader likes this book they can continue the adventure with The Celery Stalks at Midnight, Howliday Inn and several other Bunnicula books!



call it courage3. Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry

Ages: 10-12

In this Newbery Award winning tale, Mafatu, a young boy of a sea-faring tribe, is considered a coward by his people because he is afraid of the sea.  In order to conquer his fear and prove that he is not a coward, he undertakes a harrowing journey alone on the open sea and discovers his true destiny.




9780688161330_p0_v2_s260x4204. The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling

Ages: 8-10

What would you do if suddenly everything you touched turned to chocolate?  In this spin on the classic tale of King Midas, a young boy discovers that there are some wishes that should probably never come true.




books5. Fat Men From Space by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

Ages: 8-10

In this delightfully zany tale a young boy named William discovers that the filling in his tooth can pick up radio signals.  At first he is excited, but then his tooth begins picking up signals from alien ships planning to invade earth!  When he is picked up by a spaceship, William becomes the unwitting witness to the  strange invasion of the Fat Men from Space!




Frindle_cover6. Frindle by Andrew Clements

Ages: 8-12

Nick is a creative child who always finds ways to liven things up a bit at school.  When he learns how new words are invented, Nick decides to make one up for himself.  Thus “frindle” is born.  The resulting battle of words between students and teacher grows until it has engulfed the whole town and  goes further than Nick could have ever imagined…but in a good way!




9780440419242_p0_v1_s260x4207. I, Houdini by Lynne Reid Banks

Ages: 8-10

Named after the famous escapes artist, Houdini the hamster escapes from every cage that his humans place him in, however, sometimes his cleverness and curiosity can lead him into a bit of trouble.  Despite narrow scrapes with cats, dogs, and even a refrigerator, Houdidni perseveres and has some great adventures along the way!




mermaid summer8. The Mermaid Summer by Mollie Hunter

Ages: 8+

Mermaids are vain and dangerous creatures, as Jon and Anna know all too well.  Their grandfather was nearly killed by a mermaid after he spoke ill of her and she wrecked  his ship.   A ruined sailor, he bid his family goodbye to seek another fortune, but when his two grandchildren meet the mermaid themselves, they put a plan in motion to tame the mermaid and bring their grandfather home again.




07857384529. Morning Girl by Michael Dorris

Ages: 8+

Morning Girl always wakes early.  Her brother, Star Boy, always stays up late.  The siblings don’t always get along, but they try to understand each other and bridge the differences between them.  This delightful story is set in the Bahamas in 1492, shortly before Columbus arrives to claim the “New World” for Europe.  This tale of two siblings and their island tribe gives the reader a glimpse of a world that was lost, and a sense of peace that it would be wise for us to regain.



18107710. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

Ages: 8+

Based on a true story, this heartbreaking tale of hope and love is set in Hiroshima in the 1950s.  Sadako is an energetic and lively child, but she soon falls ill with leukemia–a result of radiation left over from the atom bomb dropped by the Americans at the end of WWII.  Japanese legend holds that if a person folds one thousand paper cranes they will be granted one wish.  Sadako sets to work folding cranes in hopes that she can wish her way back to health once again.  Note:  This is a very sad book but children will identify strongly with 10-year-old Sadako.  No better children’s heroine could be created.


underwear11. The Secret Life of the Underwear Champ by Betty Miles

Ages: 8-10

Isn’t it every kid’s dream to be on television?  After Larry is “discovered” on a street corner and told he will be in a national TV commercial, he is very excited.  But then he learns that he will be advertising underwear!  The resulting story is hilarious and heart-warming.




8721912. Who Ran My Underwear Up the Flagpole? by Jerry Spinelli

Ages: 9+

Although this story sounds like just another silly tale (involving underwear), this tale from the four-part School Daze series by Jerry Spinelli is actually a showcase for four amazing characters:  Eddie, Sunny, Salem and Pickles are four very different sixth graders who become close friends and have many adventures as they figure out how to navigate their first year of middle school!



Happy Reading!

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