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This post contains a sponsored inclusion of  Candlewick Press, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board.

13 Unforgettable Chapter Books to Read With Your Kids


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Source: Werner Pfennig / Pexels
Source: Werner Pfennig / Pexels

Though my angst-filled years of worshipping at the altar of The Catcher in the Rye are long behind me, there’s a line of Salinger’s I always carry with me. In it, his classic anti-hero, Holden Caulfield, waxes on the particular heartache of closing a book for good, wishing its author was a “terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.” 

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The moment I read that line back in high school, something clicked into place inside my heart. A good book leaves you longing well after its story has come to an end. Its characters and the places they inhabit leave an imprint and, in turn, can’t help but craft the way in which we see the world. 

With this philosophy in mind, I can’t think of a more meaningful gift to give my children than the most beloved of fictional friends. Courageous, kind, loyal, and infinitely unforgettable, the characters at the center of these books are just the type you’d want accompanying your little ones throughout childhood. Read on for 13 memorable children’s chapter books to read alongside your kids. 

Kate DiCamillo & Chris Van Dusen
1. Mercy Watson Is Missing!: Tales from Deckawoo Drive

When Mercy Watson, a beloved pig, goes missing in the chaotic neighborhood of Deckawoo Drive, the Watsons are heartbroken, and local authorities prove unhelpful. But when a clever idea to hire a bumbling private investigator, Percival Smidgely, and his pigeon Polly, emerges, the neighborhood comes together to solve the mystery. As they follow hoofprints and an enticing scent, the community sleuths embark on a heartwarming and funny adventure. This is the newest addition to Kate DiCamillo’s beloved Tales from Deckawoo Drive series and is sure to be a hit for littles getting into chapter books.

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Christine Platt & Alea Marley
2. Frankie and Friends: Breaking News

Young Frankie’s mom leaves to cover a breaking news story, and while she’s proud of her mom, she also misses her greatly. To fill the void, Frankie decides to create her own news show with the help of her friends, including her doll, toy robot, and cat. In a heartwarming and imaginative adventure, Frankie discovers her first story at home, demonstrating humor and empathy, and ultimately understanding that even big sisters can miss their mom. This heartwarming story fosters compassion and is a great way to introduce young reporters to new journalism and news terms.

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Atinuke & Lauren Tobia
3. Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus

Anna Hibiscus returns home to Nigeria from her visit to Canada, and she’s surprised by the changes she finds in her family and her house: Her baby brothers are growing, her grandfather seems older, and Anna worries that her family may not love her as much as before. Meanwhile, she becomes the caretaker of a mischievous chick, Snow White, and struggles to keep it out of trouble. However, a surprise visitor ends up arriving to provide a distraction from her concerns and creates new adventures in this sweet story.

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Kelly Barnhill
4. The Girl Who Drank the Moon

A 2017 Newberry Medal Winner, Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a sweeping fantasy novel full of mystery, adventure, and dark prophecy. While the plot follows a young girl raised by a strange trio—a 500-year-old witch, a poetry-loving swamp monster, and a pocket-sized dragon—it ultimately teaches you an unforgettable lesson on the power of love in its varied forms. 

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Tracey Baptiste
5. The Jumbies

At the intersections of mystery, horror, and fantasy, The Jumbies makes use of Caribbean folklore to enthralling and unforgettable effect. Baptiste pits Corrinne, a fearless young heroine, against an encroaching band of devilish creatures, forcing her to summon an ancient form of magic she never knew she had access to. Brilliant, fun, and breathtaking, The Jumbies is one of those stay-up-way-past-bedtime reads.

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Patricia C. Wrede
6. Dealing With Dragons

The first installment in Wrede’s cult classic The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Dealing With Dragons, is a whip-smart play on classic fairytale tropes. Full of brazen wizards, hulking dragons, and the most lovable literary princess and witch you’ll ever meet, this book (and the entire series) is a must-read for any burgeoning fantasy-lover.

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Grace Lin
7. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Winning a Newberry Honor award in 2010, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon follows a young girl and a dragon on their quest to find the old man in the moon, a mystical character who is said to have all the answers to life’s mysteries. Gripping and beautifully told, Lin’s novel introduces the magic of Chinese folklore in a way that is full of heart, friendship, and longing. 

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Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
8. The Conch Bearer

I love a good epic fantasy adventure, and in that regard, The Conch Bearer delivers. Set in a tiny town in India, this novel—the first in The Brotherhood of the Conch series—follows a young boy named Anand as he sets out on a mysterious quest to return a magical shell to its rightful home across the country. Full of (age-appropriate) danger and intrigue, The Conch Bearer is a memorable read, in line with Harry Potter. 

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Sarah Mlynowski
9. Whatever After

When Abby and her little brother Jonah get sucked into a mysterious mirror in the basement of their new home, they find themselves transported to fairytale worlds, plopped in the middle of classics like The Little Mermaid, Jack & the Beanstalk, and more. In each book of this New York Times bestselling series, the duo muck up one fairytale after another, scrambling to get everyone their happy ending—and to get home before their parents wake up and find them missing. 

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Roald Dahl
10. The BFG

A young orphan named Sophie finds herself in cahoots with a Big Friendly Giant, and teams up with him to save the world from its mysterious child-eating monsters. Aside from the first chapter’s creepy midnight abduction, this 1982 classic is full of playfulness, warmth, and giggle-till-you-can’t-breathe humor.

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Zetta Elliott
11. Dragons in a Bag

When a young boy is sent to his grandmother’s to be babysat, he discovers there’s more to her than meets the eye. It all begins when he learns she’s a witch. Then, she tasks him with transporting a small dragon, making him swear up and down he’ll keep the creature safely tucked away inside its bag. Of course, things go sideways, and a fun and fantastical adventure ensues. 

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Roseanne Parry
12. A Wolf Called Wander

For nature-loving kids (and grown-ups), this page-turner—based on the real story of one amazing wolf— follows brave lone wolf, Wander, on an incredible journey after tragedy befalls his pack. 

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Anna Sewell
13. Black Beauty

A moving life story told from the horse’s point of view, Black Beauty changed culture at the time it was written, alerting people to the widespread abuse of horses. With the amount of life wisdom packed into this 1877 novel, it’s no wonder it remains an enduring classic.

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This article was originally published in 2021 and has been updated for timeliness.

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This post contains a sponsored inclusion of Candlewick Press, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board.