Best book series for 1st graders — ever
by: A.A. Milne, illustrated by: E.H. Shepard - (Dutton, 1926) 176 pages.
The hook: Did you know that Christopher Robin and his bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, are inspired by the author’s son and his teddy bear? The tales of their adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood have been charming kids since 1926. The original book and its companion, The House at Pooh Corner, follow the bumbling Pooh, the wise Christopher Robin, the timid Piglet, the silly Tigger, and all of their animal friends through a series of small, everyday adventures. The reading level will be too challenging for most kindergartners, but the books’ themes and pacing make them appealing read-alouds for this age group.
Want to see the movie? The 1977 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the 2011 Winnie the Pooh are faithful adaptations of the original books that will especially appeal to preschoolers and kindergartners.
Perfect for: Kids who like to imagine their stuffed toys coming to life.
by: Helen Lester, illustrated by: Lynn M. Munsinger - (HMH Books for Young Readers, 1990) 32 pages.
The hook: Always sporting his signature Hawaiian shirt, Tacky the penguin does things his own way. In this hilarious series, although he may be an odd bird, Tacky consistently proves to his more conservative penguin pals that he’s “a nice bird to have around.” How? By saving the day, Tacky style. Kids laugh along with the nonconformist penguin and parents love the message that it’s okay to be different.
Perfect for: Kids who march to the beat of their own drum.
by: Victoria and Elizabeth Kann, illustrated by: Victoria Kann - (HarperCollins, 2016) 40 pages.
The hook: Pinkalicious’s exuberant enthusiasm — with a little help from the magic of imagination — gets her caught up in all sorts of adventures. Whether she’s turning pink from eating too many cupcakes or going on the hunt for her missing sweet tooth, this girly girl is ready for anything. Princess lovers and devotees of the color pink will get sucked in by the bright and engaging illustrations. And young readers can grow with Pinkalicious as the books transition from picture books to an early reader series.
Perfect for: Kids who can’t get enough delicious color.
The Magic Treehouse
by: Mary Pope Osborne - (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1992)
The hook: This wildly popular, award-winning series of some 46 books and counting features Jack and Annie, who discover a Magic Tree House where they can pick up any book — on pirates, King Arthur’s court, ninjas, dolphins, Shakespeare, tornadoes — and enter that world. Every book is a page-turner and will teach your child an encyclopedia’s worth of world history, culture, and literature.
Perfect for: Any child who thrills at the notion of time-traveling to the greatest moments in history.
Frog and Toad Together
by: Arnold Lobel - (Harper Collins, 1972) 64 pages.
The hook: Frog and Toad are best friends who will do anything for each other. Your child will enjoy finding out about their escapades in five short chapters as the amphibious duo bake cookies, test their bravery and plant a garden together. If your child enjoys this chapter book, he may also like Frog and Toad All Year and Days with Frog and Toad. Newbery Honor, 1973.
Perfect for: Kids who like making friends.
Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown-ups
by: Kay Thompson, illustrated by: Hilary Knight - (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1969) 68 pages.
The hook: Sassy 6-year-old Eloise, who lives at New York’s Plaza Hotel, has been mesmerizing children with her antics for more than 60 years. You’ll barely be able to keep up with Eloise (or with the text, which does away with grammatical conventions like periods and commas), as she capers about the hotel, tormenting the staff and harrying the guests. Be forewarned: In Eloise’s world, “getting bored is not allowed.”
Want to see the movie? Kids who can’t get enough Eloise might enjoy the 2003 made-for-TV adaptations (Eloise at the Plaza and Eloise at Christmastime) or the animated series.
Perfect for: Kids who love the idea of fierce independence.
by: Peggy Parish, illustrated by: Fritz Siebel - (HarperCollins, 2012) 63 pages.
The hook: Blundering maid Amelia Bedelia takes everything literally, so when she’s asked to dust the furniture or dress a chicken, you can imagine what happens. Started in 1963 by third grade teacher Peggy Parish, this hilarious series of beginning chapter books has gone through a few different illustrators and two authors, but manages to perfectly portray the happy but haphazard maid each time. And though some of the gender stereotypes may feel a bit dated, the playful language helps young readers gain confidence as they discover the difference between literal and figurative language and laugh at Amelia’s vocabulary mishaps.
Perfect for: Kids who like playing with words.
The Princess in Black series
by: Sharron Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by: LeUyen Pham - (Candlewick, 2015) 96 pages.
The hook: Princess Magnolia is a proper frilly princess — until danger strikes. Then she puts on her ninja outfit and fights monsters in her top-secret guise as the Princess in Black. Funny, sneaky, and action-packed, this first book in a series for early readers has colorful illustrations and silly names (case in point: the princess’ unicorn is called Frimplepants) that poke fun at the fussy princess trope.
Perfect for: Recovering princesses.
Find our favorites at your local library: The Princess in Black, The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party, and The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation.
Binky the Space Cat
by: Ashley Spires - (Kids Can Press, 2009) 64 pages.
The hook: Meet Binky, a housecat with a vivid imagination. He sees himself as a space adventurer. The first story in a captivating series, this book’s visual humor will be appreciated by kids transitioning to chapter books.
Perfect for: Comic book lovers and cat whisperers.
The Berenstain Bears series
by: Stan and Jan Berenstain - (Random House, 1983)
The hook: As one parent says, “We love these books because of the reality of life experiences they reflect in the family, community, and society at large. Funny too!” By dealing with issues like honesty, friendship, safety, and kindness, this family of bears is practically human.
by: Russell Hoban, illustrated by: Garth Williams and Lillian Hoban - (HarperCollins, 2008) 48 pages.
The hook: Frances is a precocious preschool badger who doesn’t understand why she has to do silly things like go to bed, eat anything but bread and jam, or have a baby sister. But with the help of her patient parents and a few rhymes, she learns how to overcome each new challenge. This gentle series tackles small problems that feel big for little kids, like trying new foods, making friends, and falling asleep. And the lyrical language and Frances’ silly songs get young readers excited about words.
Perfect for: Kids who like silly songs.