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Fiction for Early Elementary Readers

Librarian-approved fun chapter books and series for early elementary readers. 

Cover of Too Small Tola Gets Tough
Onyinye Iwu

If you haven’t yet met Tola, you’re missing out! Tola is a young girls who lives in the megacity of Lagos in Nigeria - a world away from young readers in Madison Wisconsin, but is still instantly relatable. Tola shares an apartment with her Grandmommy, her sister Moji and brother Dapo, and things are going really well. Moji has a scholarship to attend school, Dapo has a job learning to fix cars, and there is enough food for everyone to eat and time for Tola to prioritize school. She loves math and she’s sharp as a tack! But then, just like in the US the COVID19 lock down hits, and everything changes. This book provides a fascinating look at what the pandemic meant to children like Tola in Lagos - a unique and vividly different perspective than in the United States. Atinuke is an amazing storyteller for children offering rich descriptions in easy to access language and memorable characters. If you love this story, look for Tola’s two other early chapter books too!

Cover of Henry, Like Always
Mika Song

Henry, like many children on the neurodivergent spectrum, loves routine. He likes knowing what to expect and things always being the same. But this week isn’t like always. On Friday, there will be a parade. A parade means a change in schedule, loud music, and no share time like always. Henry’s days this week just feel orange - his least favorite color. This sweet book is full of the small ups and downs of kindergarten life, told through Henry’s unique perspective. Follow Henry as he navigates these changes with the help of this teacher and friends to a reassuring conclusion. The 2024 winner for the Schneider Family Book Award for young readers for artistic expression of the disability experience for children, this book is a treasure for any young reader who struggles with a change in routine.

Cover of Aaron Slater and the Sneak
David Roberts

 Aaron Slater and his friends - including Ada Twist & Rosie Revere - are helping out a the community zoo when a little snake, Vern goes missing. When harmless Vern is found on a little boy’s head, an upset concern citizen leads a campaign against the zoo’s “dangerous” snakes. But the Questioneers know that the snakes at the zoo are not dangerous, and honestly poor snakes get a bad wrap in general. Lead by Aaron and his artistic vision, the Questioneers design the biggest positive Snake PR campaign the community has ever seen. This great addition to the Questioneers series includes all the elements that have made the series great - scientific facts, ingenious problem solves, and sweet teamwork between Aaron and his friends. Perfect for the animal and science lover in your house!

Cover of Clarice Bean - Scram!

The 4th installment of Clarice Bean, this character is not new to the library, but this newest story is a keeper! It is summer, Clarice is HOT and there is NOTHING happening. Until all of a sudden.. Everything is happening! Whe a very friendly dog follows Clarice home from the corner store, things that used to be important, like rainbow roller skates, suddenly seem less important than making a home for this new friend. Clarice and her siblings go from squabbling in the heat to working together on this common goal - all with a very happy ending. Your young reader will love everything about this beginning chapter book full of real feelings, realistic problem solving, and super fun text that wanders all over the page changing size and weight to show how Clarice is feeling. Best part - you don’t need to read this series in order to love it. Grab whichever one is on the shelf and get to know your new friend Clarice!

Cover of The End of the Overworld!
Alan Batson and Chris Hill

If your Minecraft lover has not started this series, there is no time like the present! Especially now that the final installment of this 6 book series is out on library shelves! Things for the Minecraft club kids at Woodward Middle are finally coming to conclusion on their current minecraft campaign - but things are getting shaken up in the real world too! When a storm knocks a tree onto the roof of the library where they play, it really feels like the sky is falling!! But by inviting more kids to join their club, they not only expand their friend group, but increase the odds of success in the game. Learning to embrace the unexpected and meet new people is a great lesson in this story, especially when it is announced that with the school under repair, some of the kids will be transferring to a new building. But every new ending is a new beginning. “Thanks for all the blocks!” I’m sure minecraft readers will be excited to see a new saga begin where this series has left off!

Cover of The Apartment House on Pop
Sonia Albert

Nine-year-old Ella knows everything there is to know about the Apartment House on Poppy Hill and she is VERY ready to tell you and also the new young couple who just moved in downstairs. A know-it-all in the best sense, Ella might initially feel a little… over the top? But read on! As readers get to know the neighbors at the house on Poppy Hill, they will fall in love with each of them and learn the history and shared joy that holds them together, including Ella who very much feels like the glue. This book has everything, a little bit of mystery, whimsy, and bossiness that many nine year olds will wholeheartedly connect with.

Cover of Jo Jo Mackoons Fancy Pants
Tara Audibert

Jo Jo Makoon is back in her second book for young readers and it is time to get Fancy! Jo Jo’s Auntie is getting married in Madison! - far away from the (fictional) Pembina Ojibwe reservation where Jo Jo lives and it is going to be a big to do! Jo Jo sets off with her sparkly unicorn notebook to figure out how to be Fancy. She learns dance moves like the “vacuum” and “laundry folding” from her Kokum (grandma), how to put her pinkie up, and ALL about glitter - all in her own special and hilarious Jo Jo ways. But when the big day comes, she still isn’t sure what to do. Thank goodness for Auntie who loves Jo Jo just how she is and now her new uncle who understands that Blueberry Pie really does have 47 letters in it, even if her math teacher doesn’t. You will laugh right along with Jo Jo’s misunderstandings and gleeful optimism in this newest addition to the series. But there’s more!

Cover of Jo Jo Mackoons Snow Day
Tara Audibert

Jo Jo is back in 2023 for her 3rd book, snow day. And, if possible, she’s even a little sillier than normal as she explores “healthy” food and habits with her family and in school. Although I have to agree that Tuna Fish sandwiches really do taste like sadness with a side of tears… even if you have different feelings about Tuna Fish, you will definitely be in agreement that being healthy means being together as Jo Jo delivers food and checks on each of the elders in her neighborhood during the snowstorm. This is another great addition to the series and will be sure to have young readers in big belly laughs with this familiar character.

Cover of The story of Gumluck the W

I cannot imagine a better name for the tiny little wizard that lives under the big hill than Gumluck. Told from the perspective of Gumluck’s exasperated neighbor the Raven, Gumluck has a big heart, but not a lot of luck. He does everything he can possibly think of to help the kingdom, but doesn’t realize that giving people everything they think they want, maybe isn’t actually the best way to help them. Follow Gumluck as he navigates the world with his own unique perspective and tries so hard to become the kingdom’s harvest hero at the annual Fall Festival and even wins over grumpy Raven to help him save the day!

Cover of Legends of Lotus Island: t
Kevin Hong

Plum lives with her grandma and grandma on a little island where she spends her days talking to worms and working in the soil of their farm. It is simple and she’s good at it… it’s almost like the animals and plants really listen to her when she talks and sings to them… But when her grandpa lets her know she has been accepted to the Guardian Academy far away, everything is about to change. This high fantasy chapter book is a perfect introduction to magical worlds for young readers. It has everything they are looking for, a magical school, a cheeky rival, true friends, and a sweet character in Plum, who always sings to her eggplants. Through it all, Plum learns to value who she is and where she comes from and that taking the easy way through is never as rewarding as getting your hands dirty in the work (in her case literally as she works in the garden!). This series is fast paced, with short chapters perfect to read before bedtime leaving a young reader dreaming about what kind of Guardian animal they might become.

Cover of The Secret of the Jade Ban
Clayton Nguyen

Anne Nguyen believes in ghosts. Not scary ghosts, but in the ghosts of her ancestors that watch over her and guide her, in this case, literally. A sweet fantasy interpretation on a Vietnamese tradition of honoring ancestors, Anne is able to see her beloved Grandma Noi when she wears the jade bangle Grandma left her. Grandma Noi helps her feel more connected to her heritage mostly through cooking traditional Vietnamese dishes together. Anne was born and has lived her whole life in Vancouver and feels just like all the other girls in her class, but when she joins a new dance class, her new teacher prejudges her with many stereotypes of Asian Americans. It is incredibly upsetting to Anne, who is unsure how to balance wanting to know her heritage and help her parents embrace who they are too, but also wanting to be seen as an individual not a stereotype. This book holds a great balance of being very accessible to young readers, but also addressing real issues of racism in everyday situations. Anne does all the right things, confiding in her friends and her family and seeking support. I would highly recommend this great read and a great conversation starter for any young reader. I am excited to read the next books in the series, that follow the gifts bestowed on Anne’s siblings from Grandma Noi.

Cover of The Princess in Black and
LeUyen Pham

The Princess in Black is a well known hero to many young readers these days and she has many super hero princess pals… but now we have a fresh new face to add to the super hero gal pal party! The Prince in Pink! Enter Prince Valerian, a brave knight who helpfully protects Flower Festival Fair from invading grumpy emus… but what he really wants to do is help decorate for the party. And thank goodness, because Princess Magnolia (aka the Princess in Black) needs some help!“I am the prince in pink! Champion of celebrations! Paladin of parties! Darling of discos! Wherever there is a festival in distress, there I will be with a helping hand.” Together they get the dance hall ready in no time. But when the emus show up again - who is best to solve the problem? Do they need to bravely run out of the kingdom? Or do they need a dramatic makeover to join in the fun? You’ll have to find out! The Princess in Black series has always been about questioning and breaking traditional gender roles and this new addition to the series is sure to delight! “Flourish!” you’ll declare! 

Cover of Ways to Build Dreams

If Ryan Hart is a stranger to your young reader, you should get to know her immediately! She is a friend worth knowing and having! Ryan loves to make things, she loves to cook, craft, and be creative with her friends. It allows her to approach problems with creative solutions, and her incredibly supportive family shows what is possible when open and honest communication happens - something lacking in many books for young readers, This 4th book about Ryan is just as good as the 3 that have come before, but addresses some big changes that many kids may face - changing schools, speaking in public, learning to confide in a trusted adult. Ryan faces all of them with grace, joy, and creativity and showcases how making a difference can be as easy as showing love and creating opportunities to bring people together. I can’t wait to see what adventures middle school brings Ryan in the next installment!

Cover of The Puppets of Spelhorst
Julie Morstad

Author Kate Dicamillo has an incredible talent for storytelling, and the Puppets of Spelhorst absolutely does not disappoint. Each of the puppets in the old sea chest has a dream, a simple dream - the Owl wants to fly, the boy wants an adventure, the girl longs for beautiful things, the king wants to be in charge, and the wolf, well, she just wants to bite something with her very sharp teeth, as wolves are want to do. Through the 3 parts of this story, the dreams of each puppet come alive, although maybe not as they would have expected. This simple little book is a masterclass in storytelling, with every tiny bit coming together at the end for a beautiful conclusion. Young readers will love the connections made, the characters with dreams, and adults will thoroughly enjoy reading it outloud or along with young readers. This is the first “Norenfy Tale” with the promise of more sequels to come and I cannot wait.