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Amy Williams

Professional Education Expert

Best Chapter Book & Best Kids Books

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Teachers and parents, keep these books handy if you want to entice students, ages 8 and up, to read independently, in literature groups, or participate in read-alouds. You can find connections to curriculum endlessly with these books. Engage students to make literary and personal connections or hone their craft of writing and writing mechanics. Make these books a part of your personal or classroom library - you’ll be glad you did.

Great books may be award winners and they may not, they may make you laugh, they may make you cry, or even shout outloud. Ideally, they’ll draw in readers, making them feel part of the story and make them want to keep turning pages.

The best chapter book recommendations feature stories that kids will love to read on their own or in groups. Our best kids books are perfect to build your personal library for your kids or the classroom's book library.

Best Chapter Books by Amy Williams

The Best You Can Get

  • In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

    Amy says: Shirley Temple Wong learns to embrace “double happiness” as she blends her new American life with that of her home country of China. Readers fall in love with Shirley and feel her pain as she struggles to make friends; they cheer for her successes, and laugh aloud as she learns the nuances of the English language. The miracle of baseball helps Shirley make friends and feel like part of America. She is a huge fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers and of Jackie Robinson specifically. Many parallels are drawn between Shirley and her hero, Jackie Robinson. Teach immigration and Chinese customs with this heart-warming story of Shirley Temple Wong.

    • By Bette Bao Lord
    • Realistic multicultural fiction
    • Ages 8-12
  • The Kid in the Red Jacket

    Amy says: Ten-year-old Howard Jeeter feels his life has been ruined. He’s not happy about leaving his friends or his Arizona home for Massachusetts. Howard’s character is tested as he adjusts to his new life of fitting in, trying to make friends, and dealing with the obtrusively friendly, hilarious six year-old neighbor, Molly Vera Thompson. This book is perfect for teaching about character traits and expectations of friendship.

    • By Barbara Park
    • Realistic fiction
    • 113 pages
    • Ages 8-12
    • Humorous, sensitive, 1st person narrative of a cross-country move and fitting in
  • The Tale of Despereaux

    Amy says: Four main characters, Despereaux, the charming, tiny mouse who wasn’t expected to live and was coined a disappointment by his mother, Princess Pea who Despereaux falls desperately for, Roscuro, the dungeon rat who escapes the dark underground and becomes a pesky, lover of light; and Miggery Sow, the slow-witted peasant girl who wants to be a princess, all have stories that parallel and eventually meet. Despereaux is the main character, whose ears are too large, whose eyes opened too early, who reads instead of nibbles pages of books, and who loves music, is evocative, empathetic.

    The stories of the characters are tied together in separate “books” of chapters within one clever, suspenseful narrative. An ideal book for author’s craft as the author addresses the reader throughout. A great book for teaching creative storytelling, the theme of darkness and light, and forgiveness.

    • By Kate DiCamillo
    • Fairy tale
    • Ages 8-12
    • Irresistible narrative tale of unlikely heroes and how their paths intertwine
    • Newberry Honor 2004
  • The Cay

    Amy says: World War II encroaches the Dutch Island of Curacao forcing Phillip Enright’s family decides to board a ship and move the family back to the safety of their roots in Virginia. The decision to board the ship brought heartache, survival, and a lesson in prejudice. Ten year-old Phillip is blinded as a result of the torpedo blast to their ship and ends up stranded on a raft in the Atlantic with Timothy, an elderly black West Indian deckhand, and a cat. Raised by his parents with a strong negative stereotype of blacks, Phillip learns to overcome his prejudice and “sees” for the first time in his life, as he has to rely on Timothy for survival.

    A deep friendship develops between the unlikely pair as Phillip realizes that Timothy “felt neither white nor black.” Taylor’s compelling story shows how suspicion can turn to trust and how innocence leads to wisdom. “The Cay” is a survival story and adventure novel, but more importantly, a believable tale of overcoming racism and unjust social conditions. Readers won’t forget the bond, the friendship, and the lesson learned, thanks to a tragedy.

    Check out the audio version with perfect dialect by actor Michael Boatman, Doubleday 1987.

    • By Theodore Taylor
    • Realistic fiction
    • 144 pages
    • Ages 10 and up
    • Spent four years on the banned book list for being racist, once beyond the beginning, readers learn as others have through an absorbing, dramatic story of friendship
  • Tuck Everlasting

    Amy says: Ten-year-old Winnie Foster is tired of her strict, overly protected home life. Her decision to sneak in to the woods brings with it adventures and decisions Winnie never dreamed existed. Winnie becomes lovingly entwined with the Tuck family after they kidnapped her to keep her from spilling their secret of the fountain of youth they’ve all sipped from. The news of the life-giving spring can’t fall into the wrong hands, and Winnie helps a murderer break out of jail, and is offered the eternal gift of the spring. The book elicits profound questions about the cycle of life, nature, and the meaning of life and death. This enchanting book will stick with you forever. Natalie Babbitt’s use of language lends itself perfectly to lessons on language development and voice.

    • By Natalie Babbitt
    • Fantasy
    • 144 pages
    • Ages 9-12

You will be happy with any of these

  • The Westing Game

    Amy says: Don’t let the age of this book turn you away. “The Westing Game” is a timeless story of sixteen unique, bizarre characters trying to solve the murder of Samuel W. Westing. Whoever solves the layered, complex mystery will become a millionaire. The dialogue is sharp, funny, and Raskin has enough red herrings and plot twists to keep readers on their toes as they unravel the mystery. Read and participate as the potential heirs play the Westing Game and discover the shocking truth.

    • By Ellen Raskin
    • Mystery
    • 185 pages
    • Ages 10 and up
    • Newberry Medal 1979
  • Bella at Midnight

    Amy says: Left with a wet nurse by her arrogant knight of a father after her mother’s death, Bella knows nothing of who she really is until the age of thirteen. As far as she knows, she is the happy daughter of a peasant family and is dear friends with Prince Julian who was once discarded and sent for his first three years to live with the same peasant family.

    When Bella’s father wants her back, everything she knows collapses as she leaves her loving foster family to live with a miserable stepmother. Driven by loyalty and integrity, Bella later sets out on a dangerous journey when she learns of a plot to threaten the kingdom and of the terrible trouble laying ahead for her once faithful friend Julian. Stanley rounds out the story through the eyes of nine different characters each telling a part of the tale, but keeping the focus on the heroine, Bella. The vitality of this new Cinderella story engages the reader in adventure and chivalry through magical gifts and stellar descriptions. Belle at Midnight is a superb boot fit for teaching point of view and values.

    • By Diane Stanley
    • Fantasy
    • 278 pages
    • Ages 10 and up
    • Intriguing Cinderella story with a twist set in medieval times, first person narrative
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society

    Amy says: An intriguing advertisement captures the inquiring minds of several youngsters: “Are you a child looking for special opportunities?”

    Interested children take a mind-bending test, of which four pass, and then advance on to the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened. Powerful characters, including a leader and hero Reynie, come to life as readers connect and can see themselves in the story. Stewart draws readers in by asking them to solve the puzzles and mysteries with the characters. The book is smart, fun, adventurous, and full of wit and humor. Uncommon characters, villains, and twisting plots keep readers thinking as they encounter themes as giftedness, teamwork, family, and the value of education. This is a captivating book for students who love to solve puzzles and the challenge of problem solving.

    • By Trenton Lee Stewart
    • Fantasy fiction
    • 485 pages
    • Ages 9 and up
  • No Talking

    Amy says: Fifth-grader Dave Packer is determined to try silence one day a week since studying Mahatma Gandhi in Social Studies class. Dave and classmate Lynsey end up starting a no-talking contest between the boys and the girls. The rules include no talking for forty-eight hours other than answering direct questions from an adult in three word sentences or less. Teachers become suspicious of the unexpected quiet behavior since this group has been notoriously coined “The Unhushables” for their constant chattering. The principal demands students return to their normal behavior. The students in fifth grade have a common enemy, the principal. Readers see that words, or the lack thereof, are power in this amusing, natural-flowing story.

    • By Andrew Clements
    • Realistic fiction
    • 160 pages
    • Ages 8-12
    • Notable artwork by Mark Elliott
  • The Get Rich Quick Club

    Amy says: In this fast-paced, kid-pleasing read, an eleven-year-old entrepreneur named Gina decides she needs to make her first million before she becomes a teenager. With a role model like Bill Gates, she naturally acts as CEO to her club of friendly stockholders who devise a scheme to sell phony UFO pictures. The club’s claims rattle the nation and leave the club learning some hard-yet-laughable lessons. The Get Rich Club will spark reluctant readers since most kids love thinking about becoming a millionaire. Use the book as a lead into economics: making money, supply and demand, and advertising.

    • By Dan Gutman
    • Fiction
    • 128 pages
    • Ages 9-12

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For the best chapter book recommendations, turn to our experts who suggest the most engaging chapter books for kids. These kids books are great for libraries at home, or choose the books to build your classroom library. Always the best price, these education books are perfect for independent reading or read-alouds in the classroom.