Sometimes when children get to the point of being able to confidently read independently they enjoy the challenge of a book which is still highly-illustrated but has more text in it. This is when it’s time to reach for some of the brilliant first chapter books which are now available. These are often based on characters from familiar picture books (although still read the picture books – you are NEVER too old!) or can introduce a whole host of fantastic new characters. Either way, they are always clearly laid out with a good balance of text to illustrations, pacey, engaging stories and eye-catching illustrations.
Below are some of the new titles I’ve received recently. All are suitable for readers aged six and up, and I shall indicate if there are others stories in the same series available in picture book form.
‘Jasper & Scruff’ by Nicola Colton (Stripes Publishing)
Jasper is a rather well-to-do cat who lives in a fancy apartment block and has an impressive array of books to read (organised by colour, which I do not approve of) and an equally impressive selection of bow ties. The only thing he’s lacking is some friends. However, Jasper is hoping to remedy this by becoming a member of the exclusive feline club, The Sophisticats.
Jasper’s plans are going well until he is befriended by a rather bouncy, slobbery puppy in the park who just cannot seem to be shaken off! Will Jasper be able to get rid of the pongy pooch before The Sophisticats arrive for dinner? Or will he have a lot of explaining to do?
This tale of unlikely friendships is sure to have readers laughing out loud.
‘Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: The Aliens Are Coming!’ by Tracey Corderoy, illustrated by Steven Lenton (Nosy Crow)
This fabulous series features two of my favourite bad-dogs-turned-good: bakers extraordinaire Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam. I particularly like the fact that each of the first chapter book titles actually contain three short stories so young readers can feel a real sense of achievement when they complete one.
In this newest addition, Shifty and Sam have to protect the world from an alien invasion (using some rather unusual gadgets created by Sam), stop a red panda from cheating in a sandcastle building contest and face some stiff competition from Miss Peachy-Pie’s Pamper Cafe.
As funny as ever with 20 little spiders hiding in the pages of the book for you to try and spot. Make sure you also take a peek at the brilliant Shifty and Sam picture books.
‘Isadora Moon Has a Sleepover’ by Harriet Muncaster (Oxford University Press)
Half fairy, half vampire, Isadora is special because she is different. This series has a distinctive pink and black colour palette with lashings of glitter!
In Isadora’s newest adventure, she has been invited for a sleepover at best friend Zoe’s house. She’s very excited but isn’t sure what to expect as she’s never had a one before. Will Zoe’s house be very different to her’s? Whatever the case, there’ll be plenty to do – they have to bake a fabulous cake for a competition, share lots of laughs and there’s the small matter of eating a midnight feast!
Lots of fun with a brilliant website full of activities and plenty more books in the series to enjoy.
‘The Climbers’ by Ali Standish, illustrated by Alette Straathof (Stripes Publishing)
Alma has adventure in her heart and questions in her head. There’s nothing she wants more than to explore the beautiful forest beyond her drab and dreary town. Her uncle forbids it, saying there’s nothing out there but danger and trouble. Alma is not convinced so, in the middle of the night, she sneaks out into the woods to see for herself what they contain. When she finds Star Bear, the pair strike up an unlikely friendship and Alma learns the importance of keeping an open mind and heart.
A lushly illustrated story with a folk tale-ish feel. There’s something slightly magical about this book; be prepared to fall under its spell.
‘Two Sides’ by Polly Ho-Yen & Binny Talib (Stripes Publishing)
Lula and Lenka have been best friends since they were tiny babies. They might be very different to each other (one likes snow, the other likes sun; one likes cats, the other likes dogs) but they are the best friends ever. However one day, everything goes wrong and the pair fall out. They sit as far away from each other as possible on the school bus and in the classroom. Lula makes a new friend but Lenka doesn’t. They’re both miserable but neither of them can quite bring themselves to say the two little words to end their rift.
A very clever book about listening and friendship which uses two separate fonts for Lula and Lenka to clearly show how there are two sides to every falling out. I loved the vibrant illustrations which filled this book and helped depict the girls’ tumultuous emotions throughout the story. A valuable tool to help navigate the tricky situations close friends can find themselves in and explore the feelings which accompany them.
‘Captain Cat and the Treasure Map’ by Sue Montgomery, illustrated by Kate Pankhurst (Macmillan)
This is the first in a hilarious series of swashbuckling adventures for any budding young pirates out there. Captain Patch (the ship’s cat) and her animal buddies rule the ship, although the human crew members may disagree!
In this instalment, the discovery of a treasure map with a deadly warning leads the crew towards cursed treasure and their arch-enemies the terrible crew of the Black Heart. With their captain hellbent on getting his hands on the treasure, it’s up to Captain Patch and her pals to stop him before it’s too late!
Highly illustrated by the excellent Kate Pankhurst, purrfect for newly-confident readers. 5+
‘Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise’ by Swapna Haddow & Alison Friends (Stripes Publishing)
Little Rabbit is bored so her grandfather, Big Rabbit, offers to take her out with him for the day to help with all the jobs he has to do. But Little Rabbit can’t possibly imagine what they might do; grandfather doesn’t have a job, he he just chats with his friends all day!
As Big Rabbit sets off on his rounds, they meet Mole, whose tunnel is too dark, Granny Hedgehog, who’s suffering from a nasty cold, a new family of dormice and Squirrel, who has sprained her paw and can’t forage for food for her little ones. Grandfather helps them all and so does Little Rabbit. She starts to understand that there’s no better job than helping other people and spreading kindness. An excellent read to promote the ideal of friendship and thinking of others.
‘Horace and Harriet: Friends, Romans, Statues!’ By Clare Elsom (OUP)
This is another great addition to the Horace and Harriet series. All the titles are based on a rather unusual friendship between seven-year-old Harriet and Horace – a seventeenth century statue!
In this latest instalment, the family’s off to Italy on a mini-break. Harriet’s concerned when Horace goes missing from his plinth but she doesn’t worry for long as Horace rocks up in Rome, ready to be displayed in an exhibition. Predictably, things don’t go quite as smoothly as planned as Horace just can’t resist kicking up a fuss about the alarming number of nudes on display!
So that’s my round-up if some of the newest first chapter books around. Some brilliant titles in a growing selection.
*Thank you to all the publishers who sent me these titles to review*