As Youth Services Librarian, I am often asked for reading recommendations. The Dog Man series by Dav Pilkey has been a long-time favorite in our community, and many kids have read and re-read the series several times! I have created a list of book ideas for young readers who are ready to move beyond these books to something more challenging. For readers interested in branching out from graphic novels, this list includes both graphic novels and books in “regular” format. Click on the links below to view these titles in our catalog.
Bird and Squirrel–In the first of this early graphic novel series, two best friends must outwit Cat or be eaten! Kids will love the hilarious, full-color scenes from Bird and Squirrel’s road trip south for the winter, doing their best to avoid Cat waiting around every turn. UP Library has all six books in the series.
Press Start–This Scholastic Branches series blends graphic novel images and short paragraphs. Beginner chapter readers will follow super brave and super fast Super Rabbit Boy, a character living inside of a video game. His goal of rescuing Singing Dog from the Meanie King Viking can only be accomplished with the help of Sunny, the boy playing the game. These fast-paced, full-color books emphasize teamwork and a positive attitude with just the right amount of tension (what will happen to Super Rabbit Boy and his friends if Sunny loses each level?) You can find all 10 books from this series in our collection.
HiLo–This series of longer graphic novels tells the story of D.J. and Gina, two regular kids who meet a new kid named Hilo. Hilo isn’t a regular kid, though…he has just fallen out of the sky and doesn’t know what he’s doing on Earth. Can D.J. and Gina help Hilo figure out his past, and more importantly, can Hilo survive another day of school on Earth? This hilarious series has many strengths, from its positive picture of friendship to its diverse characters. The newest book, the seventh one in the series, features Gina as the main character and is available from the library.
Pea Bee and Jay–This graphic novel with just a few chapters is on the Texas Library Association’s 2021 Little Mavericks reading list, a selection of the best graphic novels published each year for young children through teens. Pea wanders away from the farm and runs right into two unexpected friends, Bee the bee and Jay the bird. Can Bee and Jay help Pea find his way back home? There are two books in the series so far, with another on the way, each one emphasizing friendship and working together to accomplish a goal.
Science Comics–An educational graphic novel series? Yes! Readers intimidated by long nonfiction books filled with pages of text will dive right into these books and their full-color images. UP Library is adding books from this series all the time. Right now, the ones we own cover a range of topics, from volcanoes to robots. If you are looking for other nonfiction graphic novels, try Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales (focused on history).
My Father’s Dragon–This book, the first in a trilogy of classic chapter books for beginner readers, follows Elmer Elevator (the narrator’s father) when he was a boy. In what feels like a true story written long ago, readers follow Elmer as he teams up with an old cat and exotic animals to rescue a baby dragon from Wild Island. Written in 1948 and a Newbery Honor winner, this book has black and white illustrations sprinkled throughout. With its funny details and child-like logic (Elmer packs little more than gum and lollipops for his long journey), this would also make a great family read-aloud. Elmer’s adventures continue in Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland, which are available from the library as well.
Zoey and Sassafras–The library owns two copies of all seven books in this popular series for beginner readers. Zoey is a curious and intelligent girl fascinated by science. Kids will love following along with Zoey and her sidekick cat, Sassafras, as they explore the world around them using their “thinking goggles”. This a great series for encouraging creativity, problem solving, and building vocabulary (a glossary is included in the back of each book).
Max and the Midknights–From the author of the Big Nate series, this series is geared toward fourth through sixth graders and emphasizes kindness and bravery. Max wants to be a knight but his dream just seems too unlikely…until his uncle Budrick is kidnapped by a cruel king and Max has to take action! Together with his group of fellow adventurers, the Midknights, Max sets out on a quest to rescue his uncle and restore happiness to Byjovia. This fast-paced and hilarious book is a blend of traditional novel and graphic novel, with comic-like illustrations sprinkled throughout. There are two books in the series so far, and UP Library owns both.
Alvin Ho–In this series geared toward second through fourth graders, Chinese-American second grader Alvin Ho is afraid of many things, including talking at school. Follow along with Alvin’s daily adventures at home, where he is a bold superhero named Firecracker Man, and at school (where is he a wallflower). This hilarious book touches on anxiety in a kid-friendly way and readers will cheer Alvin on as he embraces the outside world. Illustrations are dispersed throughout the text, making this a good choice for reluctant readers and kids graduating to longer books.
Shel Silverstein poetry–A long-time favorite of children all over the world (and their parents), Silverstein’s poetry makes for fun reading, aloud or alone. His quirky, imaginative, and memorable writing will appeal to fans of Pilkey’s humor, and the funny illustrations are an added bonus. The library owns several different volumes of his poetry, including A Light in the Attic, Everything on It, and The Missing Piece.