December 28


The 2020 Nerdies: Early Readers and Chapter Books Announced by Alyson Beecher

Sometimes I wonder how to tackle the category of Early Readers and Chapter Books. Authors, publishers, teachers and librarians all define these books in different ways. Though these books fall within this category, they, also, fall into a variety of genres and formats. It may begin with something as simple as a basic reader with limited text and vocabulary to a full on novel. Page counts start around 64 pages and climb to 200 pages. Many are often part of a series of books with the same characters; however, at the early range the characters remain predictable in action and behavior, and at the higher range, the main character shows amazing growth over the course of the series. As for illustrations, almost anything goes. Some are illustrated in a manner of a picture book or graphic novel. Some are in full color and others have pen and ink sketches. 

This year’s winners cover so many topics. Do you like animals? Need a book about friendship? Want to encourage someone to keep at it? Dealing with something difficult? Need to recharge your imagination? Want a mystery? Or just want to disappear into something fantastical? Well, the list of 14 books below have something for everyone. 

At the early end of the category, we have some new friends and some returning favorites. There is no doubt that I love Yasmin and King & Kayla as much as you and your students love them. I know they would happily share a shelf with siblings Fritz & Franny, Ty and his family, unique friends BunBun and BonBon, and Max the Dog, who is definitely not a cat. Each of these books will bring a smile to your face and maybe a few giggles. 

See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog 

by David LaRochelle, Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka (Candlewick Press)

Ty’s Travel: All Aboard! 

By Kelly Starling Lyons, Illustrated by Nina Mata (HarperCollins)

The Great Bunk Bed Battle 

by Tina Kügler (Scholastic, Inc)

Bun Bun & Bon Bon: Fancy Friends 

by Jess Keating (Graphix)

Yasmin the Superhero 

by Saadia Faruqi, Illustrated by Hatem Aly (Picture Window Books)

You Can Do It! Yasmin! 

By Saadia Faruqi, Illustrated by Hatem Aly (Picture Window Books)

King & Kayla and the Case of the Unhappy Neighbor (King & Kayla #6) 

by Dori Hillestad Butler, Illustrated by Nancy Meyers (Peachtree Publishing)

As we transfer into early chapter books, we have so many new friends to meet. Speaking of friends, the theme of friendship rules in each of these books. If you work with second and third graders, you know that making friends, navigating friendships, and being there for friends dominate the daily lives of kids. Fans of Christina Soontornvat will be excited to read another installment of Lina, the Ice Princess. Mindy Kim has a new home, new school, and new challenges. Badger has a house guest who is very different from him but oddly endearing. Hedgehog makes friends, builds community, and goes on a journey along the way. And finally, Auggie, the stable boy, has to rescue a Wisp and needs the help of some friends to do it. 

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business 

by Lyla Lee, Illustrated by Dung Ha (Aladdin Books)

Willa the Wisp (The Fabled Stables#1) 

by Jonathan Auxier, Illustrated by Olga Demidova (Puffin Books)

Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us 

by Lauren Castillo (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

Skunk and Badger 

by Amy Timberlake, Illustrated by Jon Klassen (Algonquin Young Readers)

Slush Puppy Love (Diary of An Ice Princess #5) 

by Christina Soontornvat (Scholastic, Inc)

At the upper end of this category, we are introduced to a new friend and also reunited with another. Angela Dominguez’s Stella Diaz is back. Stella has a plan to one day become a marine biologist. In the latest story, Stella learns that even a child can be an activist and find ways to save marine life and reduce the use of plastic. Renée Watson introduces us to Ryan Hart. Ryan faces many of the challenges that all kids face, yet, she has an amazing resilience and ability to change the way we see things. 

Ways to Make Sunshine 

by Renée Watson (Bloomsbury Books)

Stella Diaz Never Gives Up 

by Angela Dominguez (Roaring Brook Press)

I hope you love all of these fabulous books and find something new to enjoy.  Once again, congratulations to all the winners, and to the readers who will lose themselves in a wonderful book.

Alyson Beecher is an educator in Southern California.  She has a serious book addiction and hosts the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge on Wednesdays. You can find her on Twitter as @alysonbeecher and on her blog: Kid Lit Frenzy