Brilliant fiction for newly independent readers

I’m always on the hunt for more great books to hook the youngest readers at my school. Having a 5-year-old daughter myself has helped me tune in to chapter books for 5-8 year olds, as I look for engaging books to read to her. This has also highlighted the imbalance of books aimed at boys and those aimed at girls for this age group. There are lots of great books and series aimed at girls, but not so much for boys. After searching through other blogs and publisher websites I found some new series that looked exciting and purchased these for my school library. After reading the first one or two books in the series below I can confidently say that these will be winners for the 5-8 year olds in your life.

Jasper and Scruff: Take a Bow by Nicola Colton

Take a Bow is the third book in the marvelous Jasper and Scruff series by Nicola Colton. In Take a Bow, Jasper and Scruff enter the Reach Fur the Stars talent show, hoping to wow the judges with their magic act. The horrid Sophisticats are back and are determined to win at all costs. They’ve messed with Jasper and Scruff before and they always come out with their tails out of joint, but they still haven’t learnt their lesson. Jasper and Scruff are delightful characters who I can’t get enough of. The book is illustrated in colour throughout, with illustrations on every page. This series is great to read aloud to Years 1 and 2 as the books are short and engaging.

Itty Bitty Princess Kitty series by Melody Mews, illustrated by Ellen Stubbings

This series is completely adorable and will make young girls squeal with delight when they see it (that was my daughter’s reaction). The first book (The Newest Princess) was released in February 2020 and there are currently 7 books in the series, with more to come soon. I bought the Itty Bitty Princess Kitty Collection, which includes the first 4 books in the series, and they have been gobbled up by my readers. I read the first one to my daughter in one night and we then read the three others over the rest of the week. Yes, they are super cute, but they are also funny and deal with things like coping with change and friendship. I especially love how, instead of knocking on doors, the cats scratch at the door, and there is a treat station in every room. Each book is illustrated throughout in black and white, with bright covers that jump off the shelf.

Jeanie and Genie series by Trish Granted, illustrated by Manuela Lopez

This is another series with a bright, colourful, girl-appeal cover. If the cover doesn’t scream ‘Pick Me!’ loud enough, the blurb will certainly grab readers. Jeanie is a girl who likes the ordinary and predictable, but her world is turned upside down when she meets the new girl, Willow. Willow is confident, friendly and fun, and after a bumpy start, Jeanie and Willow become good friends. Strange things start happening in class and it’s not long before Jeanie discovers that they have something to do with Willow. Willow is a genie! An actual, real-life genie, who grants wishes! She needs lots of practice to be able to earn her skill badges and pass her training. Together, Jeanie and Willow are going to have a lot of fun. I shared the first book, The First Wish, with my daughter and it was a winner for both of us. It is fun to read and very entertaining. We will be reading the rest of the series and I know that the girls in Year 1-4 are going to love them too.

Mack Rhino: Private Eye: The Big Race Lace Case by Paul Dubois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender, illustrated by Karl West

The Mack Rhino: Private Eye series is just one of many in Simon and Schuster’s Aladdin Quix range of Fast Fun Reads. These Quix books are specially designed to be fast, fun-to-read stories, full of humour and colourful characters. The Mack Rhino: Private Eye series certainly lives up to this. Mack Rhino is a detective in Coral Cove and he’s never short of cases. He has just put away the Ant Hill Gang, but someone else is up to no good. It’s the day of The Big Race around Coral Cove, but the laces from everyone’s running shoes are going missing. It’s up to Mack to solve the case before the end of the race. This is another great series that will appeal especially to boys. The chapters are short, there are illustrations on most pages and there is a helpful glossary at the back, with words that may be unfamiliar and how to pronounce them.

Fort Builders Inc.: The Birthday Castle by Dee Romito, illustrated by Marta Kissi

Fort Builders Inc. is another series in the Quix range of books. This is such a cool idea for a series and it’s going to be a hit with kids. Caleb loves books, especially his favourite series, Castle Quest. When he sees a special edition of the first book in the series in a bookshop his parents aren’t able to buy it for him. Along with his best friend, Jax, Caleb comes up with a plan to earn some money, so that he can buy the book. Together, they set up their own fort building company, called Fort Builders Inc. They will build box forts for anyone who is interested and charge for their services. Caleb and Jax find that they need other skills to help them make their forts really great, so they recruit Eddie and Kiara to help. With the deadline looming for their first creation the friends need to work together to build the best one possible. I loved the first book in the series and can’t wait to see how their business develops in the next books in the series. I especially like how they have to ask other kids to join them, as they know different kids have skills that can help them. I also like that Dee didn’t have a whole team of boys, but included Kiara too. Once again the chapters are short, there are illustrations on most pages and there is a helpful glossary at the back, with words that may be unfamiliar and how to pronounce them.

For more suggestions of fiction for newly independent readers check out my post about illustrated fiction for newly independent readers, featuring books by Swapna Haddow, Donovan Bixley, Sally Sutton and Paula Harrison. I also highly recommend Swapna Reddy and Binny Talib’s Ballet Bunny series for those readers aged 5-8 who want a super cute series to read.

New Dinosaur Trouble series from Mewburn and Bixley

I’m always on the lookout for great series for young readers who are just starting chapter books.  Sally Rippin’s Billie B Brown and Hey Jack series and James Roy’s Chook Doolan series are always flying off the shelf.  I was really excited to hear that Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley were releasing some new adventures of Arg, the brainy caveboy from their Dinosaur Rescue series, but aimed at beginner readers.  The Great Egg Stink, the first book in their new Dinosaur Trouble series is out now and it is a whole lot of disgusting fun!


Arg is bored waiting for his mum to bring home some food.  When his mum returns with armfuls of eggs Arg discovers that one of the eggs might hold something he doesn’t want to eat.  Things are about to go from boring to exciting and a bit dangerous, especially if Arg’s sister Hng finds his egg.

The Great Egg Stink is a great intro to the wacky prehistoric world of Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley.  It’s the perfect chapter book for beginner readers, with a simple but entertaining text and heaps of Donovan’s wonderful illustrations.  Like their Dinosaur Rescue series, this new series is full of disgusting details that boys will love and plenty of laughs.  There are farts, vomit and  (my favourite part) an exploding mastadon.

The thing I love the most about the books that Kyle and Donovan create together are the puns.  They don’t disappoint, starting with puns about the ‘web’ and Arg’s ‘tablet.’  They don’t dumb anything down for these younger readers, which makes this series a perfect one to hook kids on reading.

We need more of these clever, engaging early chapter books for young readers so I hope that we see more series like Dinosaur Trouble.  I can’t wait to promote Dinosaur Trouble to the young readers at my school.