Jan 7, 2012

Chapter Books

My son has finally shown an interest in chapter books! I tried to introduce a couple to him last year, Freckle Juice and the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but he just didn't have the patience at that time.

On the last day of kindergarten before winter break, Spinky got a flyer for movies that will be shown, with coupons. Usually I get really irrationally angry when I see these. They give them out to kids who can't read, and my son gets so excited to see Toy Story 3 or Cars 2 or something and then *I'm* the one who has to explain to him that we aren't going to see it because it is in Japanese. Okay, I guess this is my fault, but there is no way I am paying 1800 yen for me and 1000 yen for him (for those of you keeping track at home, that's $36 US) to see a movie that is dubbed away from my native language.

They used to show big movies with subtitles and dubbed so you could choose. Oh those were the days. Then stupid 3D came along and nothing directed at kids is shown subtitled anymore. I hate dubbed movies with a passion.

Okay, that was a little angry tangent. (You should see me, my eyes are all green and my face is red, my husband is laughing when he asked what got me so angry, he's seen me get so angry over this before.)

Anyway, one of the movies on his little flyer was Magic Treehouse. At first I thought this would be a dubbed version to, but the characters looked awfully Japanese anime-like. So I looked it up, and the movie is based on the wildly successful Magic Treehouse books, but it is a Japanese production. Annie is voiced by Mana Ashida, whose voice is everywhere in Japan as the 7-year old singer of Maru Maru Mori Mori, the current earworm here.

I thought that if he was interested in the books maybe we could go to his first movie. So I ordered the first four books, they arrived on Boxing Day, and we've been reading them ever since. Now he wants the next four asap!

Domba, at 2.75, does not have the attention span to listen to me read aloud. She drifts in and out while I'm reading. Spinky usually watches my face on the pages without pictures, but he sometimes closes his eyes too. I too like closing my eyes while someone else is reading aloud, so I can concentrate on imagining what is happening.

I really like the plots of the Magic Treehouse series. I was just slightly too old for them so this is my first experience with them. The chapters seems just short enough to hold a kindergarteners' attention, and the vocabulary choice is good too. We have learned a lot of new words but context helps a lot. The pictures also help, as when in Book # 2 Mary Pope Osbourne introduces the word "precipice." The best thing about the book is that each chapter ends with almost a cliffhanger, so my son really wants to go on for more.

I am not thrilled with some of the sentences, however. So many of them seem to start with and. There are also many places where I would prefer a comma instead of starting a new sentence. I don't know if I am just being an old fuddy-duddy here. It's been a number of decades since I read a beginner's chapter book so maybe this is the style?

I am still not 100% sure if we will see the movie. I'm not even sure how I am justifying this exception to my "English-only" rule. I guess since it's not dubbed, originally in Japanese, and based on English books that it might be okay! We'll see.

What other chapter books are good for beginning readers? Do you have a favourite Magic Treehouse book?


  1. My DD loves the Magic Treehouse books, but when she reads them
    on her own it's in Japanese. (sob sob). My kids also love the Captain Underpants books, but I'm not sure how you would feel about them. They are humorous. However, in the sections that are like comics its supposed to look like a kid did it so there are misspelled words. I don't like that at all, but I understand why they did it.

  2. I don't know how okay with that I would be. I go off on the littlest things (not that you've noticed!). Maybe I'd make my kids fix the misspelled words...
    I will order a Captain Underpants to see what it's like, thanks for the suggestion!

  3. It's only a few parts that are the "comic" part so it's not the whole book. You could always white it out and rewrite it. The basic premise is these two boys who write this Captain Underpants comic accidently hypnotize their school principal so sometimes he turns into captain underpants and runs off saving the day. My kids laugh and laugh. I can't remember what it is that sets him off and returns him to normal though

  4. My kids love the Magic Treehouse series! One summer a fast food restaurant was giving away the books on cd with their kids' meals, so I went through the drive through and asked for all the different cds they had (we were on our way out of town for vacation). They were lovely enough to give us a bunch of them for free. Kept my kids very happy for the long car rides!!

    That movie looks really interesting to me--I would want to check it out myself!

  5. My kids love the Magic Treehouse as well! We got them on cd and listened to all of them in the car. We love the Mercy Watson books at our house and have been reading Tumtum and Nutmeg at night and my 4 and 6 year old love this series.

  6. Oh goodness, I remember that anxious transition to chapter books very well! Viz Dav Pilkey-- I prefer the Ricky Ricotta series to Capt. Underpants, but my boys liked both just fine. At that age they also enjoyed the Toon series of graphic novels for emergent readers...

    Two other series they liked were Mammoth Academy and Astrosaurs.

    We listened to a Magic Tree house book one long car trip, and it drove me Mad. Too much "said Jack" "said Annie" "said Jack" etc.....

  7. My favorite early chapter books are the Junie B Jones books, but if you had trouble with the grammar and such in Magic Treehouse then these will not be your thing. Lots of playing with language and sentence structure to capture the way a kindergartener might talk. I love them though - so funny.

  8. I haven't read these but I know my younger cousins really enjoyed them. They seem like good books for early readers.

  9. Two of my children loved the Bailey School Kids books and the Animorphs series, but the third child wouldn't have anything to do with them. She did like the Gutman My Weird School series. I didn't care much for any of them, but loved Carolyn Haywood's Betsy books!

  10. This is the first I've heard of the movie. My daughter loves the Magic Tree house series. Her favorite so far (she's only read a few) is Blizzard of the Blue Moon because it features a unicorn. My daughter also liked reading the Frog and Toad books. She thinks the Babymouse books are hilarious (but, just so you know, there's a tiny bit of sassiness in that series).

  11. Other good beginning chapter books are Junie B., Ricky Ricotta, Franny K. Stein, My Father's Dragon, Gooney Bird Green...

  12. Ooh, I love this question! These worked well for my son when he was in preschool: Two Times the Fun (Beverly Cleary), Catwings series (Ursula LeGuin), Maybelle in the Soup (Katie Speck), Owly graphic novels - these are so sweet! (Andy Runton), School for Cats/Jenny books (Esther Avril), Funny Frank (Dick King-Smith), Tashi books (Anna & Barbara Fienberg), Fantastic Mr. Fox (Roald Dahl), Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books (Betty MacDonald). Have fun reading aloud to him! Such a special time.

  13. Oops, on my re-read of your post, I see now that he's in kindergarten! But these all should still be good. Visit my blog and check the book lists in my sidebar; I list what I read with my son & daughter separately, so you can see what worked for us. My 2011 list will be posted soon! (He's in 1st grade now.)


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