Best Chapter Books 2014
1. The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler (ages 6 – 9) MYSTERY
My daughter and I loved this entertaining new beginning reader chapter book series about a boy ghost, Kaz, who is blown away from his family and into a new haunt – a library. But who is the library ghost — it’s not him. He and his new friend, Claire, decide to be detectives and discover the secret of the ghost.
2. Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon REALISTIC
Dory’s family calls her Rascal (and a baby) because, well, she is. And proud of it. Especially when she’s playing with her invisible monster friend, Mary. Dory’s brother and sister invent a baby-stealing robber named Mrs. Gobble Gracker to try to scare Dory only it backfires. Dory is sort of scared and sort of fascinated, has a million questions about the robber, and excitedly asks her fairy godmother (who is really a gnome-like man) to turn her into a dog so the robber lady won’t see her. This early chapter book is totally hilarious and I love the child-like illustrations.
3. Mr. Pants It’s Go Time! by Scott McCormick, illustrated by R.H. Lazzell (ages 6 – 9) HUMOR
Mr. Pants really wants to go to laser tag but since he didn’t clean his room, his mom lets his sister (who cleaned her room) pick. Now he’s stuck going to Fairy Princess Dream Factory and when he does get to go play laser tag, it’s not exactly like he imagined. I love the drawing style — simple, bright, and cute — but even better, the story is fun and entertaining. My 9-year old has read this early chapter comic book at least 3 times already.
4. Lulu and the Rabbit Next Door by Hilary McKay REALISTIC
This is one of my favorite early chapter books this year! I loved this story of how Lulu and her cousin help their neighbor Arthur learn to love and care for his rabbit. She does this by writing George the rabbit notes and giving him gifts — not from her but from her pet rabbit named Thumper. (I also appreciate that the main characters are diverse – Lulu and her family have brown skin!!)
I just finished the 3rd chapter book in this series and loved it even more than I loved the first two! (Which I loved and so did my kids.) At Ever After High, an enchanting boarding school, the children of fairytale legends prepare themselves to fulfill their destinies as the next generation of Snow Whites, Prince Charmings and Evil Queens… until Raven decides she wants to write her own ending.
2. Five Kingdoms: Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull (8 – 12 years old) SCI/FI
I’m officially in love with this middle grade chapter book – and am dying for the next book in the series. Brandon Mull has outdone himself with an inventive, totally unique world and characters! Cole, a regular kid, is trick-or-treating with his friends when they all get kidnapped. Cole manages to hide but follows the kidnappers — to another world – a world of five kingdoms, slavery, and magic. Cole is found and sold to slavers on the Outskirts. There he’ll battle mysterious beings living on cloud castles, discover an exiled princess, escape from slavery, and have unimaginable adventures. Amazing!
3. Legacy of the Claw (Animas #1) by C.R. Grey, illustrated by Jim Madsen (8 – 12 years old) FANTASY
I couldn’t put this new middle grade chapter book down, it was fantastic! In this world, everyone except Bailey (a boy) has an Animas, an animal kinship. He’s hoping that attending Fairmount Academy, he’ll discover his Animas. But before he can, Bailey tries to figure out a mysterious prophesy, discovers there’s a plot to overthrow the governement, and learns about a group of people who might be his ancestors. I loved the story and plot twist! Can’t wait for the next book.
4. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee (8 – 12 years old) REALISTIC / FAIRY TALE
Stuck in a museum with her sister and father who is working on a sword exhibit, Orphelia’s curiosity leads her to a locked room where a boy has been trapped for thousands of years. But Orphelia doesn’t believe in that kind of thing. Except she kind of does. She remembers her mother used to tell her those stories . . . This is a breathtaking journey of loss, acceptance, hope and friendship with echos of The Snow Queen story. I just loved it!
5. Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny (8 – 12 years old) REALISTIC / FANTASY
Not only is this story compelling and interesting, the symbolism and life lessons were stunning. Charlie’s dad has remarried and moved Charlie and his younger brother into the stepmother’s frightening purple mansion. There Charlie begins to have the most horrible nightmares. When the nightmare witches enter the real world to steal Charlie’s brother into the nightmare world, Charlie goes to rescue his brother. Charlie must learn to face his fears if he is to succeed.
6. Phoebe and Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle by Dana Simpson HUMOR
Sarcastic and hilarious, this is a laugh-out loud comic book story about a precocious young girl and her reluctant unicorn “best friend”.
7. Loot by Jude Watson (8 – 12 years) MYSTERY / ADVENTURE
Once I opened this chapter book, I couldn’t put it down! When March’s dad falls off a building in his last jewel robbery (accident or not?), March is sent to foster care where he meets the twin he didn’t know he had. With the help of two friends at the foster home, they decide to escape and finish March’s dad’s plan to steal all the cursed Moonstones. One of the best adventures of 2014 – I loved it!
8. The Croc Ate My Homework by Stephan Pastis (ages 8 – 12) HUMOR
This comic book is so funny I can hardly stand it. My kids LOVED this book, as did I. It’s from the author of the Timmy Failure books and the Pearls Before Swine comic strip which curated especially for younger readers. The crocs are not the smartest and their stupidity will keep you th thoroughly entertained. You’ll be sharing page after page with your family, friends, and neighbors. A best pick for 2014!
Best YA Books 2014
1. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (ages 12+) ROMANCE
Lara Jean wrote all her crushes secret love letters, never intending to send them. BUT, the letters get mailed. Can you imagine? Now all the boys confront Lara Jean and she is forced to deal with the repercussions, some of which aren’t a bad thing. I love the strong family relationship she has with her siblings and father. I include this because if your teen enjoys romance, this is a good, light-hearted YA book she’ll enjoy.
2. Eye of the Minds by James Dashner (ages 12+) SCI-FI
Imagine our world with more advanced technology that lets you “live” in a game world. Players hook up their bodies to to the game, and while their in the game, food and bathroom breaks are taken care of. It’s crazy action and adventure that will keep you reading late into the night. LOVED this book!
3. Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy Boxed Set by Laini Taylor (ages 12+) FANTASY
I was sad when the third book came out because I didn’t want this series to end! 🙁 I LOVE the story, the characters, the details, the settings, the writing, . . . I’m just going to say that this is my ALL TIME favorite young adult series of books EVER. In fact, I’m already going start to reread the entire series right now. Oh, you might want a hint of what it’s about — angels, chimera (like you’ve never imagined), war, forbidden love, and friendship.
4. Red Rising by Pierce Brown (12 and up) SCI-FI
Love, love, love this YA book — it takes place on Mars with a caste society, color coded by the level of your caste. Darrow, a low-caste Red, infiltrates the ruling Gold caste’s special training school. His training? Kill or be killed. Lead an army or be enslaved. Better than Hunger Games – especially for boys who don’t want to read about romance and really get enthralled with battle strategy. Excellent. I can’t wait for the next book!
5. Found by Harlan Coben (ages 12+) MYSTERY
3rd in the Mickey Bolitar series, you could probably read this as a stand alone YA book but it would be better if you had read the other books before — Shelter and Seconds Away. I liked these books a lot – they were action packed and kept you guessing.
The Best Children’s Books of 2014
- Best chapter books of 2014
- Best picture books of 2014
- Best board books of 2014
- Best YA books of 2014
- Best activity books of 2014
More Holiday Gift Guides
- Christmas Gifts for Kids that Spark Imagination
- Learning Games for Kids
- Building Toys for Kids
- Cool Tech Gifts for Kids
- Writing Gifts for Kids
- Science Kits for Kids
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