45 Popular Illustrated Chapter and Middle Grade Books for Kids

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Would your readers love these popular illustrated chapter and middle grade books for kids? Whether your kids are emergent readers or middle grade readers, here are good books with illustrations that will appeal to readers ages 6 to 12!

Illustrations offer picture support for children who are just learning to read as well as provide a sense of frivolity and delight for children transitioning out of beginning chapter books.

But illustrated chapter books and middle grade books can be just as enticing for tween readers as well. In fact, you might be surprised to know just how many middle-grade books for ages 9 to 12 also include illustrations. You’ll soon see just how many… 


Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Emergent Readers Ages 6 – 9

Popular Illustrated Chapter Books
Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea  by Ben Clanton
Kids LOVE this early reader graphic novel. But not just because it’s about a narwhal (which is super cool) but it’s also a funny, sweet friendship story.

Pug Blasts Off (Diary of a Pug)
by Kyla May
Narrated in diary format by a lovable pug named Bub with plenty of illustrations and large sized text, we learn that Bub is afraid of water but loves to craft just like his person, Bella. In fact, he’s going to help her invent the best craft project ever. Unfortunately, disaster strikes when a mischievous squirrel interferes. Bub must face his biggest fears in order to fix things for Bella. Luckily, he’s a brilliant problem solver!

Owl Diaries Eva’s Treetop Festival
by Rebecca Elliott
This series pops with cute diary entries with colorful illustrations; it’s just right for beginning readers, particularly girls. In this book, Eva writes in a diary all about getting the Bloomtastic Festival put together and how she eventually learns to ask friends for help. (A few sentences per page, lots of picture support.)

Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot The Voodoo Vultures from Venus
by Dav Pilkey, illustrated by Dan Santat
Kudos to Dav Pilkey and Dan Santat for creating such an action-packed, engaging new series for young readers. Plus, the full-color illustrations are marvelous. I predict that once your child reads this first book, he’ll want all the books in this series for emergent readers.

Bo’s Magical New Friend (Unicorn Diaries)
by Rebecca Elliott
I’m giddy about this magical, sweet new series — this first book is absolutely enchanting, and not in a cheesy way at all. I love the diary format, we feel connected to the main character Bo (short for Rainbow) as he shares about his life in Sparklegrove Forest where he lives along with other magical creatures. I loved the plot about a new friend, disappointments, helping others, and figuring out what’s really important in life — friendship!
9  New Beginning and Middle Grade Chapter Books, May 2021
by Sophy Henn
Illustrated with cartoons and fun fonts, this superhero story is perfect for 8 – 10-year-olds transitioning into middle grade! Our grumbly heroine is embarrassed by her name and her superpower–which she won’t tell us about. Also, Pizazz hates how her superhero duties of saving the world come at most inconvenient times AND even if she’s tired, she still has to go to school! (So not fair.) At school, she is assigned the job of eco-monitor which she dislikes until a classmate named Ivy helps her see that they might be able to save the park…without superhero powers. 100% fun, relatable, and entertaining.


Popular Illustrated Chapter Books
Planet Omar
 by Zanib Mian
I love the playful writing, whimsical illustrations, and rich Pakistani-American culture in this beginning chapter book. One of the best things about Omar is his HUGE imagination! In fact, he faces his new experiences in life with a rich, creative mind filled with dragons, Ferraris, and zombie aliens. He uses his imagination to deal with moving, starting a new school, making friends, and dealing with racism. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this diverse book for home, classrooms, and libraries.
Popular Illustrated Chapter Books
Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqui, illustrated by Hatem Aly
Yasmin is an exuberant girl who is interested in everything from exploring to building to fashion. This book tells four short stories from Yasmin’s life, all in chapters with lively, full-color illustrations. Each story shows Yasmin as a creative problem solver even when things get hard. Her Pakistani American culture is embedded throughout the story such as the foods Yasmin’s family eats like naan or how she calls her father Baba. I LOVE the diversity, the gutsy main character, and the beautiful design of the entire book.

Princess in Black
by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Princess Magnolia isn’t a regular royal — she’s also a monster-fighting “princess in black”. Not only are these books filled with girl-power, but they’re also funny and entertaining. (If you like The Princess in Black, you’ll also like these books.)

Zoey and Sassafras
by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay
Zoey learns that like her scientist mother, she can see magical creatures. She also learns that her mother helps injured creatures. When her mom leaves town, Zoey listens for the special doorbell that indicates a magical animal needs her help. (With the help of her cutie cat named Sassafras.) 

Dragon Masters
by Tracey West
The young children in this action-packed illustrated series each are paired with an elemental dragon (fire, water, wind, earth) in order to save the kingdom from peril. 

Too Small Tola
by Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu
Tola lives in Nigeria in an apartment with her sister, brother, and Grandmommy. Even though she is small, she helps her Grandmommy at the market and carries water in from the pump when their building’s water doesn’t work. (The electricity doesn’t work often either.) Readers feel the love in Tola’s close-knit family and experience her life in her Nigerian community with kind-hearted neighbors and diversity of religion (Eid and Easter) and see that even when you’re small, you can make a difference.

best illustrated chapter books
Mac Undercover (Kid Spy #1) 
by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Mike Lowery
This funny illustrated chapter book adventure is about a kid who the queen of England uses to solve an important mystery…You’ll need to withhold disbelief, or at least I did, but it’s super cute and popular with many younger readers. The story includes lots of illustrations, fabulous vocabulary words explained and repeated that perfectly fit the story such as regicide, and a kid-powered plot.
best illustrated chapter books
Dory and the Real True Friend
by Abby Hanlon
Dory is one of my favorite book characters because her imagination is THE BEST! She has three imaginary friends: one monster friend, one fairy godmother that’s actually not a lady, and one bad lady nemesis. I love this series because Dory meets a real-life friend who understands all about imaginary friends and together, they’re the perfect match.

The Magic Treehouse
by Mary Pope Osborne
A must-read easy easy chapter book series boxed set for boys and girls that combines mystery, history, magic, and adventure. Siblings Jack and Annie travel in their magic tree house through time to solve mysteries. I highly recommend this series and if you get a chance, listen to them on audiobook, they’re narrated by Mary Pope Osborne herself.

A to Z Mysteries
by Rob Roy
This addictive (and wholesome) chapter book mystery series will keep your kids reading for days. My kids read the books more than once which to me is a sign of excellence! Friends Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose solve mysteries for every letter of the alphabet. We highly recommend this series, especially for second grade.

Monday into the Cave of Thieves
 (Total Mayhem #1) 
by Ralph Lazar 
Wild and quirky, this un-put-downable adventure filled with illustrations is perfect for you if you like good vs. evil adventures where kid power saves the day! Dash Candoo’s Monday is one crazy adventure after another with Devil Cat attacks, a quadcycle pursuit, a math class secret tunnel, stolen perfume, and so much more. I’m a big fan of this exciting, readable new chapter book and look forward to more books in the entertaining new series. (P.S. And it’s funny with zero potty humor!)

best illustrated chapter books
Bad Kitty
by Nick Bruel
In a word: hilarious. Kids think Bad Kitty is very naughty but, oh so funny. These chapter books are addictive to read and fun to reread. Plus, they’re illustrated with only minimal text on every page. What are they about? Bad Kitty –a cat with an attitude — and all her misadventures.

Mercy Watson to the Rescue
by Kate DiCamillo
Mercy lives with Mr. and Mrs. Watson. They feed her buttered toast and take her for drives in their convertible. One night, Mercy gets scared and decides to sleep with Mr. and Mrs. Watson. Can you imagine what happens next? Hilarious and quirky, this is a fun illustrated series for emergent readers that is filled with many amazing adventures.
best illustrated chapter books for emergent readers
The Bad Guys
by Aaron Blabey
Bad Guys is such a hysterical book! Mr. Wolf invites other bad guys to a meeting with hopes they will join him in being good. Lots of drawings and minimal text make this a sure-bet for first and second-grade readers who like irony and humor. (Note: If you don’t like potty humor, this is not the book for you. I will admit, after a few books, I was DONE.)
If you LOVE kooky books, this book fits the bill. Olga finds a most unusual, unknown creature whom she names “MEH” after the sound it makes. She uses her deductive reasoning to figure out what it is (something new!) and what it likes to eat (olives)! But what will she do when Meh disappears? Things I love about this book: 1) the illustrations — they rock! 2) the narrator’s voice — it’s believable and funny 3) the plot — especially finding out that the mean girls aren’t so mean after all.

Ivy and Bean
by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Get ready to laugh along with these charming young friends who won’t stop until they find the best way to solve their perplexing troubles, no matter how many ideas they must try.  

Popular Illustrated Middle Grade Books for Readers Ages 9 – 12

Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
One-Third Nerd
by Gennifer Choldenko, illustrated by Eglantine Ceulemans
I love these three unique, wonderful siblings — they stick together and look out for each other. Liam is a responsible, kind big brother in fifth grade. His mom and dad have recently divorced and now their grumpy landlord has given them an ultimatum — they’ll have to give away their German Shepard dog named Cupcake unless her peeing problem gets resolved. This is a beautiful, warm-hearted story that celebrates family, unique personalities, and the richness in having a dog. If you like the Penderwicks or the Vanderbeekers, you will love this book, too.
Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
If your kids like quirky humor, then this is your perfect book.
You will never believe what happens when the kids’ father goes out to get more milk. He doesn’t even get the milk but he does run into pirates, aliens, and all sorts of incredible things! Totally hilarious and quite short–which is appealing to many readers — this is a popular illustrated chapter book for a good reason.
Princess Cora and the Crocodile Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
Princess Cora and the Crocodile
by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Brian Floca
Princess Cora’s life is learning, bathing, training, and more bathing and she’s sick of it. That’s why she asks her fairy godmother for a pet. She, unexpectedly, gets a crocodile. Although he isn’t exactly what she has in mind, Cora agrees to let the crocodile trade places with her so she can have a day off.  And the results are HILARIOUS, ending with a more understanding king and queen who relax on all that they demand from Princess Cora.

Cress Watercress
by Gregory Maguire, illustrated by David Litchfield 
With delicious figurative language and deliberate word choice, this is a stunningly beautiful story about family, community, and grief. After the death of her father, Cress and her family move from their cozy burrow into the Broken Arms oak tree ruled by a cranky Owl with a noisy neighbor squirrel family. There, Cress helps her mom collect moths to pay their rent, leaving her mom time to work and gather ingredients for her sickly brother’s tea. As Cress navigates her new environment, the natural world, and the stories around her, it helps her understand her inner world, especially how grief waxes and wanes like the moon’s cycles. 

Explorer Academy Vela: The Sailor Cipher written by Trudi Trueit, illustrated by Kadijah Khatib
In this new series, we follow Sailor’s adventures on a new and improved boat called Vela. But just as she’s about to start classes, Sailor learns that her sister is missing and it might be due to her work for a secret organization. Despite worrying about her sister, Sailor needs to go undercover to find the mole in the secret organization, keep attending classes, and keep her powers of animal communication a secret. Action, intrigue, and adventure — plus great illustrations and writing make this a stand-out first book of a new must-read series.

Magnolia Wu Unfolds It All written and illustrated by Chanel Miller
Magnolia’s parents own a laundromat in New York City. Her new friend Iris from California suggests that Magnolia find the owners of the lost socks on the embarrassing lost sock bulletin board. Magnolia uses her knowledge of their customers to find the owners, which helps them learn the backstories and secrets of many people, as well as showing Iris the city. Magnolia experiences growing pains in her new friendship and growth in other relationships as she sees the beautiful, diverse, and kind community all around her.

The Minor Miracle: The Amazing Adventures of Noah Minor written by Meredith Davis, illustrated by Billy Yong
Noah learns he is a gravitas and can train to be an agent to do good in the world. But he also learns that his uncle is a fugitive and his uncle wants Noah’s help to unlock the secret capsule he stole from Gravitas. Noah struggles to learn and control his powers and he’s swayed by his persuasive, manipulative uncle until he realizes his uncle erased his best friend’s memories. This is an entertaining story of growing up with superpowers and making good choices.

Jerry Let Me See the Moon written and illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler
Illustrated and fast-paced, this unique adventure takes place in a secret city that Jerry’s dad built for were-people. But the full-moon opening ceremony party goes terribly wrong with people’s animal instincts taking over, making the apex predators dangerous to everyone else. Even worse, no one is shifting completely back–they’re stuck partially as animals! This is a BIG problem because a suspicious news crew is trying to uncover the town’s secret. How will Jerry and his new friends solve the problem and keep the weres safe from discovery?

Leeva at Last by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Leeva’s horrible Matilda-like parents ask her sarcastically, What are people for? And Leeva, who isn’t allowed to go to school and does the chores, cooking, and other tasks to help her parents become rich and famous, decides to investigate the question. She discovers the library and books — but more than that, she discovers kind new friends, including the librarian and her grandson and two kids her age. She realizes that people help you not be lonely because they share life with you…and hugs are a nice bonus, too. I love the writing and the message of both kindness and good things from books!

Once Upon a Tim
 by Stuart Gibbs
Hilarious, illustrated, and perfect for fantasy and adventure fans! Tim and his sister Belinda are peasants who hope to improve their lot in life so they sign up as knights for a not-very-brave prince and his so-called magician sidekick to find and rescue Princess Grace from a monster. Helpful foreshadowing, a strong narrative voice, and humor throughout aren’t all that this book brings to readers, it also includes helpful life lessons from Belinda about the patriarchy and great vocabulary words (which are helpfully indicated so your parents will know the IQ benefits).

Stuntboy in the Meantime by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Raul the Third
Portico wants to be a superhero and he dubs himself Stuntboy, which means doing cool things to help other people in his community, including other superheroes like his best friend Zola. But his parents are separating and fighting all the time and it makes Portico anxious. Not to mention, his neighbor kid Herbert is the worst. Relatable, funny, and adventurous, this is an amazing book that tackles big issues with humor and heart.

Dungeoneer Adventures
by Ben Costa, illustrated by James Parks
Coop is the only human at the Dungeoneer Academy. He feels alone and fears failure but it’s his lifelong dream to be an explorer. Luckily, his best friend Oggie (a bugbear) and two other new friends on his team stick together to survive the bullying Coop faces at school and the life-or-death jungle trial in which they experience trouble with their team, unexpected attacks, and a monster spider. The stakes are high–if they fail the trial, they’ll be kicked out of the school forever. It’s a fun-to-read, illustrated, and fast-paced fantastical adventure!

The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity written by Nicholas Day, illustrated by Brett Helquist
You will love the incredible writing, the fun illustrations, the biographical information about the curious, brilliant, and distractable Leonardo Da Vinci, the other art heists from the poorly guarded Louvre (one involving Pablo Picasso), the burgeoning science of fingerprints to replace France’s ear-measuring methodology and the surprising, eventual discovery of the Mona Lisa. Interestingly, the Mona Lisa wasn’t a well-known painting until this art heist in 1911. And the Louvre wasn’t well-attended until after this dramatic theft. The theft was dramatic because the thief simply walked out with the stolen painting tucked under his shirt. Remember, this was long before decent security and video surveillance. Highly recommended!

The Little Match Girl Strikes Back written by Emma Carroll, illustrated by Lauren Child
With stunning black, white, gray, and red illustrations, this is a quick but compelling read set in Victorian England that improves upon the famous Hans Christian Anderson story about a little matchgirl. In this story, Bridie lives with a loving little brother and mother. She sells matches to help feed the family while her mother makes them at the match factory. The factory’s conditions aren’t just awful; the phosphorous fumes are toxic to the workers. Starving and hoping for a better future, she blows her last three matches, wishing as she does. Her wishes help her find the courage to get a reporter involved and organize a worker’s strike.

Beneath the Swirling Sky (The Restorationists) written by Carolyn Leiloglou, illustrated by Vivienne To
Sent to his great-uncle’s house for the summer, Vincent learns his mom’s greatest secret when his little sister Lili wanders INTO a painting–and doesn’t come out! His cousin Georgia leads him through paintings, corridors, and museums to find Lili. At the same time, she explains their family’s talent –they travel into paintings to protect the art from other nefarious travelers. They track Lili to where she’s been kidnapped by a mysterious Lady. But they are captured, too. Forced to attend the Lady’s training, it becomes clear that the Lady is using stolen children and art to gain power and wealth. Even still, Vincent never expects the horrifying truth of who the Lady really is! Fast-paced and exciting with unique world-building, this art-filled, faith-implied, illustrated adventure will captivate readers from cover to cover.

Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life
 by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Laura Park
Rafe’s goal in middle school is to break every single rule. You can imagine how his plan will go, right? Filled with cartoon-like illustrations, this chapter book series will crack you up. BOX SET HERE.
Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Colgate
This hilarious story makes the zombie apocalypse sounds like a fun adventure. Jack and his best friend, Quint, live in an upgraded, well-defended treehouse where they plan to first rescue his crush June (she doesn’t need rescuing being quite capable) and then fight zombies. Illustrations throughout make this even more appealing to read and imagine. Delightful. Who would have thought?! BOXED SET HERE.
Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
Way of the Warrior Kid
by Jocko Willink, illustrated by Jon Bozak
The Way of the Warrior Kid is a self-help book of sorts wrapped in a fictional story that is engaging and interesting to read. Marc’s Navy SEAL Uncle Jake stays for the summer and in that time, transforms Marc’s life in three months. Marc starts out as a discouraged bad-at-math, weak, average kid who gets picked on by a bully but he decides to take his uncle’s advice and try a different approach. Marc learns discipline, persistence, daily habits, and even how to learn — and it transforms his life.

The Doll People
by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick
After discovering her missing aunt’s diary, Annabelle Doll can’t stop wondering about what happened to her aunt and is determined to find out — even at the risk of becoming “Permanent.” Will she leave the safety of her family’s dollhouse to find her aunt? Kids love this enthralling illustrated chapter book adventure of the dolls in a dollhouse that are real and do come to life when we’re not watching. (Just like you thought!)

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
 by Kelly Jones, illustrations by Katie Kath
We loved this illustrated chapter book so much, it’s one of our favorites. The book is written as letters from a girl named Sophie, who is newly living at the farm of her deceased great-uncle Jim. She writes to her dead abuelita, her dead great-uncle Jim, and Agnes of the Extraordinary Chickens catalog. While her parents are figuring out their new lives, Sophie figures out the farm. Specifically, the magical chickens who seem to have telekinesis, invisibility, and carnivorous chicks. What!? Unfortunately, a neighbor chicken thief is also interested in Jim’s magical chickens, too — and Sophie must use her wits to stop her. Exceptional writing, characterization, and plot!
Brilliant Family Read-Aloud Books for Kids of Different Ages
The Wild Robot
by Peter Brown
Roz is a robot alone on an island with only animals. To survive, she figures out how to live in the wild despite the animals seeing her as a monster. That changes when Roz adopts a gosling and makes a nest. It’s a meaningful story of family, love, and community that consistently garners passionate readers.
This is National Geographic’s first fictional book series with full-color illustrations that hits the spot with an exciting mix of science, technology, adventure, and mystery. Newly accepted into the prestigious Explorer Academy for science and exploration, Cruz realizes that someone is trying to kill him; someone who doesn’t want him finding out about his mother’s mysterious research and untimely death. There’s tons of cool tech, amazing friendships, plot twists, plus an intriguing premise.


Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
by Brian Selznick
Parallel stories about two different people — Ben and Rose — who each secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother’s room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing. One story is told completely in illustrations.
Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John, illustrated by Kevin Cornell
SO funny and a quick read! Learn some valuable cow trivia in this hilarious adventure of two pranksters who (eventually) work together to pull off the biggest prank of all time — a prank that will ensure they get April Fool’s Day off from school. The entire series is great. Your kids will zip through them, laughing all the way.
Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
Anyone But Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp, illustrated by Barbara Cantini
Ivy’s totally clueless, lovable, and so very quirky.
Before we read this book together, I read many parts out loud to my kids while I was previewing this book because it was just so funny!! Now my kids are addicted, too. Ivy’s adventures involve a sinister ghost, a mystical jewel, and a surprising destiny.
Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
Harry Potter Illustrated Editions
by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter’s rich fantasy hero’s journey story is now in an oversized, illustrated chapter book format. Readers who haven’t yet read this series, or who want to read it again, completely adore the magical illustrations. Don’t miss this new format! (Also read: Harry Potter Potions Class, Harry Potter Spells, and Good Books Like Harry Potter.)
Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
Treasure Hunters
by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Juliana Neufeld
ADVENTURE (series)
The life of the four Kidd siblings isn’t typical — they live on a boat and their parents are treasure hunters. Unfortunately, not only is their mom missing but their father went overboard in a bad storm. Now they’re on their own and need money to survive. The only way they know is to find a treasure and sell it. But danger is around every wave; they’re not sure who to trust. This is a fast, action-packed adventure that sets the tone for more books to come.
Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
The Magic Misfits
by Neil Patrick Harris and Alec Azam, illustrated by Lissy Marlin and Kyle Hilton
Carter’s had a rough life, even now after he runs away from his crook of an uncle and lands in a New England town. There he encounters unsavory carnival people who remind him of his uncle. At the town’s magic shop, Carter meets a young girl and her fathers who love magic just like him. He and his new kid friends set out to thwart the carnie’s plot to steal the world’s biggest diamond. And maybe in the process, his luck will turn around. Through the book are ciphers, codes, and tricks giving this already delightful story extra oomph.

Area 51 Files
by Julie Buxbaum, illustrated by Lavanya Naidu
Sky moves to Area 51, a sanctuary for aliens, where her new guardian, her uncle. She’s sad that she can’t ever leave Area 51 or see her beloved grandma again but she makes friend with an alien boy at school. When a group of aliens is abducted, all clues point to Sky’s uncle. She and her friends try to solve who the culprit really is. It’s a funny mystery, adventure, and friendship story with aliens and illustrations!
Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
Pie in the Sky
by Remy Lai
Pie in the Sky is an insightful, funny, and poignant look at the struggles of immigrating to a new country (Australia) and the difficulties of learning English along with growing up and grieving the loss of a father. Jingwen’s observations and wit make him a likable main character and the illustrations capture the depth and flavors of his experiences. He likens learning English with becoming human. After school with his brother, he bakes the cakes that his father wanted to include at his dream Pie in the Sky bakery. It’s a coming of age story that is both salty and sweet, the perfect blend, and possibly my favorite middle grade book of the entire 2019 year. (Sensitive readers, the main character says cr#p but it makes sense in context.)

Snow & Rose
by Emily Winfield Martin
Snow and Rose are two sisters who with their mother live in the woods after their father disappeared in those same woods. The girls befriend both a young boy from a mushrooming family and a large bear. Danger comes from the Huntsman and the sinister Little Man who seeks to enchant them or kill them. Surprisingly, this is a Grimm story with a happy ending . . . which I won’t spoil. Marvelous storytelling!

Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile
Masterfully plotted and beautifully written, Becoming Muhammad Ali, is the stunning new middle-grade biography of Muhammad Ali from superstars James Patterson and Kwame Alexander. Alexander writes Cassius’s life in first-person verse, alternating with Patterson who writes in prose from the point of view of Cassius’s good friend, Lucky. Enthralling from the first page, this book gives readers the perfect details to set the stage for the man that Cassius becomes, the boxer and the activist. His parents don’t encourage boxing, preferring academics, but Cassius is terrible at school. When he finds boxing, it becomes a powerful outlet not to mention, something at which he finally excels. The poetry is Alexander at his best — vivid figurative language with an ideal cadence and an accessible narrative. Readers will zip through this page-turning biography; it’s both informative and inviting. I could NOT put it down.

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye: A Novel
 by Tania Del Rio, illustrated by Will Staehle
I loved this quirky mystery book so very much — Warren has inherited his family’s hotel but since he’s still a child, his no-good uncle is in charge. This means that Warren is the bellhop, valet, groundskeeper, and errand boy for very few hotel guests in the once-popular hotel. His uncle’s new wife is up to something and she and her witch sisters reveal that they’re searching for the powerful “All-Seeing Eye” which attracts many mysterious guests who destroy the hotel in pursuit of this treasure. Warren needs allies and ideas about where to search so he can discover the treasure first and save his family’s hotel.
Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
Voyage of the Frostheart
by Jamie Littler
Voyage of the Frostheart
is a fantastic, illustrated adventure chapter book story about an orphan boy with forbidden musical powers. After Ash’s Pathfinder parents disappear, Ash moves in with a strict guardian Yeti named Tobu. Unfortunately, they’re banished from their home when Ash uses his forbidden Song Weaver magic. They leave the village with a Pathfinder crew, a ship that sails over the snow. On their journey, Ash realizes that he can find his parents using the words in his childhood lullaby. But he’ll be tried, tested, and tricked. Who will he trust? And which side will he choose — light or dark?
Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
 by Ben Guterson, illustrated by Chloe Bristol
Elizabeth, an orphan, is unexpectedly sent to a large, stately hotel with a kind, grandfatherly proprietor for Christmas vacation. There, she discovers a magical book, a sinister couple, a family mystery, and a new friend who loves puzzles as much as she does. The writing is mesmerizing, the mystery fascinating, and the characters, enchanting. This is a delightful, atmospheric read.

The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr, illustrated by Katie Harnett
Beautiful storytelling! Grisha is a dragon who spends a few hundred years enchanted as a teapot. Once he’s a dragon again, he meets a lonely girl whose first and only friend is him. Grisha slowly begins to remember that an evil wizard has imprisoned other dragons. He and Maggie decide to find the missing dragons and free them— no matter the cost. And there will be a cost. The ending is HEARTBREAKING but so, so good.


Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog
 by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly
This is the story of three children in medieval France and tackles big issues such as faith, God, prejudice, friendship, and family. The writing, the story, the characters, and the themes all pack a big punch adding up to a compelling novel that will make you think deeply and leave you changed. (Sensitive readers: there are a few swear words and two scenes with a lot of blood.)
Popular Illustrated Chapter Books for Middle Grade Readers
The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome
by Jonathan Stokes, illustrated by David Sossella
If Ancient Rome is your preferred destination, you’ll need your handy handbook close by to make sure you survive — which seems to be unlikely since, since as the book says, “Rome is an absolute deathtrap.” Filled with tongue in cheek hilarity while also being boldly informative about the historical topic! These are my new favorite history book series.

Timeless Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic
by Armand Baltazar
Lush, full-color illustrations (over 150!) fill this dramatic science fiction adventure in one of the most uniquely imagined worlds I’ve read. 13-year old Diego lives in New Chicago post-Time Collision. Now, in the present, the Steam Timers, the Mid Timers, the Elders, and other groups coexist peacefully after a terrible world war. But it’s a fragile peace. When Diego’s dad, the leading engineer for the territories, and his colleague are kidnapped by a splinter group, Diego and his friends set out on a rescue mission where they’re immediately captured by pirates. The action is non-stop, the plot is skillfully crafted, and the characters, both boys and girls, are interesting. 

by Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by Marianna Raskin
Looking for a sweet story of animal rescue? Becca is a triplet who doesn’t feel special until she adopts a stray pig. Because he will grow to be 600 lbs, she can only keep him for a while before he’ll go to an animal rescue. Despite his destructive behavior, Becca falls head over heels in love with her crazy pig, Saucy. Unfortunately, he bites her mom and must leave early for his new home, a devastating event for the entire family including grandma. But, Saucy and her brothers find out about a pig factory with deplorable conditions. They rescue even more pigs which helps them with their sadness. 

Skunk and Badger
by Amy Timberlake
If you like sweet stories of friendship, you won’t want to miss this new story. Prickly Badger’s life and rock studies are the most (and only) important thing in his life. Unexpectedly, he’s rudely interrupted by a new roommate, the helpful, philosophical, and curious chicken-loving Skunk. Badger wants Skunk to leave but he’s surprised when he enjoys Sunk’s cooking and company. Then after a spray incident and cruel comments he regrets, Badger fixes his mistake the two friends find that they’re better off together.

The Beast and the Bethany
by Jack Meggitt-Phillips, illustrated by Isabelle Follath
If you like snarky illustrated books that make you laugh, don’t miss this entertaining fantasy. Ebenezer, a man over 500 years old, is kept alive by a monstrous Beast who gives him youth cream in return for exotic foods…and now the Beast wants to eat a child. Still wanting to be youthful, Ebenezer adopts the rudest girl at a local orphanage, Bethany, and begins to fatten her up. She is horrid for a while until she’s not…and Ebenezer feels so bad that he confesses his evil plan. Together, find a solution to get rid of the Beast and get a happy ending! (Or do they?)



Books for 1st Graders (age 6)

Books for 2nd Graders (age 7)

Books for 3rd Graders

Books for 4th Graders

Books for 5th Graders

Books for 6th Graders

Books for 7th Graders

illustrated chapter books that kids love to read
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  1. Hello! Do you have any suggestions of chapter books for ages 9 to 12 that have color illustrations? I have an almost 10-year-old daughter who LOVES to read but was also a bit of a struggling reader the past few years. We are big fans of graphic novels (she’ll read approximately one graphic novel per day). I’ve noticed that she often sees the cover of a chapter book she’s interested in, but she’ll open it up and discover it has black-and-white illustrations, and immediately put it back on the shelf, even when it aligns perfectly with her interests. (Example: She loves sewing and fashion design and was very excited about the “Craftily Ever After” series until she opened the book and saw the black-and-white illustrations.) She also loves to be read aloud to, so we do read longer text-heavy chapter books together. She’s still a big reader, and I’m happy to keep her supplied with a steady stream of graphic novels, but I would love to know if there are chapter books with color illustrations for a slightly older audience than say, Princess in Black, which she has long ago moved past. She’s currently loving Raina Telgemeier books, Cleopatra in Space, Babysitter’s Club graphic novels, and Shannon Hale’s Best Friends series. I feel like she’s eager to read bigger chapter books (she surprised me by starting Land of Stories recently!), but generally the turn-off of the b/w illustrations seems to be getting in her way.

    1. One of my favorite book series with color illustrations is the Explorer Academy books from National Geographic Kids. It might not be up her alley, but it’s a fantastic adventure, mystery, and friendship story so I’d at least give it a try.
      Cress Watercress, a sweet story about grief and finding your place in the world, has gorgeous color illustrations as do the Harry Potter illustrated books.
      Finally, Timeless Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic by Armand Baltazar, is an exciting dystopian adventure with SO many beautiful color illustrations. I love that book!
      Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

      1. Thanks! I didn’t realize Cress and Explorer Academy were in color! Those do look good.

        We love the illustrated Harry Potter books and recently finished the latest one only to find out that Jim Kay will no longer be illustrating the series! My kids are bummed that it’ll likely be a long wait for the next one.

        Anyway, thanks for the tips. The next time she’s excited about a series but rejects it because of the b/w illustrations, I think I’m just going to buy them and suggest that she color them in herself— ha!

    2. The Wind Riders series of books by Jen Marlin are beautifully illustrated chapter books that aren’t too difficult a read but a step up from things like Princess in Black. My kids love them and they are 7 and 9.