Beginning Chapter Book – Diary Style

Who doesn’t love a good diary? A hybrid graphic novel and chapter book – it’s an old format that is incredibly popular. The first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book came out in 2007, 11 years ago, and they are still some of the most circulated books in our library. I find that boys and girls read Kinney’s books equally, and I hate the idea of “boy books” and “girl books” but Dork Dairies are the almost as popular female protagonist version. (While girls seem to read Wimpy Kid with no problems, I see very few boys reading Dork Diaries which is what it is…) And long after most people stopped reading daily newspaper comics, Big Nate lives on

Beginning chapter book readers want in on this! Part of the appeal of hybrids is that you can “read up” by reading a longer/harder book because of the illustrations. They’re amazing for reluctant readers, struggling readers, and people who need a quick fix. And the books I have chosen for this edition of “Elizabeth reads a ton of beginning chapter books over the summer” are on the very lowest edge of easiest beginning chapter books. Perfect for a smooth transition from beginning readers.

It should be noted that totally by coincidence, all of these are from the Scholastic Branches imprint which aims at the easiest beginning chapter book level and promises to help transition from leveled readers (what we call beginning readers at my library) with among other things illustrations on every page, simple plots, and context clues to help with vocab. Read more about the imprint here. Scholastic is not sponsoring this post (and I got these books off my library shelf), but if they are interested in sending me books to review, I would be open to that. (Why yes I will shamelessly beg for free books, contact me.)

Eva’s Treetop Festival by Rebecca Elliott. (book cover: Owl Dairies #1 Eva's Treetop festival Owl Diaries #1). Scholastic, 2015. 72 pages with full color illustrations.
Eva is a little owl who is bored so she decides to organize an entire festival for her class. (I can relate – I also tend to start massive new projects at the drop of a hat for no particular reason. Ask any librarian who has worked for or with me.) She makes very colorful to do lists and even though her teacher asks her to share the work, she gets completely overwhelmed before finally sharing the responsibilities (seriously this book could have been written about me). Very fun diary style book on faux “notebook” paper that will encourage kids to write, draw, journal.

My Stylish Life (Kiki) by Kyla May. Book Cover(Lotus Lane #1). Scholastic, 2013. 88 pages with black and white stick figure styled illustrations.
Kiki and her three best friends (who get to be the “diary authors” of future books in the series) live on Lotus Lane. They have a busy schedule of pet spa days, mini makeovers, cupcake making, and artistic pursuits. When a new girl moves onto their street, Kiki gets competitive with her in an upcoming art show as they both choose fashion (specifically Japanese kimonos). Misunderstandings, missing dogs, a few wacky moments, and it all wraps up cheerfully and happily. Kiki is white, but the implication from the shaded in stick figures is that one of the other Lotus Lane girls is not. The new girl (who will eventually get promoted to Lotus Lane girl) has a Japanese grandmother. So the books aren’t totally lacking in diversity. There’s something odd to me about the white girl choosing to make kimonos and then being angry that the girl with Japanese ancestry doing so too and that is somewhat addressed. But mostly the lesson is “everyone can be creative and fun” and not “maybe the Japanese girl gets first dibs on making kimonos”. (Yes it is veering towards appropriation, but it is still on that line because that issue is at least mentioned if not fully explained. It’s probably okay for an early elementary level.) Overall these books aren’t my favorites, but I have been recommending them all summer and kids like them.

Rise of the Balloon Goons by Troy Cummings. (Notebook of Doom #1). Scholastic, 2013, 96 pages with black and white illustrations on every page.
Book coverThis book was on the Alaska Battle of the Books list last year so I was vaguely aware of its existence. It isn’t a full notebook/diary style book but rather a more traditional heavily illustrated beginning chapter book with a few notebook style pages scattered throughout. When Alexander moves to a new town, he discovers that it is infested by a series of balloon goon monsters (you know, the big dancing balloon things in front of car dealers). Only these are alive and very hazardous. With the help of a few unexpected allies and the guidance of the “notebook of doom”, he defeats them. Of course the notebook is full of so many monsters, who knows what else is to come? This was one of my favorites, funny, slightly spooky in the not really scary way that is perfect for 6 to 8 year olds, adventure, friendship, all of it. Even one little twist that surprised a jaded reader like me. Highly recommending this one. (The biggest problem I have with it is the lack of diversity.)

I’ve been reading beginning chapter books all summer and grouping them into themes. So I have a bunch of 2/3rds written blog posts. Expect a lot more coming out soon. If you are looking for some older books along the same lines, check out the Amelia’s Notebook series by Marissa Moss.

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