Living Books, Top Picks

Top Picks: For Reluctant Readers

The Dan Frontier Series by William Hurley  This series of books is graduated–each book advances in difficulty, slowly becoming longer with smaller type, but the characters remain the same, encouraging young readers to progress in their reading ability.  Dan Frontier is a fictional character, based on Daniel Boone.  Many of the incidents in the stories are real events that happened to Boone. The first volume, Dan Frontier, is at the level of an Early-I-Can-Read, and the last in the series is a chapter book.

Billy and Blaze books by C.W. Anderson  These are great for the transition between picture and chapter books.  Billy and his horse Blaze have many adventures.  One paragraph of clear type on a white page with lots of “eye-space” alternates with full-page picture by master illustrator C.W. Anderson.

Thornton Burgess Animal Stories  These stories are classics–chapter books but with short chapters.  The Adventures of Peter Cottontail and Old Mother West Wind are good ones to start with.  These woodland creatures are a delightful blend of anthropomorphism and natural history.  While the characters may wear clothes, their habits and habitats are those of their real animal counterparts.

The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla  I know of no other author who has endeared children to reading as much as Bulla.  His books are exciting yet written in simple but good language; he believed in choosing easy but potent words that conveyed rich meaning.  The Sword in the Tree is good to start with as most children are intrigued by the Middle Ages and the days of the knights–this book is about a boy who must appeal to King Arthur for justice for his family.

“B” is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood Carolyn Haywood, illustrator and children’s librarian, was encouraged to write her own books when the children she served begged for stories “about kids like us.”  These chapter books have fairly large type and have many full page illustrations.  Originally published in the 1930s-60s, Haywood’s books feature children who lived in a more idyllic age, but are real children with real experiences.  Family, friends, school, home, and play form the settings for these delightful  tales.  These books were the first books Liz and Emily checked out of the library for themselves as young readers–in 1962 and 1987 respectively.

Step-Up Books published by Random House, various authors This series is great for beginning readers moving beyond the very earliest reader books.  Originally published in the 1950s-60s, this series is full of true facts all clothed in living ideas.  There are biographies (Meet Abraham Lincoln, Meet Andrew Jackson, etc.), history (Meet the Pilgrim Fathers, The Story of Flight, etc.), and science (Animals Do the Strangest Things, Plants Do Amazing Things, etc.).

Little Black, A Pony by Walter Farley This is an “I-Can-Read-it-All-By-Myself” book (like The Cat in the Hat), and is well-loved by young readers and older readers alike.  By the author of The Black Stallion, young horse lovers will be entranced by Little Black’s exploits.

The Flicka, Ricka, Dicka Series by Maj Lindman  Published in Sweden from the 1920s-60s, Flicka, Ricka, Dicka (and the counterpart triplet boys’ series Snipp, Snapp, Snurr) are beloved books recently brought back into print in paperback.  These charming triplets will capture your hearts as their love for one another and their neighbors demonstrate good character quality.  Featuring large, bold type, easy on young readers eyes, each two-page spread has one page of type and one full-page color illustration.

Here Come the… ! Series by Alice Goudey  These science books are very popular with young readers in our library.  Published in the 1950s and 60s, these books feature large, clear type, and drawn illustrations depicting the animals portrayed in the stories.  These are great living science books–following an animal through it’s life so the child learns the facts while reading an enjoyable story.  Titles include Here Come the Whales!, Here Come the Bees!, Here Come the Lions!, Here Come the Squirrels!, and 9 others.

Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists Series by Mike Venezia  Though newer than most of the books in our library, these are perennial favorites with young readers and have the additional benefit of introducing young children to great art.  Each book focused on one artist, relating their biography in large type and cartoon illustrations by the author.  Interspersed on the pages are reproductions of the artist’s great works.  For a child who doesn’t like to read but enjoys visual art, this series may be the gateway into the love of reading.

4 thoughts on “Top Picks: For Reluctant Readers

  1. Thanks so much for this fabulous list of series books. My seven-year-old son is able to read, but he prefers to be read to. I'm trying to find books he'll be interested in reading on his own, ones that don't feel daunting to him. The Billy and Blaze books have been great (I'd already begun checking them out from our library before I read your post and was gratified to see they were on your list!)

    Our library doesn't have the Dan Frontier series. I found some used copies on Amazon, but since they're graduated I was wondering if you could send me the list of books in order? Or at least the first few books, so I know which ones to start with.

    Thanks so much!

    Kimberlee Conway Ireton

  2. Thanks for commenting! I'm glad that your son has already found the Billy and Blaze books–I hope he'll like Dan Frontier.

    As far as I can tell the series goes like this:
    Dan Frontier
    DF and the New House
    DF Goes Hunting
    DF and the Big Cat
    DF with the Indians
    DF, Trapper
    DF Scouts with the Army
    DF and the Wagon Train
    DF, Sherriff
    DF Goes Exploring
    DF Goes to Congress

    We do have two of them available for sale on our book sale page if you're interested, the third and the tenth in the series.

    Hope that helps!

  3. I am so glad to find this list .. I think my son will enjoy Dan Frontier and the Billy and Blaze series .. do you have a list for the Billy and Blaze series as well ?
    Thanks so much for your time. I enjoyed your session at the Childlight conference this year so much.

  4. Hi Janet!

    Here's the titles in the Billy and Blaze series:
    Billy & Blaze
    Blaze and the Forest Fire
    Blaze and the Mountain Lion
    Blaze and Thunderbolt
    Blaze and the Gray Spotted Pony
    Blaze Finds Forgotten Roads
    Blaze and the Gypsies
    Blaze Finds the Trail
    Blaze and the Indian Cave
    Blaze Shows the Way
    Blaze and the Lost Quarry

    Happy Hunting!

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