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Awesome, Girl-Friendly Early Chapter Books

Book List Time! Here’s a list of books for the kid who is making the transition from early readers (few words on each page, lots of engaging pictures) to early chapter books (more words on each page, fewer pictures). These are books that my girls especially liked, and many have girl heroines or central characters. They are also more rad and less insipid, in case you may still be reading part or all of them aloud to your kids, or you would like to plant a few choice books in amongst the piles of Rainbow Fairies and Magical Unicorns on your independent reader’s bookshelf.

rapunzel's revenge

Rapunzel’s Revenge

A super kick-ass graphic novel that retells the Rapunzel fairy tale. It may be a little over the reading level of a kid just transitioning out of early readers like Elephant and Piggie, but both of my girls spent many hours poring over the pictures, reading bubbles that they were able to read independently, and listening to it read aloud, all at varying stages in their reading journey. It is so enticing that it may prompt kids to stretch their skills and try to read more than they would have attempted in another book. Rapunzel’s Revenge

mercy watson

Mercy Watson

Hilarious stories about the antics of a suburban pig, her family and her neighbours. These the perfect books to follow on from Elephant and Piggie, reading level and style wise. Just as with Mo Willems, there is so much hilarious action that the kids forget they are practising their reading. One risk though: you may suddenly have uncontrollable cravings for hot buttered toast. Mercy Watson to the Rescue



Dark and beautiful, the Ottoline stories are about a rich girl who goes away to a magical school where she can practice esoteric skills and have adventures. The illustrations are gorgeous and the stories are interesting and wacky. More advanced reading level than Mercy Watson, but easy enough for a highly motivated early reader. These books feel a little like a hybrid between a novel and a graphic novel. Ottoline Goes to School

worst witch

The Worst Witch

The Worst Witch series is reminiscent of the early Harry Potter books, except is set at an all-girls school, and lacks the dark, violent aspects of the later Harry Potter books. These are firmly in the “novel” category, even though there are still some pictures. The Worst Witch

smuggler's cave

Smuggler’s Cave

A west-coast adventure story about some kids who take a rowboat and go exploring on their own, running into some trouble as they go. Early chapter book style, more words on each page but printed in large text and not too phonetically challenging. Smuggler’s Cave

tintin destination moon


Potentially controversial, but highly motivating and compelling for many kids. Like with Rapunzel’s Revenge, my girls would pore over these books for hours when their reading skills were emerging. They would read the speech bubbles they were able to read, and gloss over the ones they couldn’t read by examining the detailed drawings. There are some good reasons why many parents choose not to expose their kids to TinTin, but in our family Bea learned to read by taking TinTin comics to bed with a flashlight each night for a whole winter. Tintin Destination Moon



Girl space pirate! Wacky superheroes and evil villains! Each Sardine book is broken down into several shorter stories, all told in graphic novel style. The reading level is easier than Rapunzel’s Revenge but harder than Mercy Watson. Not just for girls, but definitely in the kick-ass girl category. Sardine in Outer Space


Which books have your kids loved in this tentative, in-between stage of reading?  This time between early readers and children’s literature proper feels so much like hanging on the cusp of something so much more amazing, yet there are some fantastic choices for kids reading early chapter books too.

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Are you willing?

this is an adventureWould you mind picking up your socks?

Would you like to help me wash the dishes?

Please fix the chicken house today.

Are you willing to unload the dishwasher when you’re finished reading your chapter?

Word choice matters. Sometimes it feels like the specific words we use are more about style or attitude than actual meaning, but every word we choose carries a slightly different meaning, and is received in a slightly different way.

I remember when my kids were toddlers I became aware of the critical importance of deciding whether I really wanted to ask a question or whether it was more appropriate to use a statement. “Are you ready to go now?” vs. “It’s time to go now.” One is not necessarily better than the other. There are certainly times when it’s OK and important to find out whether a toddler is ready to go. But if you are not open to going later, don’t ask if your child is ready to go now. Choose a statement instead of a question.

Now I am becoming aware of the need to fine tune statements and requests even further. Sometimes I will ask my kids to do things that they don’t really want to do. Heck, sometimes I need to ask myself to do something I don’t really want to do. I may not want to do something, yet I’m willing to do it even though I don’t want to, because it’s important for my health, or it’s important to someone else. I am willing to get up off the couch in the evening and close the chicken coop and water the garden even though I don’t always want to because I value the health of the plants and animals in my care. Word choice can either acknowledge that, “I don’t want to, but I’m willing,” or ignore it.

In my NVC/Empathy workshops, our wonderful facilitator, Sarah Peyton, always begins guided meditations with a request to gently ask your awareness if it is willing to go to your breath. For a while I thought this was kind of unnecessarily gentle – I didn’t really understand why there was all this hesitation. If meditation involves going to your breath, then just do it! And then I read the draft copy of her new, soon to be released book, and realized that asking if we are willing leaves space to acknowledge that for some people it’s painful and distressing to spend time quietly paying attention to their bodies. Asking if someone is willing (and being OK with a no) creates a space in which you can simultaneously acknowledge that they may not want to do something and yet may also be willing to try.

It’s not a quick fix. There are still plenty of times when I ask if someone is willing to do xyz and I get “No” in return. But it opens a space to say, “Ok. What are you willing to do to contribute to cleaning up?” And most of the time my kids come up with something they are perfectly happy to do that I would never have thought to ask them. Like re-organzing the jars in the fridge door and labelling all the different compartments. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I’m willing to receive that!


And now we are six

Birthdays have a way of getting me to dust off the old blog. It’s a way to commemorate that is more reflective, a little more slow than the birthday-party-and-cake routine that is also a part of our tradition.

Claire is now six. We’re waving goodbye to early childhood, and settling in comfortably into the school-age years. Reading, writing and logically figuring things out are stepping up while fingerpainting and playdough are stepping back. (slowly. we do still kinda love playdough and painting.)

And while those things are unmistakable signs of six-ness, I want to celebrate her particular Claire-ness too. The way she wears her emotions on her sleeve, telling the truth about how she is feeling and what is going on for her. The way she likes to tell everyone about what she is learning about and how it relates to what we are doing in that moment. The way she loves to play make-believe for hours at a time. The way she just is, in herself.

Happy Birthday Claire! I am looking forward to seeing what the year ahead brings.

smiling girl


2015: The Year of Practice

Last year I chose a word to represent what I wanted to explore, learn about and invite into my life in the year ahead instead of making traditional resolutions. The word I chose was harvest, and boy howdy did I learn about harvesting.


I learned that harvesting is mostly about letting go.

Visualize what is involved in harvesting food – you have to physically separate it from its life source, right? Zucchinnis must be cut from the vine, eggs plucked from beneath the hen that laid them, carrots pulled from the ground, firewood cut from a tree that was once alive and is now dead. There is a whole lot of death and dying involved in harvesting.

And yet: the harvest is necessary. Death is a necessary part of life. If done with respect, it can honour the life that came before and nourish the life that is coming up behind. If we never killed anything, we could never survive ourselves. This year I got very closely aquainted with this idea in many different ways: I started eating meat again after almost 14 years of being mostly vegetarian, our rooster fathered a few chicks before being killed, I cut countless zuchinnis from our monstrous zuchinni plant, I permanently said goodbye to any future childbearing, and at the very end of the year, I buried five of our hens, killed by a maurading dog who broke through the fence.

I also learned that the hard work of harvesting is not necessarily the killing part, it’s the processing that comes afterwards. It’s transporting, splitting and stacking that firewood after the tree has been felled. It’s baking, pureeing and using that pumpkin, or putting it by to use later. It’s working hard to be successful at something after you’ve made the decision to do it.

So when I started thinking about what word I wanted to choose for this year, I was feeling cautious. I sure got what I asked for when I chose harvest. I wanted to be very careful what I asked for this year.


This year’s word is Practice.

It’s a humble word, but powerful when put to use. It’s the cumulative strength that comes from doing something many, many times. It’s a path to mastery, creativity and fluency.

It’s also a personal, spiritual relationship between yourself and something that brings you into a new awareness of yourself. A yoga practice, a meditation practice, a dishwashing practice, an empathy practice.

Practicing leaves room for making mistakes, for exploring and repeating and private struggle. It carves out time for dedicated work, for honing one’s craft and skill. It’s about the act of doing. I’m ready to practice.



all the posts I haven’t written


I was going to write something like “How to go Paleo in a Vegetarian Household” awhile back. Maybe it would be a listicle, and it would be all SEO and everything. But then I realized that all my list items would be things like, “prepare to have your entire world turned upside down,” and “come to terms with cooking 4 different meals 3 times a day,” and I realized that this just isn’t the kind of thing that listicles are made for. This is the kind of thing that therapists are made for.

I took a few nice pictures of the Christmas tree, and made a video of my 5 year old playing Silent Night on her violin. But I sent it to the grandparents instead, because that’s who really wants to see a video of a 5 year old playing Silent Night while the parent holding the camera tries not to cough too much.

I was going to write something about all the foods I can eat now, and how I had a few glasses of wine over Christmas and didn’t have explosive gut problems or a terrible rash, but then: more food posts? Surely nobody wants to hear about my rashes. This is the Parent vortex, not the Food vortex, although perhaps it might be time for rebranding.

I wrote a little bit about my word of the year for 2014: Harvest. It’s in my paper journal. I may write about it here too. Later.

I want to write about my word for 2015 but I don’t know what that word will be yet.

I’d like to write about our lovely Christmas Day, an oasis of calm and togetherness in a wild sea of preparations and concerts and shopping and coughing and runny noses and cutting out 1000 paper snowflakes and washing dishes and preparing food and writing emails and following through on committments and cleaning up after a dog rampaged through our flock of chickens. On Christmas Day we went out for a walk on a bit of land that was once a piece of private property with lots of trails on it. Everyone was allowed to walk freely there until the land was sold, and now it is slowly being developed. In between sections of road and cleared lots there are still amazing seaside bluffs and handbuilt stone steps. The sun was shining and we were all together. The fragments of the old trail tell a story of years of caretaking and love of that land. There, that was a nice thing to share.

I thought about writing a post about homeschooling during the transition into Love of Learning phase, as my 8 year old dives into the world of her own interests and I am working on guiding her towards daily practice of some academic skills like writing and math. But I’m not feeling anything like an expert here. It was way easier to write advice articles about breastfeeding and getting your baby to nap than it is to write about homeschooling. Heck, it is easier to write advice about parenting babies than it is to write about life in all its messy glory.

This is why there are so many books about parenting babies.

This is why there are so few posts on my blog these days.

Life. In all its messy glory.



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