Growing Reader

16 Great Chapter Books
for Third Graders

by Janssen Bradshaw

Wondering what book to pick up for your third grader?

As they develop more independence and the ability to read longer and more complex stories, the world of children’s literature really opens up.

These new and classic titles are perfect for all kinds of third-grade readers. They’re also great for reading aloud, if that’s more your child’s speed. Or you can try alternating back and forth — they read a page, then you read a page — so they can practice their reading but not get so bogged down they lose sight of the story arc.

No matter how you use these books, all 16 are winners.

  • Fantastic Mr. Fox

    by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

    When is Roald Dahl not a good idea? This book is a quick read and hilariously funny. (Penguin also has audio versions of Roald Dahl’s books and this one is particularly excellent if you have a child who would rather listen than read.)

  • Cam Jansen Series

    by David A. Adler, illustrated by Susanna Natti

    There’s a reason this series has been a bestseller for over thirty years — and with over thirty books in the set, it will keep readers busy for a good while. You might think of Cam Jansen as a descendent of Nancy Drew: there’s no mystery Cam can’t solve if she just puts her mind to it, especially with her best friend Eric at her side. It’s a great transition for those just getting into chapter books.

  • Fantastic Frame Series

    by Lin Oliver, illustrated by Samantha Kallis

    This series is so much fun because it mixes art history with heart-pounding adventure. Ten-year-old Tiger Brooks and his neighbor Luna must literally dive into famous paintings — by artists including Georges Seurat and Georgia O’Keefe — to search for a missing person. Black-and-white line art transforms into full color when the duo enters the frame (not unlike Dorothy going from Kansas to Oz), and the two must get out quickly or risk being trapped in the paintings forever.

  • The Phantom Tollbooth

    by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer

    Third grade is the perfect age to experience the wonder of The Phantom Tollbooth. Milo’s mysterious journey to the Island of Conclusions and his burgeoning friendship with Tock the ticking watchdog will reinvigorate imaginations — including yours! Why not revisit this classic with a family-wide read aloud? Your kids will be clamoring to read the next page.

  • Jake the Fake Keeps it Real Series

    by Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach, illustrated by Keight Knight

    Jake managed to fake his way into the Music and Art Academy for the gifted and talented, but he’s not so sure where to go from there. He’s certainly no musician or artist. Really, all he’s ever been able to do is make people laugh. Co-authored by actor and comedian Craig Robinson and best-selling author Adam Mansbach — and accompanied with pitch-perfect illustrations from Keith Knight — this new series is primed to become a fan favorite

  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

    by Judy Blume

    Every third grader needs a dose of Judy Blume in their life — and every young reader who’s lived through the woes of sibling rivalry will appreciate this tale of Peter and his little brother, Fudge, who’s hogging all the attention. The kid’s trouble in Peter’s opinion, though all anyone seems to care about is his so-called cuteness. After your child devours this one, they can turn to Superfudge and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great.

  • Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

    by Betty MacDonald, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

    Who do parents call when their children are behaving badly? Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, of course! She has all sorts of cures up her sleeve. Every child I know gets a kick out of watching children acting up and are equally delighted to see the inventive ways Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle helps them out.

  • Dyamonde Daniel Series

    by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

    Dyamonde Daniel is the sort of literary role model parents dream of for their kids. The third grader with “wild-crazy hair” is here to make friends, reconsider what she really needs in life, and question the narratives she’s hearing at school. Author Nikki Grimes is so talented at weaving difficult conversations (about things like privilege and body image) into the daily life of Dyamonde, a sparkling, smart, and kind heroine.

  • Muggie Maggie

    by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Tracy Dockray

    Maggie doesn’t want to learn cursive. She absolutely refuses until she is made the class messenger and starts taking notes, all written in cursive, to the office. After a while, she starts to wonder if the notes are written about her. But if she wants to know what they say, she’ll have to learn cursive. Like all of Beverly Cleary’s books, this one is pitch perfect and a delightful read for all ages.

  • The Witches of Benevento Series

    by John Bemelmans Marciano, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

    In the ancient Italian town of Benevento, legendary witches wreak all sorts of mischief. Five young cousins — Primo, Emilio, Rosa, Maria Bepinna, and Sergio — must work together if they’re ever going to outsmart them. The books are full of tantalizing clues and plucky characters who each get their moment in the spotlight: Rosa becomes the first girl to compete in the annual Boar Hunt, Sergio tries to appease the ancestor spirit who lives upstairs, and more.

  • The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail

    by Richard Peck

    What child hasn’t been charmed by miniature, hidden worlds? Enchanted fairies, tiny “borrowers” who live in the walls, and now a pipsqueak of a mouse who doesn’t know his own name. But that won’t stop him from setting off for Buckingham Palace to seek an audience with Queen Victoria and find out who he really is. Whimsical and clever, this one’s sure to charm your young reader.

  • The Trouble with Chickens

    by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

    J.J. Tully is a retired search-and-rescue dog. He’s getting a little bored with retirement when a chicken shows up claiming that two of her chicks are missing. Lured by adventure and the promise of a cheeseburger, J.J. Tully takes the case. But is he walking into a trap? Funny and not too long, this book has huge appeal for animal lovers and those who like a little mystery and a lot of humor.

  • Sideways Stories from Wayside School

    by Louis Sachar, illustrated by Adam McCauley

    Wayside school was supposed to be thirty classrooms, side by side. Instead, the builder made it thirty stories high, one classroom stacked on top of another. But that’s only the beginning of the weirdness at the school, especially on the thirteenth floor, where things are always a little bit odd. Perfect for a reader who enjoys their fair share of goofiness.

  • The Boxcar Children

    by Gertrude Chandler Warner , illustrated by L. Kate Deal

    I read all the originals and many of the books that followed when I was a child, and now my own daughter absolutely loves this series. I really like that the siblings all get along well and work together. Plus, there are just PLENTY of titles, so if your child loves them, you’ll be able to keep them stocked for ages.

  • The Doll People

    by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick

    Life as a doll is pretty dull. It’s the same people, the same house, and the same life, day after day, year after year. Except that 45 years ago, Annabelle's Auntie Sarah disappeared without a trace. And when Annabelle, bored and restless, discovers her Aunt’s diary, she is determined to solve the mystery.

  • Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye

    by Geronimo Stilton

    Most of the time, Geronimo Stilton lives a quiet life editing The Rodent's Gazette. But when his sister finds a secret treasure map, Geronimo finds himself off on the adventure of a lifetime. This series is fast-paced and fun, plus the illustrations and text are done in full-color with plenty of differing fonts and types, making the reading experience just as delightful as the story.