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Growing Reader

14 Kid-Approved Books for Advanced First and Second Grade Readers

by Kari Ness Riedel

Finding books for young readers who are capable of reading beyond their grade level can often be a challenge — especially for first and second graders whose reading level assessments show they can read at an upper elementary or middle school level. (Clearly, Ready Player One or War and Peace are not the right choices for them!)

Here’s a list of kid-approved books from readers that are wholesome enough for a 6- or 7-year-old but will also keep them engaged and challenged. A challenging book doesn’t necessarily have to be their exact Lexile or Guided Reading level, but it should offer depth and complexity of characters and themes or historical and geographical references that make it a thought-provoking and interesting book for advanced readers.

I included some classic favorites that parents likely know as well as recent titles. It’s always fun to read aloud to or with your child to help them go deeper in their analysis and understanding of a book — even if they’re able to read it on their own.

If you need more ideas, check out my recommendations for advanced third grade readers, advanced fourth and fifth grade readers, or advanced fifth and sixth grade readers.

  • Fantasy & Science Fiction

  • Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor

    by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Brian Biggs

    Frank is a kid genius and inventor who loves to use spare parts to create new contraptions like his house robots, Klink and Klank. Conflict and adventure develop when his nemesis, T. Edison, steals his robot plans. Aidan shares, “I strongly recommend this book, especially to people who like science or inventing, because this book has a lot of cool science facts and wacky inventions.”

  • My Father’s Dragon

    by Ruth Stiles Gannett

    Also available from:

    A clever young boy named Elmer runs away to a faraway island to rescue a dragon he learned of from his father. This is a collection of three fantastical stories with great illustrations that enhance the story. As Julia says, these tales offer “an amazing adventure with a magical twist.”

    Also available from:
  • Tumble & Blue

    by Cassie Beasley

    Also available from:

    Blue Montgomery has grown up knowing he is part of a cursed family. His curse is that he loses at everything he does. With the help of a new friend, Tumble Wilson, who desperately wants to be a hero, he goes on a quest to undo his curse. Children love this story that is full of magic and adventure as well as hope and struggle. For younger readers that like to think deeply, it can open up big conversations about fate and luck and taking control of our own thoughts and actions.

    Also available from:
  • Mystery & Adventure

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

    by Roald Dahl

    Also available from:

    Almost anything by Roald Dahl is a good fit, but if your reader hasn’t experienced this classic story about Willy Wonka and his incredible chocolate factory, read this! The characters are fantastic, the writing is clever, and the adventures are endless. “It is a mouthwatering experience reading this book!” exclaims Ashley, 10.

    Also available from:
  • The Happy Hollisters

    by Jerry West

    This wholesome series is the perfect blend of mystery and adventure and stars the four Hollister siblings who range in age from 4 to 12. These classics celebrate the simplicity of life from the pre-cell phone era and offer sweet and fun stories for all ages. Charlie, 9, extols, “The whole Series is, well ... AMAZING! If you like cliffhangers, adventure, history, mystery, and geography, this book is for you!”

  • The Magic Misfits

    by Neil Patrick Harris, illustrated by Lissy Marlin and Kyle Hinton

    Magic and friendship are the heart of this story about a young orphan, Carter, who runs away to a small town and discovers friends who share his love of good, clean magic. A greedy carnival owner sparks a conflict that forces the friends to use their skills and teamwork to save the day. Kids love to experiment with the card and magic tricks explained in the book. Emme, 9, raves, “This book was hilarious and fun to read. I give it five out of five stars.”

  • Samantha Spinner and the Super Secret Plans

    by Russell Ginns, illustrated by Barbara Fisinger

    Also available from:

    After her Uncle Paul goes missing, Samantha finds herself on a top-secret and highly dangerous mission to find him. This book is full of mysterious notes, puzzles to solve, and just the right amount of sibling rivalry. Beck, 10, recommends this “to readers like me who like funny mysteries with lots of twists and turns.”

    Also available from:
  • Realistic Fiction & Humor

  • A Boy Called Bat

    by Elana K. Arnold, illustrated by Charles Santoso

    Bixby Alexander Tam (a.k.a. Bat), a young boy on the autism spectrum, is very excited when his veterinarian mom brings home a baby skunk for him to take care of temporarily. Bat’s desire to show his mom he can keep the skunk is the backdrop of the story in which we witness his daily experiences of getting along with friends, teachers, and family members. Kiara, 8, says, “This book has both heart and humor and you should it if you love stories about things that happen to real kids.”

  • The Kid Who Only Hit Homers

    by Matt Christopher

    In the first book of this classic sports series, Sylvester loves baseball but is not very good at hitting. It’s a feel-good story with a mystery as the plot that is ideal for baseball fans. Stella, 8, explains that this book “will encourage you to do what you want to do and to make your dreams come true.” (If your reader likes a different sport, check out other books in Matt Christopher’s series. There’s very likely a book that covers it!)

  • Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

    by Betty MacDonald, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

    The beloved nanny Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle always has a wacky trick up her sleeve to help children with the issues they are facing from Never-Want-to-Go-To-Bedders to Answer-Backers. Kids find this book to be entertaining and may even recognize one of their own behaviors that needs fixing. Caleb, 10, highly recommends it: “I like this book because it is funny and by the time you have finished, you will want to read it again.”

  • Pippi Longstocking

    by Astrid Lindgren

    Also available from:

    Another classic plucky heroine loved by young readers, Pippi is fearless, innovative, and amazingly strong. Her bravery and loyalty save the day over and over again for her and her animal buddies as they travel the seas with her sailor father. Dillon, 8, gives this book high praise: “It is SO funny. I have read it so many times. It’s that good!”

    Also available from:
  • The Year of the Book

    by Andrea Cheng, illustrated by Abigail Halpin

    Most young readers can relate to the challenges that Anna Wang has in this book of having and being a friend. Books provide Anna comfort and adventures, but she learns important lessons of the power and value of friendship. Olivia, 9, adds, “This is a good book because there’s lot of excitement and fun!”