Top 5 Chapter Books of 2014

top 5 chapter kids best 2014 book long enough

So I rounded up my girls (at ages almost 10 and 12 not an easy feat) and asked them to choose their favorite books from the past year. They read like gonzos (at least 30 chapter books a year) and they're pretty picky. It was interesting to watch them go through the list I keep of everything they've read. I expected it might take time to choose the best of the best, but to my surprise it only took a few minutes. That means the books the girls chose really impressed them. And I have to say that as a librarian, I love their choices. Sometimes we adult bibliophiles choose award-winning children's books based on how they appeal to grown-ups and forget that kids need to like them, too. In this instance, though, I'm happy to note that the books the girls loved are also critically acclaimed, which means the librarians and critics are at least on the right track. We shall see what happens when the major awards happen in January, but for now here are five you should make sure your tween (ages 9-12) doesn't miss!

El Deafo by Cece Bell

My girls are really into books that feature other-abled protagonists. They loved Wonder, Out of My Mind, and Petey (my personal favorite) to name a few. (You can see an entire list of this genre, here.) El Deafo, written by the award-winning Cece Bell, is an autobiographical novel in cartoon format. Yes, you read that right. When many adults think of cartoons (better known in long format as graphic novels), they remember Marmaduke and Ziggy. El Deafo is here to prove that the cartoon format can be so much more. Bell chronicles her childhood hearing loss and experience wearing the "Phonic Ear," a device that helps her hear, but also increases her sense of social isolation. Every kid can relate to wanting to fit in. This book will help upper elementary and middle school students not only develop increased sensitivity to "otherness," but know that they are not alone. I'm hoping El Deafo is the first graphic novel to win a Newbery Honor this year. 

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

My eldest daughter loved Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, Auxier's 2011 chapter book debut, so we snatched The Night Gardener from the library shelves as soon as it was published. She's really into fantasy combined with a tinge of not-too-scary horror, and good old-fashioned storytelling, as well. Auxier sweetens these genres with a spooky house that is not what it seems, a curse, and an apparition. If your child enjoys the slightly gothic tone of Lemony Snicket, the fantastical adventure of Harry Potter, or maybe a good ghost story a la Washington Irving, s/he needs to read The Night Gardener.  

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

This is the perfect novel to share with any kid who's ever felt alone, and who hasn't? Albie is a fifth grader who has never been the best at anything. His mom wants him to stop reading that babyish Captain Underpants and get into Johnny Tremain. (I can really feel Albie's pain on this one, because I hated Johnny Tremain when I had to read it in fourth grade. I thought it was the most boring book I'd ever had the misfortune to open.) Then a quirky new babysitter comes into lonely Albie's life and through a series of events and interactions helps him see just how much he has to be proud of. This profound chapter book is written in short chapters that will appeal to kids who like poetic writing, as well as kids who don't really like to read at all. Its very accessible and very deep all at the same time, and that, dear readers, makes it genius. Just a beautiful book deserving of a wide audience. 

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

If you're not already familiar with Jacqueline Woodson's impressive body of children's literature, know that she's just taken her award-winning creativity to yet another level. Brown Girl Dreaming is Woodson's autobiography written in verse. It chronicles her years growing up African-American in the 1960s, teetering right on the edge of a world defined on either end by Jim Crow and Martin Luther King, Jr. Readers learn how writing helped young Jackie find her lyrical voice. This is a beautifully rendered book that I expect to garner even more accolades than the National Book Award Woodson just took home. My daughters were so enthralled with it that they each read it in two sittings. 

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

My nearly-ten year old has read this book no less than two dozen times since it came to live at our house last August. As the middle child and younger sister, I know she very much relates to this tale of two sisters who don't always (ever) get along. But that's not all this latest graphic novel installment from the über-popular Raina Telgemeier has to offer. Inside is a touching tale (couched in a lively pace and upbeat artwork) of how families interact and the impact of one generation upon another. Telgemeier's gift of interspersing such depth in an entertaining presentation makes her work a marvel. 

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Best of 2014: Chapter Books the Girls Tore Through

2014 chapter books a book long enough

I've been keeping a Pinterest board of all the chapter books the girls read this past year that were published either in hardcover or paperback in 2014. This is list of the books that one or the other of my 9 and 11 year old tweens said they really enjoyed. They read like gonzos, which is nice for me. And they're pretty good about letting me know what they enjoy and what they think is meh. 

Everything below is appropriate for kids ages eight-ish to 12, unless I've noted otherwise. I've divided the books up by genre so that you can match them to your young reader's interest. If you see an asterisk by the title, that means there are books in the series that come before the one I've listed, which kids will probably want to read before tackling these.

And later this year (which is quickly coming to a close!), I'll feature my top ten picks for new chapter books published in 2014!


The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

*The Books of Elsewhere: Still Life by Jacqueline West

*Janitors: Strike of the Sweepers by Tyler Whitesiders

*The School for Good and Evil: A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani

Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

*Ever After High: A Wonderlandiful World by Shannon Hale

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague

*The Bravest Princess by E. D. Baker

*Once Upon the End by James Riley

Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins

*The Shadow Throne by Jennifer Nielsen (ages 10 and up)


*The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage

*Poached by Stuart Gibbs

Realistic Fiction

Nest by Esther Ehrlich (ages 10 and up)

Rain Reign by Ann Martin

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan (ages 11 and up)

Another Day as Emily by Eileen Spinelli

Ava and Pip by Carol Weston

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm

Multicultural Fiction

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney (ages 11 and up)

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye

Historical Fiction

*The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis (ages 10 and up)

The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by Jessica Lawson

West of the Moon by Margi Preus

Graphic Novels

The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Kate the Great, Except When She's Not by Suzy Becker

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

*Diary of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney

You can take a look at all the beautiful covers here, (no Pinterest account required):

Link disclosure: A Book Long Enough is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to That means if you purchase a book through an Amazon link that appears on my site, I receive a commission.