Meet Lulu and Freddie: 2 Terrific Chapter Book Characters (+ a Giveaway)

Ready to move on from Frog and Toad? Henry and Mudge getting too easy for your newly independent reader? Rest assured:  Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, Captain Underpants, and their ilk are not the only new kids on the block. Back in my day, readers would have graduated from Frog and Toad to a book about kids like Ramona Quimby or Henry Huggins (who still exist and still charm young readers, by the way). These days, nearly every book list featuring early chapter books contains mention of Junie B. Jones and her sassy companions.

I’m of the opinion that our book friends should resemble our real friends. They don’t always look and act like us–and that’s okay. But just as we pick close friends who share similar basic values, we look for close book friends along the same lines. To that end, we seek out childlike books instead of childish books. Childlike books feature children acting like children but maturing from one stage to the next: they make mistakes, grow up a bit, struggle with relationships and moral quandaries, and are a lot like regular kids. Childish books also feature children acting like children but, instead of showing them maturing, celebrate the juvenile: sassy behavior, sarcasm, back talking to parents, temper tantrums, and the like. The early chapter books below are great examples of childlike books–check them out.

Side Note: The two series below are both published by Albert Whitman & Co. I was a bit of an annoyance to the helpful folks at the Albert Whitman booth at ALA Midwinter in January. I had to see the newest books in each of these series for myself! And as I waxed eloquent over the virtues of these great little series, one gentleman managed to hook me up with some books to giveaway here at Redeemed Reader. I met Jacqueline Jules (author of the first series featured), and the Freddie books we’re giving away are autographed! See the green text at the bottom of the post for more details.

freddie ramosZapato Power! (a series about Freddie Ramos) by Jacqueline Jules and illustrated by Miguel Benitez. Albert Whitman. Age/interest level: 4-8.

A sweet series about a young boy and his mother who struggle to make ends meet (his father died while on deployment), the Zapato Power books center around Freddie’s super amazing running speed when he’s wearing his special zapatos. Freddie solves small mysteries and problems using his zapato power and running faster even than the local train. How many children dream of having a super power? (I know mine do!) Occasional Spanish words are sprinkled throughout quite naturally, but the illustrations are fairly generic in terms of ethnicity. This series is a welcome addition to the world of transitional chapter books (often white and/or female). I have not read all of them, but the ones I’ve read have been well written and are well suited to young precocious readers (particularly if you have a 4-6 year-old who is moving into this stage of reading and isn’t mature enough for more complex plots and themes).

  1. Freddie Ramos Takes Off (2010) **a giveaway title**
  2. Freddie Ramos Springs Into Action (2010) **giveaway title**
  3. Freddie Ramos Zooms to the Rescue (2011)
  4. Freddie Ramos Makes a Splash (2012)
  5. Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow (2014)


luluLulu Series by Hilary McKay. Albert Whitman. Age/interest level: 6-9.

Lulu* is one of my all-time favorite chapter book characters. She’s the kind of girl I’d love for my own daughter to have as a friend and is definitely a favorite book friend of ours. Lulu is resourceful, childlike, concerned about animals, and struggles with obeying her parents. She is close with her parents and also with her cousin Mellie. The books each feature an animal-related adventure in which Lulu is trying to save an animal with her cousin Mellie’s help. Humor, early elementary level adventure, and consequences for Lulu’s actions (both her responsible actions and irresponsible) make these books a perfect fit for young readers transitioning from the easy reader stage to longer chapter books. Illustrations are delightful but only every few pages. In general, the Lulu books are a bit more complex than the Freddie books. Both boys and girls will enjoy these, but young girls who have a bleeding heart for animal rescue will especially enjoy them. The books were originally published in England and are steadily making their way across the pond (aside from the first book and the last in the list below, the order below may be slightly off). I highly recommend these! *This Lulu is a very different character than the Lulu in the Viorst books–i.e. Lulu Walks the Dogs.

  1. Lulu and the Duck in the Park (2011)
  2. Lulu and the Dog from the Sea (2011)
  3. Lulu and the Hedgehog in the Rain (2012)
  4. Lulu and the Cat in the Bag (2013)
  5. Lulu and the Hamster in the Night (2013)
  6. Lulu and the Rabbit Next Door (2014)
Other newcomers to the transitional chapter book scene include Jasper John Dooley, Anna Hibiscus, and the No. 1 Car Spotter. Search for their names in your local library and take home some more treasures. These are just the kinds of books to “strew” about for young readers to discover. See also our tips on nurturing a young reader’s taste, Janie’s review of The Year of Billy Miller (2014 Newbery Honor early chapter book), and some funny detective books for young readers.

For a chance to win the Freddie Ramos books, leave a comment below telling us your favorite chapter book series or character! Giveaway closes Saturday night at midnight ESTGiveaway now closed. Thanks to those who entered!

Cover images from goodreads; thanks to Albert Whitman & Co. for giveaways!

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Betsy Farquhar

Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Southeast.

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  1. Joey E on March 5, 2014 at 7:40 am

    Gotta go with “Magic Treehouse” series

  2. Jenny on March 5, 2014 at 8:08 am

    We love Henry and Mudge, Pony Pals, and get into Boxcar Children as quickly as we can!

  3. Beth on March 5, 2014 at 9:11 am

    Our grandkids are really loving the Warrior series right now, but I have to say the most enjoyable have been the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

  4. Ruth on March 5, 2014 at 10:12 am

    My oldest is 5 so we’re just getting into the Chapter books for Read Alouds, but I’m going to second Jenny on the Boxcar Children.

  5. Sara on March 5, 2014 at 10:20 am

    My kids loved Beverly Cleary’s Henry & Mudge, and Ramona series. Another great series starts with Little Britches by Ralph Moody. Two more great reads that I never heard of until we started following the Ambleside Online list are Penrod, and Penrod and Sam by Booth Tarkington. While this doesn’t help Amazon’s bottom line, we downloaded them on Kindle (free) and read them aloud after dinner. My daughter would always plead for another humorous chapter!

  6. Marijo Taverne on March 5, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    I like the books by Crosby Bonsall.

  7. Betsy on March 5, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    FYI, here’s a helpful explanation of the difference between chapter books and middle grade books–for all you chapter book fans out there 🙂

  8. DL on March 5, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Ever since the Summer Reading Program, my kids have enjoyed the Percy Jackson series. They also enjoy the Avatar Last Airbender series of comic books which are the sequel books to the original programming on Nickelodeon. When they were younger, they also enjoyed the Magic Treehouse series.

  9. Carrie on March 8, 2014 at 7:15 am

    My boys love Homer Price, Little Pear and Jim Forest.

  10. Shannon on March 8, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Time Warp Trio 🙂 the “I survived” series. And Geronimo Stilton

  11. Mandi on March 9, 2014 at 8:26 am

    My boys liked Henry & Mudge, Mr. Putter & Tabby, and Magic Treehouse but probably their favorite is Geronimo Stilton.

  12. Vicki Halford on March 18, 2014 at 5:51 am

    I love Mr. Putter & Tabby! They are written well & have delightful humor for children & adults as well as a lesson!!

    • emily on March 20, 2014 at 5:44 am

      I agree, Vicki. There aren’t many books for young kids with older people as protagonists, so I especially value Mr. Putter because it teaches kids to think of the elderly as real, interesting, full-bodied characters.

  13. Tonya Roth on May 7, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    My sons enjoyed the Billy and Blaze series by C. W. Anderson.

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