The Fabled Stables: Exploring Early Chapter Books

Children’s stories come in a wide-range of categories, for kids of all different ages and reading abilities. Picture books, easy readers, chapter books, middle grade novels–there’s a lot of variety for children’s authors to explore. Most recently, I’ve been diving into the highly under-appreciated category of early chapter books.

What are early chapter books? These are stories which help kids transition from picture books to longer works. Usually geared toward ages 4-8, early chapter books give young readers the opportunity to adjust to a chapter-based format while still enjoying pages full of illustrations throughout the tale. The overall word count tends to be low, often under 2,500 words, with text that’s accessible for young readers. But the shorter, simpler story still divides itself into distinct scenes, making it similar to a novel rather than merely being an elongated picture book.

While early chapter books aren’t as popular as other chapter books, these transitional texts can be a fantastic stepping stone, especially for reluctant readers. They’re colorful and fun, with just enough challenge to encourage growth. Most of the series of early chapter books we have at my library come from Scholastic’s Branches line of books. They have a bunch of cute stories to read through, if you’re interested in checking out this category of children’s writing. However, my favorite early chapter book I’ve found so far comes from Amulet Books. It’s called The Fabled Stables by Jonathan Auxier.

Summary of The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp

On an island at the top of the world, a magic stable houses unique creatures great and small. Each one is one-of-a-kind, including Auggie, the boy in charge of caring for the animals. He lives on the island with Miss Bundt and Professor Cake, but even so, he’s lonely without a friend.

One day, a new stall appears in the stables with great commotion. Auggie runs inside and discovers that the stall opens into a strange, far off land. He can hear wolves howling and knows that somewhere in that swamp, a one-of-a-kind creature is in need of help. His help. Can he gather his courage and rescue the wisp before it’s too late?

About the Book

This gorgeous fantasy story celebrates uniqueness and friendship, bringing together a host of fun characters in an irresistibly magical setting. Auggie’s kind heart is paired with the slightly salty commentary of his companion Fen, the Stick-in-the-Mud. As he hurries to aid Willa the wisp, Auggie has to outsmart the hunters chasing her. He uses his creative thinking to find solutions when there seems to be no hope and saves the day in the end. He even makes a friend (or two) in the process.

As unique as the story is, my favorite aspect of this book are the illustrations. Each page features expressive images in rich hues. Sunset orange, eggplant purples, and midnight blues bring to life the scenery of both the magic island and the mysterious swamp where Willa lives. The cartoonish, painted style grabs the attention and offers plenty of fuel for the imagination. The vibrancy of the colors and the motion captured in each picture adds to the overall suspense, wonder, and satisfaction of this lovely book.

The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp is the perfect first installment in a series I look forward to following.

What is your favorite early chapter book or regular chapter book series?

Karley Conklin

Karley Conklin is a librarian by day, a writer by night, and a bookworm 24/7. On her blog, she discusses literature of all sorts, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both.

3 thoughts on “The Fabled Stables: Exploring Early Chapter Books

  1. Thank you, Karley, for this good explanation of early chapter books. And The Fabled Stables sounds like a terrific example. I love ho you described the colors in the illustrations–sunset orange, eggplant purple, and midnight blue and the great character names! that makes me even more eager to read this book.

  2. I agree with Kathy. Your description of the illustrations really caught my attention! I think one of my favorite series of early chapter books are the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. Also, I’ve written a bunch of early chapter books and chapter books. PLUS I wrote a book on how to write them! You’ll find it here at

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