I love, love, love this series of books beginning with Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. Mercy Watson is a porcine wonder according to her human parents, Mr. and Mrs. Watson, and a nuisance to her grouchy neighbor, Eugenia Lincoln. Quite simply she is a stubborn pig with a love of hot, buttered toast.
This is a great read aloud for kids who are transitioning to listening to chapter books because each book is full of fun and adventure and because it has awesome, colorful pictures. I know you can't judge a book by it's cover, but in my personal opinion colorful illustrations make me want to pick up a book. The pictures in these books really help young listeners connect with what's happening in the story as they transition from picture books to chapter books. Also, it helps that the storylines are simple and move quickly from one event to the next.
They are written on an early second grade reading level so they have great content for younger students (kindergarten-1st graders) who may be reading above grade level. (It's sometimes really tricky to find books for those higher readers, who's content is still appropriate). Even though I love this series for younger readers and listeners, I used to read them to my 2nd graders a few years ago and they equally enjoyed Mercy's adventures. Mercy also has her own web-site www.mercywatson.com, which is partially why this post is so late, with addition and matching games as well as more information on the books and their characters that is more suited towards 1st-3rd graders.
In the first book of the series, Mercy Watson to the Rescue, Mercy sneaks into bed with her parents and causes the bed to crack through the ceiling. As the bed begins to fall, Mercy is woken up and hops off the bed in search of food. Mr. and Mrs. Watson, however, are stuck and think Mercy is running off for help. Mercy finds no food downstairs so she heads over to her neighbors' house hopes that she might find some cookies. That's where the adventure begins. What would you do if you saw a pig looking in your window in the middle of the night? You'll have to read to find out. Trust me, you and your kids won't be disappointed.