Wow, I'm so glad that we jumped into chapter books. I'd tried Junie B. Jones with Madeline a full year ago and she was completely uninterested. Then, a few months later, the Ivy & Bean series was a big hit with her; although not very compelling reading for me, nor attention-grabbing for her brother. There had to be something out there that would suit us all...
There is, namely; Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson, and the classic Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The perfect combination of adventure and history for all of us. Barry and Ridley's Peter took us on a wild ride from London to Mollusk Island, aboard ship and swimming with mermaids. By the end, you see beautifully how Peter Pan came about. The kids hang on every word, recall the story beautifully, ask great questions and are learning some fabulous vocabulary. And, really, what little kid wouldn't think Mrs. Bumbrake's name funny? We've blown through book one and two (Peter and the Shadow Thieves) in the series, and even our 4-year old can't get enough.
As for the Little House books, we adore them. The kids play "Little House" now, with Erik pretending to be Pa and "shoot bears and get meat," and Madeline talks about getting "ducked" in the creek and making butter. The stories infuse their play and they've learned all about wild things like log cabins, covered wagons, and our country's unjust treatment of Native Americans. They also marvel at the simple way of life (and few treats and presents), and the joy and gratitude of the Ingalls girls.
So, on we go to book three of Peter Pan's tales of adventure (Peter and the Secret of Rundoon), at the same time that we are meandering through On The Banks of Plum Creek. Yes, the kids keep the stories straight, even while listening to both books and, yes, sometimes I read ahead after they're asleep because I enjoy the books that much. We love them so much that I also get the books on CD so that we can listen in the car while driving. Three cheers for beautiful literature (and audio books too)!