Thursday, March 6, 2008

Building the Well-Read Child's Library With Series Books

Today, I'm putting a different spin on the third installment of "Building The Well-Read Child's Library." Instead of giving you recommendations for a number of books, I'm going to talk about series books and the role a particular series played in my childhood and ask YOU for your recommendations.

Many of you may have grown up with Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins, Anne of Green Gables, or even Beverley Cleary's Ramona Quimby. I myself grew up with Trixie Belden, and Candace Ransom's article about Trixie Belden in February's edition of The Edge of the Forest, a monthly online children's literature journal, has inspired me to write about my own childhood experience with this series.

When I was a young girl, I think around 7 or 8, a family friend, Leanne, who knew I loved to read, gave me a box of books she had read when she was a young girl. In the box were a number of books in the Trixie Belden series. Little did she know that a couple of decades later, I would still remember this and remember how such a small gesture impacted my life.

Trixie Belden is a freckled-faced tomboy who lives with her parents and three brothers on Crabapple Farm in New York. In the first book, The Secret of the Mansion, she meets her rich new neighbor, Honey, who soon becomes her best friend. Before you know it, they've embarked upon their first mystery when they notice something strange going on at the old, abandoned Frayne mansion. Who is the boy sleeping in the house? Who is he running from? What will happen to him?

After reading this first book, I was HOOKED on the series and immediately fished the second book out of my box. The boy in the first book was Jim Frayne who becomes a central character in subsequent books in the series. Wherever Trixie and Honey go, a mystery awaits them, and they soon form a gang, The Bob-Whites, with their close circle of friends, who solve all kinds of mysteries in the 39-book series.

Why did I love Trixie and her friends so much? I loved the adventures, the stories, the down-to-earth characters. I longed to have Di's violet eyes and admired Trixie's intelligence and integrity. Honey had what I didn't have and what her friends didn't have, yet she was generous and kind. I had a crush on Trixie's smart and handsome older brother, Brian. In short, I felt I KNEW these characters. I was drawn into their world, and I looked forward to reading the next book to see what they were up to next and to see how they progressed. I was so excited to learn through Candace Ransom's article that Random House has re-released the first 13 of the 39 books in the series. Now a new generation of children can get to know Trixie and her friends.

Good series books draw readers into the lives of the characters. We care about them. We get to know them. We want to know what happens next. We can't wait until the next book comes out. One book is not enough. We. must. have. more. Take the Harry Potter phenomenon. Kids and adults (I was one of them) stayed up until midnight so they could get their hands on the newest book in the series as soon as it came out. We were entranced by J.K. Rowling's words and stories. We wanted to know what would happen to Harry and Voldemort. Who would live? Who would die? Would Ron and Hermione fall in love? Would Harry ever find happiness? Would Hogwarts be destroyed?

That's the magic of series books and why I love them and think every kid should get the opportunity to get hooked on a series.

So now I'm appealing to you...I want to build a list of the best series out there. What did you enjoy as a child? Why? What does your own child love?


  1. I think I have to read the Trixie Belden books now! I had the paper dolls when I was little, but wasn't much of a mystery-series reader. The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace were my favorites, but I also liked the All-of-a-Kind Family series, Anne of Green Gables, and What Katy Did. I'm sure there's more! but those stand out.

  2. My daughter loves these:

    Ivy & Bean
    Judy Moody
    Just Grace (& sequel!)
    Judy Blume's Fudge books
    Junie B. Jones
    Polk Street School books

    When my son was younger:
    Magic Tree House
    Dragonslayers Academy
    Secrets of Droon

    Now that he's older:
    Percy Jackson & the Olympians
    The Alex Rider series
    Maximum Ride (James Paterson)
    Eragon trilogy

    As a teacher and parent, I really believe in the value of series books, even though they're criticized sometimes. Series provide emerging readers (and older readers, too) with a comfortable place to begin reading. There's no awkward "getting to know you" stage on page 1. A great series lets you spend time with old friends, something we'd all like to do more often.

  3. Anamarie,
    I completely forgot about Betsy-Tacy. I've never heard of the All-of-a-Kind Family more to add to my growing pile of books to read. Thanks for your input!

  4. Kate,
    Wow...looks like you've raised two wonderful readers. Congratulations! I feel the same about the value of series books. Most of them may not be what we call great literature, but they engage kids and make them excited to read, which is really what turns them into lifelong readers. Thanks for sharing your suggestions!

  5. When I was little I read every Beverly Cleary book as well as all the Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon books by L.M. Montgomery.

    My little 6 yr old has really loved the Wizard of Oz books. We made it through about 8 of them before I burnt out of reading them and asked if we could read something else. At the moment we are reading the shoe books by Noel Steatfeild. And of course we have read the Chronicles of Narnia.

  6. Sea Star,
    Thanks for stopping by! I was definitely a Beverly Cleary fan and Anne of Green Gables fan, too. My grandmother bought me the boxed set of Anne of Green Gables, and I read them over and over again.

    I haven't read all of the Wizard of Oz Books or Noel Steatfield's books, but the Chronicles of Narnia were one of my favorites. If only I could read 24/7.

  7. I think the best series to come around in the last 10 years or more (sorry J.K) is Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Kids enjoy the sarcastic, wry, dark tone and the underlying message that kids don't need adults to survive. I just think they're terrific, although I know some people absolutely loathe--a word which here means "hate"--them.

    As a child, I remember trying to be the first in line to go to the school library because of "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. We loved this series because the reader got to pick which turns they wanted the story to take (i.e. If you answer the phone, turn to page 53. If not, turn to page 30.). After disappearing, they're making a comeback and have been reprinted and are sold in bookstores everywhere. I think they would definitely stand the test of time and would be terrific for readers in grades 2-6, especially reluctant readers.

    What a great topic. There's a bunch more I'm forgetting, but I have to give credit to these two faves!

  8. The Little House series.
    The Ramona series by Beverly Cleary. The Chronicles of Narnia by Lewis.
    The Anne series by L.M. Montgomery
    The Emily series by L.M. Montgomery
    The Babysitter's Club by Ann Martin
    The Gymnasts series by ??? (If only I could go back in time and stop myself from giving them away.)
    The Sunfire Romance "name" series

    The above were all from childhood pre-teen years.

    Of the current series, I love love love the Percy Jackson series. The Bartimaeus (sp??) trilogy is also fab. The Fablehaven series is great too. And I love the Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley. Love them.

  9. B.C.- Lemony Snicket's is another one I haven't read...boy am I missing out ! I loved the "Choose Your Own Adventure Books" too, and I recently saw a few on immigration from Capstone Press. The were called "An Interactive History Adventure," but the it was the same concept as "choose your own adventure." I'm glad they're making a comeback because I think they're good choices for "reluctant readers." Thanks for commenting!

  10. Becky,
    Oooh...some great ones there, and your mention of the Babysitter's Club triggered Sweet Valley High in my memory--definitely not "great literature," but fun reading. I've been meaning to check out the Sisters Grimm for a while. Thanks for the recommendations!

  11. Oh, I ADORED Trixie Belden! I had every one of her books at one time- they were just wonderful. I actually remember the plots to several of them because I re-read them so many times. One series I haven't seem mentioned yet is The Boxcar Children. I got hooked on those in elementary school when my teacher read the first book.

  12. Jenny,
    Yay--another Trixie fan! I haven't read The Boxcar Children many books, so little time. Thanks for writing in!

  13. I liked the Great Brain books, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Anne of Green Gables series.
    My students liike the Minnie and Moo, Berenstain Bears, Junie B. Jones, and Magic Tree House books.