Too Many Series?

We write a lot on this website about how the proliferation of book series, especially graphic novel series for emergent readers, is a good thing,

Placing juvenile literature into series has been done for a very long time.  Perhaps going back to when newspapers would print serial stories to appeal to young readers.  Looking back 50 to 60 years, we can see that Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Madeline, The Great Brain, Encyclopedia Brown and many more that you might not have ever heard of made their mark in the lives of children.

There are also book series that we may not even recognize as such because they have become permanent fixtures in literature and our culture.  Consider the following literary works that are, indeed, children’s books series:  Winne the Pooh, Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Rabbit, the Oz Series, Little House on the Prairie and many more.

Trying to generate a list of series that are currently in print is a daunting task.  Even the owner of a book store is often surprised to see a book that is a part of a series I’ve never heard about.  The problem isn’t that there are too many series for young readers today.  The problem is that there are too many high-quality series today.  There just isn’t enough time in one childhood to read all the excellent books available.

One thing that has not changed since Carolyn Keene wrote published the first Nancy Drew book in 1930, is that series tend to fall along gender lines.  We see this today in Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which tends to be geared toward boys and the lovely Bink and Gollie series, which is overtly geared toward girls.  I don’t have a problem with books geared for one gender or another.  Buys and girls are very different by the time they can read on their own.  I recall reading the entire Great Brain series as a 5th grader.  Looking back, I don’ think that the content of those books was meant for a female audience in any way.

What I do have a problem with is publishers and authors who take a story that could be tightly wrapped up in a singe tome and stretch it out over a series.  Recently, we reviewed a book entitled The Pretenders.  It’s a fine book.  But, it could have been a more poignant and interesting story without laboring to a sequel–however many will be printed.

The shangri-la of a series is the movie deal, especially the multi-movie deal.  J.K. Rowling set a standard for developing a runaway bestseller series that has translated into more merchandizing than had ever been generated around a book series.  I would argue that her motivation in creating Harry and his story was true art.  She struggled mightily for her books to see the light of day and we all benefit from her monumental contribution to the world of juvenile literature.

However, her experience and Harry Potter are a once-in–a-generation event.

We don’t pretend that publishers and marketers always place literary quality above potential profitability.  In fact, we expect them do do just that.  However, it would be nice if we had more stand-alone books with really good plots, themes and editing rather than a deluge of paper and simply more books than needed.  In looking at the stack of novels we have here in the office, I am amazed that of five the last seven books we’ve reviewed are a part of a series.

It would not hurt to dial back the drive to place new stories into a series.  Nevertheless, there are many excellent series to consider.  Below is a list of high-quality series that we recommend highly.  Listed from oldest to newest.  Through the list, You can see the wonderful history of how series have influenced juvenile literature and shaped our culture.


Series Name
Author or Creator Year First Book Published
Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll 1865
The Oz Series L. Frank Baum 1900
Peter Rabbit Beatrix Potter 1902
The Bobbsey Twins Laura Lee Hope 1904
Anne of Green Gables Lucy Maud Montgomery 1908
Doctor Dolittle Hugh Lofting 1920
Winnie the Pooh A.A. Milne 1924
The Boxcar Children Gertrude Chandler Warner 1924
The Hardy Boys Franklin W. Dixon 1927
Tom Swift Victor Appleton 1930
Swallows and Amazons Arthur Ransome 1930
Nancy Drew Carolyn Keene 1930
Biggles W. E. Johns 1932
Little House on the Prairie Laura Ingalls Wilder 1933
Madeline Ludwig Bemelmans 1939
The Sugar Creek Gang Paul Hutchens 1940
The Black Stallion Walter Farley 1941
Curious George H.A. Rey and Margaret Rey 1941
Busytown Richard Scarry 1949
The Chronicles of Narnia C.S. Lewis 1950
Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby Beverly Cleary 1950
The Borrowers Mary Norton 1952
Encyclopedia Brown Donald J. Sobol 1963
Clifford the Big Red Dog Norman Bridwell 1963
The Great Brain John D. Fitzgerald 1967
Arthur Marc Brown 1976
The Indian in the Cupboard Lynne Reid Banks 1980
The Magic School Bus Joanna Cole 1986
The Baby-sitters Club Ann M. Martin 1986
The Magic Tree House Mary Pope Osborne 1992
Junie B. Jones Barbara Park 1992
Goosebumps R. L. Stine 1992
Harry Potter J.K. Rowling 1997
Captain Underpants Dav Pilkey 1997
A Series of Unfortunate Events Lemony Snicket 1999
How to Train Your Dragon Cressida Cowell 2003
Peter and the Starcatchers Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson 2004
Percy Jackson & the Olympians Rick Riordan 2005
Diary of a Wimpy Kid Jeff Kinney 2007
The 39 Clues Rick Riordan 2008
The Land of Stories Chris Colfer 2012