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.
||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|
|The Sugar Creek Gang||Paul Hutchens||1940|
|The Black Stallion||Walter Farley||1941|
|Curious George||H.A. Rey and Margaret Rey||1941|
|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|
|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|