Tag Archives: book series

Summer Series for the Adventuring Child

Summer is here, the kids are out of school, and temperatures are rising. Now I know that during the summer we just want to get those adorable little mess-makers out of the house and into the outdoors to explore nature and discover the world around them, but sometimes it just gets too dang hot. Parts of Arizona are going to be 120 degrees this week – and I’m headed there Wednesday for a family reunion! At the moment, northern California is hotter than southern California! (That never happened when I grew up there.)

So, after you’ve had them run around outside for the cooler hours of the morning here is a list of great series to keep their minds adventuring instead of melting crayons into the carpet. (True story, don’t ask.)

How to Train Your Dragon Series, by Cressida Cowell

The series that inspired the beloved movies, the Train Your Dragon series tells the story of Hiccup and his dragon Toothless and their adventures together. Great for those who love the movies and just can’t get enough of Toothless! Bonus points for having a very well-read audio book by none other than David Tennant!

The Heroes Guide Series, by Christopher Healy

A fun quirky series which doesn’t follow the leading ladies of the more popular fairy tales but the leading men, whom after being discredited by lazy bards are out to prove that they are more than just the “Prince Charming” of their stories. A great read with wonderful illustrations to help you know whom is who.

Enchanted Forest Series, by Patricia C. Wrede

So, we all know that when the dragon steals the princess the brave knight has to go rescue her. But what if the princess didn’t get stolen but instead ran away and is having a much better time hanging out with dragons than being a princess? This quirky series has it all.  Smart Princesses, silly knights, and cunning wizards. Forget rescuing the princess, someone should maybe help that poor knight out instead.

The School  for Good and Evil Series, by Soman Chainani

Not another magical school series! I know its summer break and no kid wants to think about school let alone read about one, but this series is worth it. Following the two lead females who seem to have accidentally been placed in the wrong school (see title) the series leads you to question, what makes one good or evil? And can appearances be deceiving?

The Unicorn Chronicles Series, by Bruce Coville

An oldie but goodie. Following a young protagonist who has been dumped into a magical land by her grandmother, Cara must find out how to make it back to her own world and learn what secrets this land may hold about her missing parents. Unicorns and Adventures! Need I say more?

Hopefully that’s enough to get you started and if your kids are anything like mine you’ll need every one of those books just to survive until July! Don’t forget that your local library is always a great place to check for more series and see if they may be hosting a summer reading contest. Nothing gets kids’ reading like the thought that they might win a gift card or something better!

What are some of your favorite adventure series? Share in the comments!

Happy Reading!

~Kimberley

P.S. And if your child likes contemporary stories with adventure and magical realism, you’re always welcome to check out my 4-book MG series set in the mysterious swamps of Louisiana. Gators and danger abound! The Healing Spell, Circle of Secrets, When the Butterflies Came, and The Time of the Fireflies.

Kimberley Griffiths Little is the award-winning author of ten Middle-Grade and Young Adult novels with Scholastic and Harpercollins. She’s been juggling book launch parties, research trips, drafting new proposals, eating too many cookies and wrangling a household that never sleeps . . . On location book trailers and Teacher’s Guides at Kimberley’s website: www.KimberleyGriffithsLittle.com. Friend her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kimberleygriffithslittle

Why DO we love series?

So, which kind of reader are you?  Are you a lover of series, stand-alone books or something in between? For those who love stand alone stories, I agree: there is something exciting about meeting new characters, exploring new worlds, and coming to know the writing style of an unfamiliar author.

From many years in a preschool-8th grade library, I found lots to love for my students who craved series, too. Just what is it that makes them so appealing?

I recall these conversations overheard from my librarian desk at school:
“Dude, I wish he hadn’t stopped at just one book. I wasted my time because now I don’t know what to read that I’ll like as well.”
“I just love this author. I hope he never stops making books.”
“These books are just right for me.”

Here’s what I learned about middle grade students and their love of series.

Familiarity is safe, and repetition is good!  If I could reach a middle grade student searching for his or her reading home, it would very often be within a series. Once a student finds a book to love, why look any farther? From my many years of supporting reading in schools, I know that series books are very useful for helping young readers build reading stamina and confidence, and that this continues to be true well into middle school. Many pieces of research bear this out – more reading = better readers. Truly, level isn’t as important as volume in increasing a student’s facility with reading, though grbbing a student at a level of writing that fits certainly helps. The most important thing is that a student engaged with the content will work to grow to the level, or read more books because they are comfortable and easy. Both these things are fantastic!

Brand loyalty reigns supreme. Don’t insult a beloved series, or its characters or premise. I love series of books, but young people KNOW them, inside and out. And I’m not just talking about Harry Potter or The Percy Jackson series. A student who reads a series passionately – almost any series you can name – knows its characters and the constructs of the world told within its pages more intimately than I can even fathom. This is so much fun to observe!

Connections make enthusiastic readers. One of my main goals as a school librarian – and one I continue to fulfill now that I’m celebrating middle grade books and reading in other ways – is to find touch points with students in their reading lives. If I can share the experience of a book with a student, we have a connection. This means that I have an open door to that student in terms of recommending more, which maintains a student’s enthusiasm for reading long after they’ve left my library. I still recommend books to my students who started with me as middle graders and are now high school students! For many, those connections began when we shared our love of series. What could be better than that?

Here are a few middle grade series in a  variety of genres and styles I’ve shared over the years, with students ranging from 2nd grade to 5th grade. All synopses from IndieBound unless otherwise noted.

The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall

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“Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, these stories are as breezy and carefree as a clear June day.”
Theodosia Throckmorton, by R L LaFevers

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“Theodosia Throckmorton has her hands full at the Museum of Legends and Antiquities in London. Her father may be head curator, but it is Theo—and only Theo—who is able to see all the black magic and ancient curses that still cling to the artifacts in the museum.”
Capture the Flag, by Kate Messner

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“Anna, José, and Henry have never met, but they have more in common than they realize. Snowed in together at a chaotic Washington, DC, airport, they encounter a mysterious tattooed man, a flamboyant politician, and a rambunctious poodle named for an ancient king. Even stranger, news stations everywhere have just announced that the famous flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been stolen!”
Ranger in Time , also by Kate Messner

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This is a very new historical series  for the early middle grades – the second comes out this month.

“Meet Ranger! He’s a time-traveling golden retriever who has a nose for trouble . . . and always saves the day!” (from Goodreads)
The Jaguar Stones, by Jon and Pamela Voelkel

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These books might feature a couple of teenagers, but the content and writing are all middle grade, with great action and adventure, as well as historical content that is well-researched and presented.

“An epic adventure that brings together ancient history and modern adolescent angst – as it pits a pampered, pizza-eating, 21st century Boston teenager against the Death Lords of the Maya Underworld.”

The Underland Chronicles (Gregor the Overlander), by Suzanne Collins

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“This irresistible first novel tells the story of a quiet boy who embarks on a dangerous quest in order to fulfill his destiny — and find his father — in a strange world beneath New York City.” (from Goodreads)

Guys Read, edited by Jon Scieszka

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I was able to cultivate a reader over almost an entire school year by letting him take a Guys Read to study hall every day and return it each afternoon without committing to checkign it out and worrying about it.  “Its here: Volume One of the official Guys Read Library. Jon Scieszkas Guys Read initiative was founded on a simple premise: that young guys enjoy reading most when they have reading they can enjoy. And out of this comes a series that aims to give them just that.” (from Goodreads)

The Imaginary Veterinary, by Suzanne Selfors

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“When Ben Silverstein is sent to the rundown town of Buttonville to spend the summer with his grandfather, he’s certain it will be the most boring vacation ever. That is, until his grandfather’s cat brings home what looks like . . . a baby dragon? “

The list of great middle grade series is so long that it will surely be the topic of another post.

You can find some other info about series around the blog, like this one on  Series for Fantasy Fanatics, and here is another book list, because so many of us seem to love them.

As for me, I think I’m a little bit in between. I love stand alone stories, but investing in a series is a great way to feed the reader in me who just wants to hang out with familiar friends between the pages of a book.

In fourth grade, Valerie Stein touched an ancient artifact from an archaeological dig. Though she never got to travel the world in search of buried treasure, she ended up journeying to new and exciting places between the pages of books. Now she spends her time researching history, in museums and libraries, which is like archaeology but without the dirt. Valerie’s book, The Best of It: A Journal of Life, Love and Dying, was published in 2009.  Both her current work and an upcoming middle grade series are historical fiction set in Washington State. Valerie is Publisher at Homeostasis Press and blogs at The Best of It

 

Serious About Series

You’re reading a fabulous book, you’ve invested in the characters, in their situations and suddenly, you’re on the very last page and then…it’s over. You want more. It’s like saying goodbye to an old friend.

Book 4: Fat Cat of Underwhere

But it doesn’t always have to end that way. Not if that fabulous book is part of a series.

Middle grade series come in all sorts of varieties.. From intricate plots like Harry Potter to fun and simple reads such as  Diary of a Wimpy Kid. There’s even an  increasing popularity of graphic novels, such as Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell or even hybrids like Bruce Hale’s Underwhere series. You can never be sure when market trends might change.

So, what makes readers love a book so much they want to read the entire series?

“I either need a plot point that keeps me coming back or a character I identify with. Humor’s in there too! “ –Jen K. Blom

“When I’m actually sad the book’s over, that’s how I know right away that I have to have the next book!” –Hilary L. Wagner

“The main character. I love a very strong voice while reading a story, it’s important to stay in tune with the characters main goal and if it’s a good one I’ll follow it all the way.” –Jen Daiker

“It could be the voice, the premise, the protagonist or a combination of all three.” –Amie Borst

“Books set in a different time period or fantasies set in an entirely unique culture that make me want to live in that world!” –Marissa Burt

I’m just beginning the journey as an MG series writer, but I often wonder if other authors started off the same way. I knew once I had the idea for my first book that it just had to be a series. There were too many situations for my main character to overcome in only one book. Yes, she is an accidental troublemaker.

Julep O'Toole: What I Really Want To Do Is Direct

I bribed two fantastic and successful MG series authors to answer some questions I had on my mind. Lucky for me, they settled for chocolate instead of money. 

Did you plan for your first book to become the first of a series?

 Yes, but the credit goes to my editor, Shannon Dean-Smith at Penguin, who encouraged me to write it. She came to me and said she was looking to acquire a series and would I consider writing one? I pitched her Julep O’Toole and we were on our way. –Trudi Trueit author of  Julep O’Toole series and Secrets of a Lab Rat series

Is it challenging for you to carryover certain details, characters and explanations from earlier books without making it seem redundant and boring?

I think there are two tricks. First, keep the explanations short for the reader that already knows everything, but detailed enough for the new reader. Second, avoid info dumps and just pepper in the information.-Barrie Summy, author of I So Don’t Do Mysteries series

What is a good recipe for creating a “hot” MG series?

Relatable characters. I think young readers are looking for characters to spark their souls. But If I had the magic formula, I’d be a mega-selling author!-Trudi

I So Don't Do Makeup by Barrie Summy

How involved do you get with your characters?

When I’m out and about or even when I’m at home with my kids, I’m always wondering what Sherry would make of the situation, how she’d react, what she’d say.-Barrie

For you personally, is it more difficult to write a series or a stand-alone book?

For me, a series is easier than a stand alone, because it takes the pressure off to have to wrap up everything in one neat, tidy bow. It’s incredibly freeing.-Trudi

What advice would you give to writers wanting to write an MG series?

 Choose your characters wisely. You’re going to be spending a lot of time together. –Barrie

 First, remember that a good idea doesn’t always make for a good series. Make sure you have enough material to sustain your work through, at least, five books. Also, every book in your series should be able to stand on its own merits. Finally, and most important, don’t second-guess the marketplace. Write what your heart says must be written. That is, after all, what it’s all about. -Trudi

 Some of our most memorable books from our childhood were book series. For me, it was the Babysitters Club (I so wanted to open my own babysitters club!) and The Boxcar Children (every kid fantasizes about living on their own at some point). You know those are good books when they stay with you into adulthood. I asked readers what some of their favorite childhood series were and this is what they had to say.

Amie Borst: I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure series.  There was something about having control over the outcome of the story that made me want to read the books again and again.

Jen K. Blom: The Black Stallion. I was a horse nut and dreamed that every horse I read about (all, curiously enough, black Arabians!!) was mine.

Hilary Wagner: My mother got me the Little House series, something I wouldn’t have picked for my self as a kid, but I quickly got hooked! 

Marissa Burt: I really liked the Mandie books (mysteries set around the turn of the century), by: Lois Leppard. the ones that stood the test of time – that I loved as a kid and still read every year – are L.M. Montgomery’s books.

Mom, There's A Dinosaur In Beeson's Lake

Trudi Trueit:  Judy Blume – changed me, and changed my life. That is powerful storytelling.

I personally love writing a series because it allows me to explore my characters in many different situations that I wouldn’t normally have a chance to do with a stand-alone book. I get to know my characters on a deeper level and I find new characteristics in them that I didn’t necessarily realize or show within the first book.

It’s the same as meeting someone for the first time. You spend more time with that person getting to know them. Wanting to be around them. Becoming friends. That’s how you become so invested in your characters. After awhile your characters feel very real to you. Talking to them, on the other hand, is an entirely different issue.

Just like the readers, I don’t have to say goodbye once I’m done. I can pick up right where I left off and continue with the next dramatic and social disaster that my characters have created.

Although I do have one advantage over the readers—I don’t have to wait a year to see what happens next!

Rose Cooper loves gossip so much that she wrote and illustrated a book all about it, which includes all the juicy secrets and gossipy goodness you can get your hands on. Her upcoming middle-grade humor series, Gossip from the Girls’ Room, A Blogtastic! Novel, will be published by Delacorte/Random House, January 11, 2011. Be sure to snoop out Rose’s website at www.Rose-Cooper.com.