What We’re Reading: Favorite Book Series

This week, Emily of The Pilot’s Wife shares her favorite book series with us:

As a  lover of reading, I have to tell you: I love a good series. There are times when I fall so in love with the characters in a particular book that I just hate to let them go after just one book.  For me, a few hundred pages is often not enough, and when I reach the end of the very last book, I go into mourning!  Of course, as a parent and a teacher, that’s exactly how I want children to feel about reading.

I have found that a really good series is a fantastic way to get a reluctant reader interested.  In order for children to improve their reading, they need to be actively engaged in their books.  Reading books that are too hard, too easy, or uninteresting will provide little in the way of improvement.

Luckily, there are some amazing series out there for children, and I want to share a few of my all time favorites with you today.  Some are from my own reading as a child, and others I discovered as an adult.

Little House on the Prairie books–  I know most of you will be familiar with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, but I just had to include them.  I can’t tell you how many times I read these as a child. My copies are completely worn out and thoroughly loved.

The Magic Tree House seriesMary Pope Osborne does a lovely job creating easy chapter books that are still engaging.  Children as early as first grade can enjoy the thrill of “the chapter book” in a format they can read with accuracy.

Cam Jansen Mysteries (David A. Adler) – Cam Jansen is a girl with a photographic memory who always has a new mystery to solve.  These stories are short and sweet.  Great for building comprehension on about a 2nd to 3rd grade level.

Junie B. Jones (Barbara Park) – Junie B. Jones is quite the little imp! Girls and boys alike find her misadventures in kindergarten and first grade completely engaging.

The Babysitter’s Club (Ann M. Martin) – If you were a young girl in the ’80s and ’90s I’m sure you’ve already heard of The Babysitter’s Club! Great stories for girls in the 4th – 6th grade reading level.  There are also The Babysitter’s Little Sister stories for younger girls.  Also, the nice thing about these books is that there are a TON of them, so if your girls love them, they’ll have lots of reading material.

Ramona Quimby (Beverly Cleary) – Ramona is another classic.  Although the heroine is a girl, both boys and girls will love Ramona’s antics.  These are not to be missed!

Although I appreciate good literature, some of the books listed above don’t necessarily fall into that category.  Sometimes it’s important for me to lay aside my ideals about high quality literature in order to get children interested in reading. Do I consider books about underwear-donning-superheros or cartoon characters quality literature?  Not really, but if children never find reading fun, they’ll never move on to the really good stuff.

Mine is such a short list, I know many of you will have your favorite series to add that I missed!

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  1. I am neither a teacher nor a parent, so I’m pretty unqualified, here. But I am shocked and awed and dismayed that you left out MY favorite childhood series: Nancy Drew! Also, my husband would divorce me if I didn’t mention his favorites: The Hardy Boys and The Boxcar Children. All classics!

    But…I say if you can get kids to read and love it, it matters little what series it is.
    .-= Leah W.´s last blog ..extreme makeover: blog edition =-.

  2. So true, Leah. Those are all classics! But I’ve never (gasp!) read them myself so I didn’t include them. I know… shame on me!
    .-= Emily @ The Pilot’s Wife´s last blog ..Simple Kids Book Review =-.

  3. Um, series that we love:

    Nate the Great (Shermat). Mercy Watson (DiCamillo). Anything Cat in the Hat (He’s currently hooked on the non-fiction series that talks about butterflies, reptiles, space, money, and so forth).

    Series that I loved:

    The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, The Black Stallion (though those are for slightly older kids).

  4. I LOVE Little House on the Prairie! I would read them over right now (if I wan’t at work)!

  5. I am wondering if other parents find the Junie B. Jones series to be a rather awful example to our children of how to behave. I mean….the way she talks….the attitude. horrible. I found myself editing half of what was said, and then just threw the book away.

    I love little house on the praire though. Can’t wait to read those again with my girl. There will be lots of explaining though. Some really unpolitically correct stuff in there. tee hee

    • Eeeek! I *just* checked out a Junie B book for Dacey at the library this morning. I’ll keep an eye out and edit as I go. It’s funny . . . books I read and loved before I had kids who so CLOSELY mimic everything they see in books read a lot differently to me now.

      I would be interested to hear if any other parents had this reaction to Junie B!

  6. @Beth– I think The Black Stallion was one of my husband’s favorites! Thanks for sharing.

    @Jill– We’re birds of a feather, friend!

    @Corey– Thanks for bring that up. I highly, highly recommend that parents/teachers/etc PRE-read any book you plan to encourage your child to read. We all have different comfort levels as to what’s just in fun and what is obnoxious or offensive.
    Glad you loved Little House! It’s one of my all time favorites!

  7. the Chronicles of Narnia are awesome! My husband reads them to our 5 year old daughter, and she loves them! I’m not sure what reading level you would put them on (I didn’t read “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” until 5th grade). They are a great series and C.S. Lewis has such an amazing way of writing for children!

  8. My favorite thing about simple kids… all the book recommendations! I might have mentioned this before but some of my 3 1/2 year old daughter’s favorites are the Strega Nona books by Tomie dePaola. I have to modify a few things as well in some of the books, like when the town people want to string Big Anthony up, oy vey. But overall I love the messages in dePaola’s books.

    My mother in law gave our daughter the cutest book called “Flower Fairies Paper Dolls”. It’s a wonderful rainy day book to imagine with. For Christmas we got Kate a Fairy Forest Lodge from Enchantmints and these paper dolls are a perfect thing for her to use with it.

    My last recommendation is from Barefoot Books (I LOVE every book I’ve bought from them!) This book is called “Motherbridge of Love”. It is a book with an adoption theme. It’s a beautiful poem about both an adoptive mother’s love and biological mother’s love of a little girl. It’s more geared toward an adoption situation where the child doesn’t know the bio mom but I’ve read it to my daughter and while we have an open adoption it still has led to some good conversations about adoption and love. I’m sure every family that has adopted especially internationally will love this book as much as I do.

  9. I love reading series and my kids do too! These are all great ones, although I did ban Junie B when my oldest was starting to read chapter books. I just didn’t appreciate the language. I appreciate that you mention that not all series are necessarily great literature, but can still have a place in our children’s library. My 5th grader loves the Barbie fairy books and owns most of them. They’re pretty simple, but fun to read and fun to share with friends. Babysitter’s Club certainly aren’t true classics, but I have fond memories of them nonetheless. Great review, Emily!

  10. @Kristina– Oh, how I love The Chronicles of Narnia! They are quite advanced as far as reading level goes so I didn’t think to include them, but they’re wonderful read alouds if your kids enjoy them!

    @Julia– Yeah, explaining “stringing someone up” to a child could be a little dicey! ha! Most good old fashioned fairy tales require a little rewriting for the younger crowd from my experience, too.

    @Elizabeth– I know! The Babysitter’s are really pretty silly and “fluffy” but I just loved them. And the more kids read the better they get!

  11. Yeah, another big “no” vote for Junie B. Jones here. Part of the problem is that all of Junie’s speech is written down phonetically and in all its incorrect five-year-old glory. You know, which is great and all, except it’s NOT great for kids to attempt to read on their own. Very confusing. I just don’t find the stories compelling enough to get over the grammar/language issue. There are sooo many other options out there for kids.

    In terms of series, the Edward Eager books (Magic or Not, etc.) are fantastic. Also, don’t forget Harry Potter! The craze may be over, but honestly I think they are some of the most engaging books for kids out there, and I can’t wait for my five-year-old to be ready for them. Skip the movies, the real thing is way better.

  12. @Laura– There is definitely merit to your critiques of Junie. However, when I was teaching kindergarten some of my “higher” readers just gobbled these up. So I chose to take the good with the bad.

    But you are right, there are LOTS of choices for kiddos!

    I’ve never heard of the Edward Eager stories, but they look fantastic. Maybe similar to Harry Potter for younger kids?

    I, too, love Harry Potter, but l personally like them for older kids better.

  13. I’m voting in favor of Junie B. The grammatically incorrect language put me off at first, but my kids just laugh at her mispronunciations–they have yet to copy either her language or her exploits. And I appreciate that the author doesn’t gloss over real-life situations, such as losing a best friend over summer vacation or not being invited to a birthday party. I believe these plots rather than the language is why my kids choose Junie B. at the library again and again.

    To each her own, but I hope those still unfamiliar with the series will give it a try before dismissing it.

  14. Great list of series!

  15. You’ve listed some of my favorites! I can’t wait until my son is a little older so we can start reading chapter books!

    BTW, I just read about a pre-quel to The Babysitter’s Club that is coming out soon. I think it is called “The Summer Before.”

  16. This is a great list. We love Little House we are on the 4th book in the series right now. They have so many questions about that time period I think it’s great. My dad used to read to me the Beverly Cleary books. Beezus, Ramona, Henry and Ribsy were some of my favorite characters. I’m looking forward to reading those to my kids too. So far no one has mentioned Judy Blume. I loved the Peter and fudge stories too.

  17. Thanks for the recommended reads! I also appreciate the feedback from other parents. Great dialogues. Corey mentioned the fact the Little House series isn’t politically correct. As someone who grew up reading the series (and loved it!!), it’s painful now to realize how oppressive the storyline is to Native American peoples. It’s not even a matter of being “PC” or not — these kinds of stories shape our worldview, how we think of other people, how we interact with people … It really DOES matter *who* gets to tell (or write) the story. I highly recommend checking out this video on storytelling: http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html.

    I now wonder what a counter series of Little House would look like — one written from the perspective of an indigenous girl experiencing colonialism. As parents, part of our responsibility is thinking through how stereotypes are perpetuated, how violence gets romanticized, and whose stories we hear or read. I know that makes the challenging job of parenting even more complicated, but we owe it to our kids — and ourselves!

  18. I second (or third) 😉 the recommendation for the Edward Eager books. My children love them. Although there are only 2 out now, we also love the Penderwicks and are hoping there will be more. Henry and Mudge, 26 Fairmount Avenue (memoirs by Tomie DePaola), and Clementine series are also great reads. Clementine is a bit like Junie B., but, in my opinion, a bit more palatible.
    .-= Joni´s last blog ..Great Reading Quote =-.

  19. Aimee Bowles says:

    I taught first grade before becoming a stay-at-home-mom, and I LOVE the Magic Treehouse books. Partly because they are great for little girls OR little boys, partly for their factual content within the crazy adventure. Plus, the language is not overwhelming for a young reader. I have read the first 2 books in the series aloud for my 3 and 1/2 year old son, and he loves them.

    I also put my vote in for the Chronicles of Narnia as a read-aloud, and I adore the Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald. Junie B was not my favorite series, and I tend to agree more with the criticisms about the phonetic spellings, and also the incorrect grammar. But, I agree if kids are reading…shrug. Good with the bad.

    Some of my favorite picture books, and my students favorite read-alouds were by Kevin Henkes– Lily is such a fabulous character, and there’s lots of opportunity to discuss language. Henkes is big on the adjectives.

  20. I, too, loved the Little House on the Prairie series! But didn’t read the comments thoroughly enough to see if anyone mentioned the Anne of Green Gables series. I can’t wait to take my daughter to Price Edward Island!
    .-= Jenn´s last blog ..Love, actually 🙂 =-.

  21. I am a frist grade teacher, and I read the Boxcar Children to my students. That series is wholesome. It is also interesting and exciting. Both my girls and my boys enjoy it. So, I highly recommend them. I love them!!
    .-= Heather Pregony´s last blog .."Laugh, Miss Pregony!" =-.

  22. I’d be interested in what series you like to read aloud to your children. My daughter is almost 4 and loves being read to at night! She likes long books so I think she’s ready for a chapter book or series…

    • Our oldest is almost five, and we are transitioning to chapter books with shorter, illustrated chapter books. Kathryn Lanksy’s Poodle and Hound is a current fave here!

  23. Aimee Bowles says:

    I have a 3 and 1/2 year old son, and we just completed the second book in the Magic Treehouse Series (Mary Pope Osborne). He LOVES them. They usually run between 60-70 pages, and have 10 chapters. There are a few illustrations– at least one per chapter. The books center around a brother and sister as the main characters, so they are great for either gender. I used to teach first grade before I became a stay-at-home mom, and I read them aloud to my classes. As the year progressed, my more advanced readers began to check them out of the library and read them themselves.

  24. Thanks Megan and Aimee!! I’ll look into both of those…

  25. Not sure if this was already asked or addressed in the comments, but are any of these good or appropriate for very young kids like a 2.5 year old? I’ve been wanting to start a series for my daughter, but wasn’t sure if she is too young…?

  26. I’ve been reading the Cobble Street Cousins Series by Cynthia Rylant aloud to my 3 girls. They love it! I believe there are six books in the series. It’s about 3 young girls (age 9 or so?) who stay with their Aunt Lucy while their parents are travelling with the circus. The girls get into all sorts of stuff and each have very distinct personalities.

  27. My daughter loves the Nancy Drew Notebook series. They are shorter Nancy Drew books and in the books Nancy is 8.

    Judy Moody and Stink books

    Clementine series by Sarah Pennypacker

  28. Rosemary says:

    As a retired teacher and current part time “library lady,” I appreciate the above suggestions. A simple series I like that appeals to early readers is the Biscuit series. Also, Rylant’s Mr. Putter and Tabby books are a little more challenging for self readers, but still doable. I will scout the Edward Eager books for our elementary library. I am usually a stickler for good grammar but read my first Junie B. book (Junie B, One Man Band) this past school year and laughed until I cried. Thanks for the suggestions!


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