Children’s Lit Corner: Books in a Series

Years ago when I was on my mission, someone sent me a card that had a pithy quote from Cicero on it, at least I think it was Cicero. It might have been Sophocles. Anyway, this is what it said, “Nothing that has an end is long.” At the time, I applied that saying to my mission and I realized that even though the mission experience felt like it would last forever, it would someday come to an end, and therefore I needed to make the most of the time while it lasted.

I still think of that saying, and find truth in it. Most recently, my boys were reading through the wonderful series of The Ranger’s Apprentice. I noticed the books and realized I had only read the first and part of the second book, so I plunged in and started reading. At first the sheer volume of volumes seemed a little daunting: 11 books, plus three more in a new offshoot series. Oh, and the twelfth book is going to be coming out in October.

But as I began reading, the adventure sucked me in. Book after book flew across my brain, and soon I realized I had fewer left to read than I had already devoured. Then one sad day, the books were over and Cicero’s statement had again proved to be true.

I felt the same way about Harry Potter, about J.R.R. Tolkein’s work, about Gregor the Overlander, and about many other series. Those very long adventures seem so endless before they are begun, but then quickly shrink as the books are read.

Maybe it’s just human nature to want things to keep going that obviously are not endless. We want things to continue; we want to know the rest of the stories. What happens to Ramona once she goes to high school, for example? Or what about Junie B. Jones—does she never get to go to second grade?

Another difficulty with coming to the end of a beloved series is that it is often really hard to choose something else to read. I know when I finish an especially good book, I don’t always know what to start next. There are certainly other wonderful books to read, but I sometimes feel a bit melancholy after finishing something wonderful. It is even harder for children. They have not read anywhere near the number of books that adults have read, and it is more difficult to immediately jump into something new. That is one reason why series are so popular, and have been for generations. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys may not evolve and deepen in their characters very much, but they have been familiar and friendly for a long time. Nancy Drew will celebrate her 83 anniversary this year!

So there is certainly a place for series and good reasons to read book after book after book about the same characters. But that still doesn’t solve the problem of what to read after a series is over. One way to find another book to read is to seek out other books by the same author, whether they are part of a series or not. Recommendations from friends also help. So here is a list of a few of the series or authors’ books I have loved. This is certainly not a complete list, just a very partial skipping through the bookshelves to pick out a few favorites. Yes, maybe it is impossible to find a series that goes on forever. Everything in this world comes to an end eventually, but it is a relief to know that when one book or series is over, there’s always another one to turn to. Hey, that reminds me of another pithy saying!

Books by Louisa May Alcott
The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander
The Lost Years of Merlin series, by T. A. Barron
The Penderwicks books, by Jeanne Birdsall
Freddy the Pig books, by Walter R. Brooks
Books by Nancy Farmer
Books by Shannon Hale
Redwall books, by Brian Jacques
Books by Robin McKinley
Big Nate books, by Lincoln Peirce
American Girl books by several authors including Kathleen Ernst, Janet Shaw and Valerie Tripp
Books by Ken Thomasma
Dragon series by Laurence Yep

What are some of your favorites?

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One Response to Children’s Lit Corner: Books in a Series

  1. Jonathan Langford says:

    Very nice quote — I’ll have to keep it in mind. I also agree about the appeal of books in a series. (FYI, I added a subtitle to the post to clue people in about the topic — hope you don’t mind!)

    Personal candidates from my own youth (disqualifying anything with 3 books or less):
    - The Oz series, by L. Frank Baum (there were also many Oz books by later authors, but none as good)
    - The Doctor Dolittle books, by Hugh Lofting — favorites of my childhood that helped give me a love of England
    - The Dark Is Rising sequence, by Susan Cooper — again, books with a great sense of England, despite the disappointing ending
    - The Mushroom Planet books, by Eleanor Cameron. Most people know only the first 2 of these, but there are actually 5 total, and the ending was surprisingly serious.
    - The Three Investigators books, created by Robert Arthur. Again, the original books are the best. A detective series (unlike most of my other nominees, which are sf&f).
    - Andre Norton. The undisputed queen of sf&f juveniles. All of her books are about an alienated youth discovering self and coming of age. Some are truly spectacular, and all are enjoyable. She particularly had a gift for atmosphere that helped endear me to sf&f. Best known are her witch world books.

    I know there are many others that will occur to me as soon as I click the Post Comment button…

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