Books that can get kids reading again and again ...
There's nothing like a series to inspire the bookworm in your child.
As parents you may remember reading Trixie Belden and The Hardy Boys. Your parents may remember What Katy did and the William series. Somewhere in there almost all of us grew to love The Famous Five and The Secret Seven.
Why book series work
Establishing a good relationship with the first book in a series means children can generally be confident they will feel the same way about the rest of the series. The process is not unlike making a good friend. The main characters become familiar faces your child visits regularly and they always look forward to their companionship with each new book – they want to know what happens to the characters.
The books in a series often become easier to read as time goes on. Once your child is familiar with the first book's characters, the landscape, genre and the author's voice, they can simply sit back and enjoy all the subsequent tales. And there are rarely any nasty surprises – unlike reading randomly from a favourite author where a book may be completely different to what was expected.
Another benefit of the book series is that kids can identify with kids who love the same series. They can share discussions about a mutually satisfying subject, pull the plots apart, predict what's going to happen in the next series, talk about who they love, who they dislike and why. Witness the number of fan sites that have sprung up from Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series. This is the kind of relationship we want our children to have with all books – and book series may be a good place to start.
Many short series are beautifully crafted and the plot is intended to fit well in the multi-book format, for example Kate Constables' trilogy, Chanters of Tremaris, in which courageous heroine, Calwyn, sets off with a band of intriguing comrades on an epic journey through strange and mystical lands.
One for the boys is James Moloney's Book of Lies trilogy, in which an abandoned orphan, who matures and develops great mystical powers forms lifelong friendships and grapples with issues of life and death, power and sacrifice.
Book series styles
Series fall generally into two main categories, linear and episodic, and there are cautions associated with each. In a linear series, the plot develops over time and the characters may grow up, in which case the final books can have far more mature content than the earlier ones. This is not necessarily a bad thing but parents need to be aware of the books' changing nature. In the Harry Potter series, the themes become much darker as the young protagonist grows up. In an episodic series, where different variations on the same adventure appear in each book, the quality of the writing can sometimes deteriorate as the titles are churned out.
Book series for young kids
You may like to introduce your preschooler or Kindy child to Russell Hoban's Frances, a high-spirited badger that experiences all the usual childhood dilemmas including the arrival of a new sibling.
For the next age group there are classics like Ruth Park's The Muddle-Headed Wombat, Michael Bond's Paddington Bear or contemporary series like Anna Fienberg's Tashi, beautifully illustrated by Kim Gamble, in which the bold storyteller is a pixie-like character who relates many tall tales and is always the hero. Another contemporary series is Moya Simons' Walk Right in Detective Agency, the humorous adventures of two best friends who solve quirky cases.
For upper primary school students, Emily Rodda's Deltora Quest series supplies endless hours of enjoyment in a fantasy world reproduced in three separate series, while her shorter Wizard of Rondo trilogy is popular and tightly written. Deborah Abela's Max Remy and Duncan Ball's Emily Eyefinger are great light reads providing a childhood friend who will always be remembered affectionately. The same can be said of the boys' own 007, H. I. Larry's secret agent, Zac Power.
Book series for big kids
For the big kids who are almost grown up but like a little excitement in their lives, Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider and Ally Carter's The Gallagher Girls are intriguing spy-thrillers that hit the right mark with their prospective audiences. Alan Sunderland's Octavius O'Malley is full of humour, John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice has great values and an insight into a fictitious medieval world, and the books in Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series are a complex and satisfying read for the lover of elaborate fantasy.
Visit the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge booklists screen and scroll down for a comprehensive list of the series books included at each level of the challenge. Individual titles are also listed in the online book lists.
Series books have always been popular but never more so than today. Bookshops and public library shelves are full of them, which means you can have a steady supply of new books as your children devour them.
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