Blogger: Etta Wilson
Location: Books & Such Nashville Office
Weather: Hot and sticky
Young readers’ enthusiasm still thrills me. From the time most of them first discover they can decipher those symbols on the page and glean meaning from them, they are in love with words and with easy reader series like the Berenstain Bears. The more rabid young reader simply can’t get enough of stories about a favorite character or group. Thus a series is born in response to eager readers. Many series characters have become cultural icons–Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Boxcar Children, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, to name just a few.
For the slightly older and young teen readers, the American Girl Series blossomed, and Francine Pascal began the Sweet Valley High series followed by Ann Martin’s Baby-Sitters Club series. Note that as the readers mature, the series tend to be more for girls (the Matt Christopher Sports Series to the contrary), while boys at this age lean more toward comics.
That still is generally true, but the arrival of the Harry Potter books changed things. I’m not sure exactly who the target age or gender was. Maybe J.K. Rowling had a specific group in mind, but the series exploded from early middle schoolers through adults. And I wonder where and when the decision was made to publish in hardcover rather than the usual paperback format of most series.
In short, from picture book series like Maisy and Arthur to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga Series, we seem to be in a humongous flurry of series publishing by big publishers. I suspect that’s due to several factors: The publisher has a pattern for editing and production from one book to the next and the time required for negotiating terms is minimized. The author has many of the story elements worked out as well as the security of knowing a contract has been agreed on.
Most series do reach their limit in one way or another, and authors can only hope that the generation coming along will like their series as well as the one in place when it was first written.
What were your favorite series growing up?
I’ve been reading The Chronicles of Narnia to my 5 and 6 year olds – every night, no matter how long we read, they plead, “just one more chapter!”
Shawn, that’s a sign of a great series–and a great mom reader!
Such a coincidence…Nathan Bransford’s recent blog on literary crushes reminded me of my favorite series as a teen–John Christopher’s Tripod series. My girls are too young now to enjoy it but I hope they will find it as intriguing as I did later on.
Before that, and a wee bit younger, it was Nancy Drew and, of course, the Little House books.
Thanks for the word about the Tripod series. I need to read at least one of those. I believe that a part of kids’ growing out of the nest at around 8 and up is identifying with fictional characters. And when they really identify with one, they grow in so many ways.
My favorite series as a child was the “Betsy-Tacy” series by Maud Hart Lovelace. A close second was “All-of-a-Kind Family” by Sydney Taylor. I also read the usual Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, etc.
Etta, many series for children/teens, especially fantasy, are coming out in hardback these days. Are publishers banking on the popularity of Harry Potter and hoping to sell lots of hardbacks and thus make more money? It surprises me to see this happening in this economy.
Etta, you definitely need to read the Tripod series. Even those of us who aren’t great sci-fi fans will enjoy John Christopher’s books. Be sure to read them in order.
Publishers could have several reasons for publishing in hardcover, including the one you mention.
I’m on my way to the bookstore now with Tripod #1 at the top of the list!
Sharon Kirk Clifton
Since I write middle-grade novels, I also read much in that age group. As background for my wip, I’m working my way through the Trixie Belden series. The CHRONICLES OF NARNIA and LORD OF THE RINGS series are among my favorites, as are the ANNE OF GREEN GABLES and LITTLE HOUSE books. (I have eclectic tastes.)
Growing up, though, it was the BLACK STALLION books that captured my attention. I read THE BLACK STALLION, THE BLACK STALLION RETURNS, SON OF THE BLACK STALLION, ISLAND OF THE BLACK STALLIONetc. If there had been a GREAT-GREAT GRANDSON OF THE BLACK STALLION, I would have read that, too.
I also read all of Andrew Lang’s color books of fairy tales. For a quarter of a century, I have been a professional storyteller. Do you suppose reading all of those faerie tale books played a role in that? Hmmm…
The Black Stallion Books. Oh, how I loved them.
Sharon, I’d call your taste in series “classic” rather than eclectic. In any case, you picked winners, and I’d say they definitely added to your voice as a storyteller. Thanks for sharing.
Goodness! All this wonderful reminding of the Tripod series…I may have to set aside my current read and dig out my own copy of The White Mountains and get hooked all over again!:)
I loved a short series about the five little Peppers along with the Cherry Ames and Sue Barton series (I really liked stories about nurses).
As a high school English teacher, I applaud authors who write series for teens. Last year, the Twilight series was huge in my school with even the macho guys reading the books. Anything that can get teens reading has to be good.
Brian T. Carroll
For several years growing up, each of the cousins got a Hardy Boys books for Christmas, and we read and traded most of the next week until each of us had read them all. Slightly older, we sat of the porch at Grandma’s summer cabin and traded copies of Tolkien, or James Herriot’s veterinary novels. But I think the trilogy that helped me understand how different three stories could be and still fit together was Nordhoff and Hall’s MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, MEN AGAINST THE SEA, and PITCAIRN’S ISLAND. I have a trilogy up my sleeve after I finish my WIP, and they are very different stories; one character caught in youth, middle, and advanced age. Because he faces such different stages in life, the stories must have radically different tones. I think I got a sense of how that can be successful from reading the Bounty series.
Ah, this post brings back good memories 🙂 Nancy Drew, The Black Stallion, Sherlock Holmes, Anne of Green Gables, Lord of the Rings.
Shawn, I remember my mother reading the Chronicles of Narnia to us. I could not wait for the next night and next chapter, so I went and found the book and finished it that afternoon 🙂
In addition to the above, I would also mention Trixie Beldon. For some reason I connected with her when Nancy and I did not.
My oldest son cut his reading teeth on The Magic Treehouse Series which was a Godsend for him. Easy to read, entertaining and educational. Great for his dyslexia.
In so many ways, a series may be the only thing keeping reluctant or struggling readers turning the pages.
I loved the Black Stallion books too. Island Stallion might have been my favorite.
Also did all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy books.
Loved Little House and Anne.
Went on a Five Little Peppers kick when I was about eleven. Loved the old-fashioned language and values in those. I found them comical and endearing.
But…I’ve never even heard of Tripod. I’m going to Amazon to see what I’ve missed.
Sharon Kirk Clifton
Ah, yes! The sweet memories continue. I read nearly all of a series of small, orange biographies, published by Bobbs-Merrill, I think. THE FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS and the LITTLE WOMEN books also were favorites.
Sharon Kirk Clifton
Melissa K Norris
I loved Anne of Green Gables and of course Little House. Probably why I enjoy both reading and writing the genre of historical (pioneer) romance.
Wow! We’ve struck the mother lode of reading memories. And if all these wonderful series for younger readers were read by so many, just think of the subtle influence they must have on many writers today. Very encouraging to read your comments.
Brian, you have an interesting idea for a trilogy. I suggest that you be clear about the unifying factor for the series and that the first book contain strong elements you can draw on in the latter two.
Sharon, thanks for mentioning the “little orange biographies published by Bobbs Merrill”. I must have shelved a thousand or more of those in school libraries. Good to remember.
I loved the Black Stalllion books although they weren’t all published yet when I was reading them. I read every horse or dog book I could get my hands on.A favorite event: when I was researching the Golden Filly series we went to all the race tracks. In New York, we found Aquaduct and the gate man let me in to dream of The Black running there. Love of those books is what spawned The Golden Filly series. Went on to adult books in early teens. Another favorite series, though it wasn’t out when I was a kid, is the John Jakes American History books. I think they should be required reading for all High School students.
I heartily agree about the John Jakes American history books. So much good reading!
David E. Minor
As a youth, I never read any of the Hardy Boy books, but I did enjoy the Three Investigator series, as well as the Phantom Tollbooth and A Wrinkle in Time. I also read two books of a series called Space Eagle. I loved SciFi back then.
I have to agree with others that the best thing about reading a series was that when I finished one book, I could enjoy the company of the characters that I’d come to know and love by picking up the next book!
I hope someday when I finish my own YA series, my readers will say the same thing.
Me too, David. Keep at it!