Monday, April 30, 2012

Six Stupendous Series

Today I’m revealing a not-so-secret truth about myself: I love books in series. I also love books that stand alone, of course, but isn’t it great when you reach the last page of a wonderful book, only to discover that there’s another wonderful book where that came from? Another book set in the same world, possibly featuring the same characters, possibly even picking up where that first book left off? Some books don’t demand sequels or companion novels—they’re strongest on their own—but other stories pull us into their worlds and refuse to let us go, compelling us to stand in line at our local bookstore at midnight to get our desperate little hands on the next book in the series.

It’s true that I’m a little bit biased when it comes to series: My 2013 debut is the first novel in a planned trilogy. But my love of series books began long before my book deal. In my elementary school library, I checked out all of James Marshall’s Fox easy readers and read every Bobbsey Twins mystery I could find. After that, I found the Little House books, and the Alice books, and the Wayside School books, and (much later, not in my elementary school library) the Millennium Trilogy…. I could keep listing favorite series, but my hands would cramp up before I came anywhere close to telling you about all the books I love. Instead, though it kills me to be so selective, I’ll share with you three ongoing series I can’t wait to finish and three classic series you shouldn’t miss.

Three Ongoing Series I Can’t Wait to Finish:

1. The Montmaray Journals by Michelle Cooper
 This historical YA trilogy by Australian writer Michelle Cooper follows the FitzOsborne family—royal teenagers from the imaginary island kingdom of Montmaray—as they cope with adventure, politics, and romance at the outset of World War II. The first two books, A Brief History of Montmaray and The FitzOsbornes in Exile, are out now in the US, and the final book, The FitzOsbornes at War, comes out here in October. Fans of I Capture the Castle will love the main character, Sophie, and her friendly narrative style.

2. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
I’m cheating a little here, because this brilliant and sweet middle grade series about a family of four sisters is partially a homage to another favorite series of mine, the magical adventures by Edward Eager. The three books about the Penderwicks don’t  have magic, but they do have spunky characters, humor, and plenty of good old-fashioned coziness. According to Jeanne Birdsall’s website, there will be 5 Penderwicks books in all.

3. The Cahill Witch Chronicles by Jessica Spotswood
We interviewed Apocalypsie Jessica Spotswood a few months ago when her debut novel, Born Wicked, came out, and I’m already dying for the next book in the series. I’m guessing that, like their predecessor, the sequels will involve witchcraft, fancy dresses, and True Love. Hurry up and get here, 2013, so I can find out what happens next!
Three Classic Series You Shouldn’t Miss:

1. The Hall Family Chronicles by Jane Langton
How is this series out of print? The Diamond in the Window and its sequels are fun fantasy adventures that were some of my favorites growing up. I hope you’ll be able to find them in your library or at used bookstores if you haven’t read them yet.

2. Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry
The Anastasia books are some of the funniest I’ve read, and I wish I lived next door to the Krupnik family. Anastasia pretends to own a sloop, color-codes her gerbils’ heads, accidentally signs up for tap-dancing lessons, dyes herself purple… you get the idea. Lots of people love Lois Lowry for The Giver and Number the Stars—and rightfully so—but her Anastasia series will always be my favorite.

3. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
Patricia C. Wrede has written many series, and all of them are fantastic, but if I absolutely had to pick a favorite, I think I’d pick this one. The first book, Dealing with Dragons, introduces us to Princess Cimorene, who runs away from her boring kingdom and horrible suitors to become assistant and chef to the dragon Kazul. The four books in the series are perfect for anyone who likes to laugh, or for anyone who likes to eat Cherries Jubilee.

If you’ve read any of these series, or if you have a favorite series of your own to recommend, please let me know in the comments!

Caroline Carlson grew up in New England and now lives with her husband in western Pennsylvania. She earned an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is an assistant editor of VCFA's literary journal, Hunger MountainCaroline is represented by Sarah Davies at the Greenhouse Literary Agency, and her debut middle grade novel, MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, will be published by HarperCollins Children's Books in Summer 2013. You can find her on Twitter and on her remarkably lazy blog.


  1. Thank you for so many great recommendations! I have had The Penderwicks on my to read list for a long time - I think I better move it up :) As for a series I loved growing up, I have to mention Nancy Drew. Part of it is a bit of nostalgia - one summer when I was a kid my mom and I read and discussed the entire series together, so special - but I always felt they were the perfect escape. You sort of know Nancy's always going to figure it out so not too much waiting on pins and needles which leaves you to enjoy all the interesting destinations and people she comes across. Plus you definitely get the bonus of not having to mourn the ending too much because there are over fifty in the series!

  2. The Penderwicks series is wonderful! A modern classic, for sure. You know so much about series books! Color me (or my gerbil head) impressed.

  3. I can't wait to read the book that follows Rita's ONE CRAZY SUMMER!

    As a kid, I loved THE GREAT BRAIN series, and LITTLE HOUSE, and of course, RAMONA.

  4. Aaaah, I love all of these series, too! I definitely had a Nancy Drew period... and my dad and I read the Little House books together, and my mom would read me Ramona when I was sick. And I remember making a terrible diorama of a scene from The Great Brain as a school project. Such good books!

  5. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles are definitely my #1. My middle school library was still on the system of "write your name on the card and leave it in a box for the librarian," and the card for Dealing with Dragons had my name written all the way down the front and onto the back.

    I guess a trilogy isn't really a series, but I loved Nancy Farmer's Sea of Trolls and its sequels. And I found Narnia so compelling as a child that I once got stuck in a closet with some friends (unlike Lucy, we did not heed the advice not to close the door on ourselves, and it had no knob inside!). The Prydain Chronicles also are on the list of Books I Will Definitely Read Aloud To My Future Children.

  6. Penderwicks has also been on my list forever. Now maybe I'll bump them up higher! Thanks Caroline!

  7. I had no idea the Penderwicks was a five book series. I'm a fan of Anastasia and I think the series continued following her brother Sam. Can't wait for yours.

  8. Trilogies absolutely count! The Sea of Trolls books are great. Aw, thanks, Anna :)

  9. i was a mystery freak as a kid, and went from the boxcar children to nancy drew to agatha christie books (mostly poirot). i think one of my all time favorites was the his dark materials trilogy by philip pullman. am reading the first montmaray book now, and adoring it. i also have born wicked on my list...great post, caroline! thanks for sharing!

  10. I just devoured a Poirot mystery in about 2 hours this morning. Thank goodness Agatha Christie wrote so many!

  11. Thank you for this post, Caroline! My to-purchase list just got a bit longer :)