CHILDREN’S SERIES: KICKING OFF A LIFETIME OF READING
Last month I reflected on on how Beverly Clearly‘s death brought back cherished memories of childhood reading. Most especially, it reminded me of the many children’s series that kicked off a lifetime of reading for me: Cleary, Carolyn Haywood, Madeline L’Engel, Sydney Taylor, and Noel Streatfeild among them.
I asked if others had similar memories, especially about series I may have forgotten.
Nancy Drew and Judy Blume Books
I was surprised to get so few responses. Perhaps I had done a better job than I thought remember. Perhaps I was a broader reader than I remembered. But there were a few obvious series I had embarrassingly overlooked:
How could I have forgotten? These were all seminal children’s series to anyone growing up in the mid-20th century.
This list isn’t even close to comprehensive, even when it comes to books we read in the 1960s and 1970s. Children’s series, good and bad, are rampant. But it’s interesting to see what we most remember decades later.
Beyond the Boomers
Perhaps this list covers the key series shaping the Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers. But what about younger readers?
It seems like Beverly Cleary retained her stronghold even on some of the 20-somethings I spoke to. But obviously younger readers had even stronger attachments to other series, including, of course, Harry Potter.
It would be interesting to see differences in favorite childrens series by decade. Mine come mainly from the 1960s and 1970s. Because clearly some of the books my peers and I read–especially those idealizing the white middle-class family of the mid-20th century–may not resonate with today’s readers as they did to us.
It would also be fun to track favorite series for younger readers–e.g., the Carl picturebooks by Alexandra Day that my own kids loved even as babies, Frog and Toad by Arthur Loebel, or, of course, anything by Eric Carle. Younger kids love series perhaps even more than than their older siblings. Some children’s series for the youngest readers, like Madeleine and Babar, were foundational for us boomers. They almost certainly set us on a quest for other beloved series as we grew older.
Plus my pre-school grandsons still read them!
I’d love to update this list and track favorite children’s series by decade. But I guess that’s a mission for another day. For now this list of current favorites, broken down by age is a good place to start.
TERRA ZIPORYN is an award-winning novelist, playwright, and science writer whose numerous popular health and medical publications include The New Harvard Guide to Women’s Health, Nameless Diseases, and Alternative Medicine for Dummies. Her novels include Do Not Go Gentle, The Bliss of Solitude, and Time’s Fool, which in 2008 was awarded first prize for historical fiction by the Maryland Writers Association. Terra has participated in both the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the Old Chatham Writers Conference and for many years was a member of Theatre Building Chicago’s Writers Workshop (New Tuners). A former associate editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), she has a PhD in the history of science and medicine from the University of Chicago and a BA in both history and biology from Yale University, where she also studied playwriting with Ted Tally. Her latest novel, Permanent Makeup, is available in paperback and as a Kindle Select Book.
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