To say I am giddy (and proud) to be raising a new generation of bookworms is an understatement. I spent a good portion of my childhood hidden behind a book, and I still can’t fall asleep without reading a couple of chapters each night.
My oldest daughter flew through the Harry Potter box set in the third grade (and then read the series 25 more times). My son has inherited my read-before-sleep habit and loves a good chapter book with graphics (and there are plenty of great series out there). And my two youngest daughters look forward to daddy’s funny voices when he pulls a book off their shelves to read out loud.
These are the must-have and best book series for every age and stage:
Best Children’s Book Series (ages 3–5)
World of Eric Carle: the most compelling aspect of this series is the incredible artwork by award-winning illustrator Eric Carle. We have read and own every one of his books in both board book style (for chubby fingers) and gorgeous picture book layout for young page-turners. The simple prose and stunning pictures work beautifully together to make these books timeless classics.
Sandra Boynton: Moo, Baa, La La La! is a book that every person in this house (grown ups included) can recite from memory. Boynton is a very talented children’s poet and many of her stories read like songs. Barnyard Dance is another family favourite, because it’s impossible not to clap when you read it. You can’t go wrong with keeping your little one’s attention with this series. In fact, we started these books when our children were still babies.
Stella & Sam: We were first drawn to this children’s book series because of the big sister and little brother dynamic. Our daughter first heard Stella and Sam at a preschoolers’ library group, soon after becoming a big sister to her brother. She could easily relate to the stories about the pair and their adventures. This series, written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay, comes highly recommended by educators and librarians for encouraging early literacy.
The Berenstain Bears: These books have stood the test of time and happily made the transition to the new generation. Written by beloved authors, Stan and Jan Berenstain, the collection of heartwarming stories always have you rooting for the characters and coming away with a life lesson focused on kindness, compassion and inclusion. My kids love knowing their Dad and I read the same books as children, too.
Best Children’s Book Series (ages 6-8)
Junie B. Jones: My girls love Junie B. Jones for her fearlessness and confidence. She keeps them wondering what she’ll get up to next and often leaves them in stitches over her misadventures. She is a modern day spunky heroine. This series by Barbara Park will have your young reader wanting more, and luckily there are plenty. The Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald is a similar genre and was also well loved by my girls.
Magic Tree House: This educational series by Mary Pope Osborne had my kids wishing we had a big enough tree to build a house. Each book follows siblings Jack and Annie, who discover that a tree house in the woods near their house transports them to different places and historical times all over the globe. In every book, the brother and sister overcome a situation together. We listened to this entire series by audio books from the library during a long family road trip.
Captain Underpants: I give full credit to author Dav Pilkey and his hilarious protagonist Captain Underpants for inspiring my son to become a reader. Before this hilarious children’s book series, he hadn’t shown a lot of motivation to read on his own. When he discovered this cartoon-illustrated series filled cover-to-cover with bathroom humour and fart jokes, there was no turning back and it paved the way to good reading habits. Warning: there will be a lot of giggling.
Best Children’s Book Series (ages 9 – 12)
Harry Potter: Is it really possible to summarize the magic that is Harry Potter and the wizarding world? This is a series of books that I devoured (twice) before becoming a parent and was thrilled to be able to share with my kids. These books by J.K. Rowling will take your child’s imagination on the most extraordinary ride. I would go so far as to say, no childhood is complete without Harry, Ron and Hermione.
Anne of Green Gables: This series by L.M. Montgomery was my favourite as a young girl. I was really drawn to its Canadian content and I couldn’t wait to travel to the east coast someday to take in the scenery from Anne’s stories (I have a photo of me and my husband in Lover’s Lane). Anne is an everyday heroine, with determination and gusto and a knack for mischief. Readers fall head over heels in love with Anne and want nothing more than for her to find a happy ending. My box set now sits in my daughter’s room.
Chronicles of Narnia: The first time I experienced the fantasy world of Narnia was through the voice of my grade four teacher—when he read the books aloud to our class. Much like the Harry Potter series, C.S. Lewis takes your imagination to places so beautifully described that you’ll wish they were real (and you will feel like they are when you read these books). We didn’t wait until our kids were old enough to read this on series on their own. My husband started reading it aloud when they were still young.
Lemony Snicket and the Series of Unfortunate Events: This 13 book collection of stories by Daniel Handler about three quick-witted orphans is written with humour and plays on the supposed bad luck and misfortune of the trio, as their adventures are chronicled by the reporter Lemony Snicket (who used to be in love with their mother, but through a series of misfortunate events was unable to marry her). The writing is very smart and very appealing to kids who love mysteries.
39 Clues: This series of adventure novels (over 20 books) is written by a collaboration of talented authors and follows the experiences of two siblings, Amy and Dan. Each book focuses on one location and one historical figure with whom the clue they are searching for is linked. The siblings are in a constant battle against other branches of their powerful family in a world that runs parallel to the real world—where no one knows their family exists. Again this series is a good fit for your adventure seeking kids.
Percy Jackson and The Olympians: This well-loved and popular children’s book series is written by Rick Riordan (one of the authors of the 39 Clues series) and follows the story of a boy named Percy, who discovers he is the demi-god son of a Greek god and must save the world from another round of wars between the Olympian gods. A great fit for kids who are interested in historical myths and stories. Luckily, the five book series was so popular that Riordan went on to create another series called The Heroes of Olympus, which takes off from the last Percy book and follows the adventures of seven demi-gods. The final book in that series is due this year and I plan to get my son started on this series soon.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: This series by Jeff Kinney gets another thumbs-up for keeping my boy excited about reading. In fact, this is the series that has him marking the date on the calendar for the newest release. He devours them the first time in one sitting and then goes back and reads them again and again. Sometimes, he even lets his sisters take a peek. There are eight books in the series and we have our fingers crossed their will be more. Another series that follows the graphics and written work approach (and is also a big favourite of my son’s) is the Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce also follows the antics of a middle-school aged boy, that my son found hilarious and easy to relate to.
Warriors: These books could not come fast enough for my daughter. She started them in the fourth grade and plowed through the series by Erin Hunter in record time. The stories follow clans of cats vying for power and territory. The storytelling is very captivating and there are enough books and spin-offs to keep your child entertained for years. When a set of graphic novels for the series came out, it was exciting for both the girls and boys in our house.
Artemis Fowl: Written by Irish author, Eoin Colfer, this three book series is based on the story of a young criminal mastermind, Artemis Fowl as he faces off against evil pixies from the fairy world and deals with problems like possessed little brothers. The series will appeal to fantasy and supernatural fans and has been noted for its amazing character development and fast-paced storylines. We haven’t read this series yet, but I’m putting it on my son’s birthday list.
The Mysterious Benedict Society: Like many other successful children’s book series, this one also features an orphan living in an orphanage except Nicholas Benedict suffers from narcolepsy, which causes him to fall asleep at the worst times. Author Trenton Lee Stewart addresses the value of self-esteem by having Benedict use his gift of intelligence to face off against bullies and selfish adults. In the end, our hero solves the greatest puzzle of all—himself. A new prequel book, to further explain Benedict’s story, has just been released. I’m adding this series to my list, too.
Best Children’s Book Series (ages 12+)
**with the exception of Twilight, I had my tween give me the inside scoop on these series**
Hunger Games: This was a doozie in our house. I feel like I found the books from this three book series opened and face down ready to be picked up at any moment on EVERY single surface in our house for a six-month period, as my tween read them over and over. She enjoyed the adrenaline pumping storylines and really, really identified with the heroine Katniss, as she took her sister’s place and kicked butt in the life-threatening hunger games. These fantasy themed books are said to have set the world on fire, and I can tell you they certainly caused flames in my kid’s world. She’s also watched the movies on repeat (yeah Jennifer Lawrence).
Twilight: I am the only one in this house (so far) to have read this series (blush) about klutzy and endearing Bella and her vampire love, Edward (and his cold, hard marble chest) as they fight against the odds (scary vampires and jealous wolves) to be able to stay together. What can I say? It was good fun; I loved it. I haven’t let my 12-year-old take a crack at them yet, but she’s still grossed out by boys…so no hurry there.
Divergent: This was another book series (three in the set) to completely possess my kid and make her incapable of doing or hearing anything else while she was reading it. According to my tween: You never get bored reading it, because there’s always so much happening. Again, the determination of the protagonist, Tris, was very appealing to her, and she was very intrigued by the concept of a world divided into factions (groups of citizens) based on what they believed to be their greatest attribute (with the heroine’s being Dauntless or brave).
Lorien Legacies: There is much anticipation in the air as we await the late summer release of the fifth book in this series. Much like Hunger Games and Divergent, this series by two authors (including well-known author James Frey), using the pen name Pittacus Lore, are attention-grabbing, can’t put them down kind of books. The story is based on nine human-looking aliens who are brought to Earth at age six to grow their powers before returning to their planet Lorien. The now teenagers are on a quest to achieve this before their identifies can no longer be hidden. Can they do it? We’ll have to get the next book to find out.
Lord of the Rings: This falls in the same category as Harry Potter. Is there really an adequate way to describe the magic in J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy novels? This trilogy was written as a continuation of the treasured novel The Hobbit. There are hobbits and wizards and places called Middle-earth. These are the kinds of book series that ignite a reader’s imaginations and make them fall in love with the magic of the written word and storytelling.
I hope this has sparked some ideas and inspired some readers at your house.
Leave a comment below if you’re looking for more suggestions.
(because I actually have quite a few more)