In Praise of Series Fiction

For as long as there has been series fiction there has been a debate regarding its merits. Many people regard series books as inferior to monographs. They find the characterization stagnant, the plots uninspired, and believe that series novels are only appropriate for children as stepping stones to “real” books. These people view series reading as a phase, and a detrimental phase at that. I am not one of these people.

I love series fiction! Not only am I an avid reader of books in a series myself, but as a professional working with children I believe that series fiction provides a positive and worthwhile reading experience for kids and teens.

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The main targets of the series debate are long running series where the characters don’t age or “develop” in the way that the protagonist of a monograph might. Under fire are beloved series like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. They are seen as substandard because of their repetition and adherence to a specific plot outline and/or format. However, if you work with children, or have kids of your own, you’ll know that repetition can be comforting and that the familiar is often sought after by anyone under the age of 18 (and some of us over that age as well). Childhood and adolescence are times of tremendous emotional and physical growth; when change is constantly occurring in your “real” life it can be an immense comfort to be able to retreat into the safe consistency of an imaginary world. Nancy Drew will always solve the case, nothing truly traumatic will ever happen to a member of the Baby Sitters Club, and Encyclopedia Brown will always outwit Bugs Meany.

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This past summer I facilitated a lunch bunch. Every week we (myself and a dozen kids between the ages of 5 and 10) read a different mystery from the series section and would chat with each other about the book while eating our bag lunches. Reading these titles (Nancy Drew, The Boxcar Children, Cam Jansen, etc.) was like curling up under a favorite blanket. Even now, years removed from my childhood, there was something magical in the familiarity I felt while reading a book from a well loved series. This is not to say that series are for everyone. The books in the series section here at OWL are repetitive, they do adhere to a particular format and plot outline, so if that’s not your cup of tea–steer clear, but if your child is looking for something familiar that will nurture and develop their love of reading then that might be the perfect place for you.

All of the books in the series section have green stars on the spine, and as of next week, there is now an updated series binder. This binder was a labor of love and lists all of the children’s series we own with their individual titles listed in the correct order! The copies that OWL owns are marked and if we don’t currently own a title you’re looking for we can get it for you–just ask!

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Miss Tricia’s Picks:

There’s a new American Girl in town and her name is Julie. In her series of books you can learn about what it was like growing up in a time long ago–the 1970’s. J AME SERIES

Nancy Drew–enough said. J KEE SERIES

Solve multiple mysteries in each volume of Encyclopedia Brown. J SOB SERIES

I have to include the BSC because of my immense love for the series as a young girl. Come on, who didn’t want to start their own Babysitters Club? J MAR SERIES

If you’re looking for something a little less dated, Ann M. Martin has a new Main Street series that is very sweet with a focus on friendship. J MAR SERIES

A new series favorite of mine is the delightful underachiever, Hank Zipzer. These books are fantastic! J WIN SERIES

If you like historical fiction, beautiful writing, and strong female characters, then you will love Dear America. J DEA SERIES

Happy Reading!

Note: This blog was largely influenced by my favorite library school professor, Amy Pattee, the original Series Zealot.

Batgirl was a librarian!~Tricia is the youth librarian at OWL and loves having homemade pizza nights on Fridays, cross stitching on Saturdays, watching figure skating on Sundays, and reading books in a series any day.

3 thoughts on “In Praise of Series Fiction

  1. It was reading a series that hooked my reluctant reader and got her going on the right path. Staying within a series helped her to stay focused and they helped her mature as a reader.
    I too read many adult series books– each time a new book is published, it is like welcoming an old friend back 🙂 !

  2. What a wonderful idea – so many children are going through difficult time, divorce, moving, etc. I have passed this on to several moms and grandmas – my grandson is reading the Magic Treehouse series and enjoyed meeting the author this summer on the green.

  3. Sometimes the worst part of a book is the end… i.e., when it’s over. Series are great … you know that there are more adventures ahead. I wish more writers would write book series.

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