Summer is quickly approaching, but many school-age kids are already dreading the “summer reading” concept. Why not introduce some great book series to get them hooked on reading for the entire summer break? My kids (ages 13 and 10) helped me compile this list of our favorite book series, for your child to read independently or for your whole family to enjoy together.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
This series has also been around for a while, although my family only recently discovered it and it has quickly become one of our new favorites.
This series follows the adventures of twelve year old Percy Jackson, a struggling “troublemaker” living in modern-day New York City. Percy soon learns that he is a demigod – the son of a mortal woman and Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. In the first book, Percy and his new friends go on a quest to recover Zeus’ lightning bolt and prevent a war between the brother gods. The remaining four books in the series follow Percy and his friends on other heroic quests.
This series is similar to Harry Potter books in that the novels are highly descriptive, action-packed, focus on friendship and have “showdown” scenes involving good versus evil with occasional violence. It’s written in a modern setting, and many kids may be fascinated by the Greek mythology interspersed within the novels. The author has a wicked sense of sarcasm, and many children will identify with Percy’s kid-focused viewpoint.
Added bonuses: The author has also written two other multi-book series in the same Greek-hero genre: The Heroes of Olympus and The Trials of Apollo. The first two books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series have also been made into movies, but they are not very true to the books (Percy is much older and major details are not included in the movies).
A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels by Madeleine L’Engle
This classic series was originally published in 1963 – you may remember it from your own childhood. Even with all of the new authors and series available, it’s still as enthralling today as it was when I first read it in the 1980s.
In this science fantasy series, thirteen year old Meg Murray’s father has been experimenting with time-travel when he suddenly disappears. Meg, her younger brother Charles Wallace and her friend Calvin O’Keefe travel throughout the universe by “wrinkling time” with a tesseract (you’ll have to read the book for a more detailed meaning!) to rescue him. Meg is forced to learn independence, resourcefulness and individuality throughout this book and its four sequels.
Each book has a “dark versus light” theme, but without overt violence. The series involves a good deal of scientific concepts, but they are cleverly interwoven and explained well throughout the books. As a family read, it’s suitable for most ages; for kids reading on their own, it’s probably best for kids over 10 due to the complexity of the storylines.
The National Education Association named the book one of its “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children,” among numerous other awards.
Disclaimer: There have been several films, plays and made-for-television movies based on this series. I haven’t seen any of them, mostly because they have been widely panned by critics.
Added bonus: A movie version starring Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon is slated for release in April 2018… here’s hoping it’s better than its predecessors!
Wonder and its sequels by R. J. Palacio
This series is only a few years old, but your child may have read it already – it’s so good that it’s been added to the required reading list of many elementary and middle schools.
Auggie Pullman was born with a terrible facial deformity and has always been home-schooled. In fifth grade, his parents enroll him in a mainstream preparatory school. The book is initially written from Auggie’s point of view, but later changes to include the perspectives of several of his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and other characters.
Auggie doesn’t have any superpowers and the book definitely isn’t fantasy, but it’s a beautifully written story about an entire school’s struggles with kindness, empathy, understanding and compassion. Sprinkled throughout are “precepts” shared by Mr. Browne, the school’s English teacher, as additional thought or discussion points. It’s incredibly moving, and very timely in today’s school environment.
The partner books include stories about other characters and an entire book of precepts by Mr. Browne and others.
Added bonuses: The movie (starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay) is slated for release on November 17, 2017. And, the author has started a movement called #ChooseKind – join the challenge at http://choosekind.tumblr.com/.
The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Of course, the Harry Potter series – it’s one of the best of all time, and suitable for all ranges of kids and adults alike.
If you’re unfamiliar with the series, it’s a seven-book collection that details the teenage years of Harry Potter, a young wizard growing up in England. Each of the books spans one year of Harry’s education at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, including his many challenges as well as his friendship with Hermione and Ron. Ultimately, Harry battles Lord Voldemort, a snake-like villain whose evil threatens the entire wizarding world.
The novels are filled imagery, wizarding folklore and a level of detail that surpasses many others. All of the books are lengthy, so plan for some patience in getting through them, but it is well worth the effort. There is the classic good-versus-evil theme throughout and thus some violence, although most children will recognize this as fantasy.
Added bonuses: There are two new Harry Potter-related books available now as well: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (both written in playwright format). And, both the series and Fantastic Beasts have been made into excellent movies – read one book, then watch the movie together.
If your child isn’t up for an entire series, my next post will offer some single books that are on our “Family Favorite” list. Happy reading!