It turns out that 2020 was a great year to not step into the library, even once. That has to be an absolute first for me… ever in my life. And definitely a first for my kids. The truth of it is that publishers kept publishing and if nothing else… 2020 was the year of books that followed on, series upon series upon series. We may not have been in a library, but we certainly kept on reading.
Three Questions Parents Ask Me About Reading Series With Their Kids
1. My child is a prolific reader, can you recommend a good series for their reading level? And I have to agree, one book is never enough, we all need a series. I have written about series before and that’s what this post is all about.
2. How do I help my child, who is able to read, but refuses to read? And yes I have had both of these children. My answer is read to them, keep reading, widely and prolifically, find a series that they absolutely love… and read it to them. Take away all the drama that is associated with: “Why won’t my child read?” And just read with them and enjoy it. No pressure take a good long series, and read it together, enjoy, it make it special… you can read anytime anyplace, it doesn’t have to be at bedtime when you are trying to put other children to bed. You can choose a time just for you, you can choose a place just for you… and when you get to the end of the series… your child may or may not be reading. Whatever happens… do it again, Pick another series… and once your child starts reading… don’t worry about it. Keep on reading to them. Your child will be learning rich language, gleaning a cultural literacy and spending time with you… it’s a win, win.
3. Where do I find great series of books to encourage my kids off screens? The pull of the screen is here to stay, for your children and yourself. We need to learn to live with that, and rather than treating screens as rewards for reading or worse, no screens as punishment for not reading. We have set aside specific times for screens and specific times for reading. That way there is no debate. If your child is not allowed on a screen before lunchtime then they will quickly learn not to bother to ask for screen time then. We have a couple of hours in our day dedicated to school time and a couple more hours dedicated to resting and recovering… and during those times, screens just are not available.
Bazillions of Books for Kids
- Se7en’s Great Big List of the 100 Best Non-fiction Books for Kids.
- The Se7en + 1 Stages of A Bibliovores Life and All the Books to Go With Them.
- Se7en of the Best Bazillion Chapter Books – A Book Bonanza!!!
- Se7en of the Best Series for Emerging Reader.
So Many Series for Kids from Penguin Books South Africa
Wishing Chair Adventures: A Summertime Mystery and The Witch’s Lost Cat
I have blogged this series over and over again… because they are that good. Fantastic as first chapter books for emerging readers, and what could be better than a cosy Enid Blyton story. These are stories from Enid Blyton’s Wishing Chair Adventures, rewritten for kids in the modern era, where books are there to entice young readers, short sharp chapters and packed with colourful illustrations on every page. Mollie and Peter have an intriguing and magical chair and they go on several adventures with their Pixie, Binky. The Chair flies over several incredible lands and they stop off and have adventures in them.
A Summertime Mystery: The children fly over the Disappearing Island and it is too beautiful to resist… even though Binky warns them, they have to stop and look around. Of course, just as they are about to land, the island disappears and they of course need rescuing. Also in this book you will discover why your parents who probably read this book say to you… don’t pull faces, because when the wind blows… because their naughty little neighbour, Thomas, may just have a problem. The Wishing Chair to the rescue and they all live happily forever after.
The Witch’s Lost Cat: Of course these are stories about a Wishing Chair that flies places, there is going to be magic, and for your readers it is quite enchanting. In this story the children manage to save Apple Pie Village from Wizard Ho Ho. He wasn’t a very nice wizard and to be fair it wasn’t so much the children, but chocolate that saved the day. And in the next chapter, the family cat was sleeping on the Wishing Chair, when it flew off and how on earth are they going to find it now. These books are sweet, have sweet endings… great to read aloud to little ones and fantastic for readers who are ready to move on from beginner books to chapter books.
Dog Diaries: Camping Chaos and Curse of the Mystery Mutt
These books are hugely popular in our house. The Dog Diaries are a wonderful series of stories, written from the perspective of the dogs. So you will read about “my person pal.” And the pups people are called Ruff (the person that rough and tumbles), Mom-Lady, and Jawjaw (and that would be the chatty one). They are a step up in reading level from the Wishing Chair Series (above), but still massively picture rich and the illustrations definitely complete the story. This series is essential reading for any dog loving child, it is packed with puppy puns and jokes.
Curse of the Mystery Mutt: I had just arrived at the dog park, pulling Mom-Lady on my leash… And so it goes on. Turns out the local pups have been hearing strange noises in the night and then their is a break-in at the local diner… Our heroic pup heads out to find the culprit and only just gets home in time to do “the expected happy dance” when his owner gets in from school. After all his paw-trolling about he decides to set up a stunningly illustrated trap (think Home Alone) to catch the culprit. There could be a Halloween twist in this story and of course all is well that ends well.
Camping Chaos: The last time our pup’s family went on holiday they went to a hotel, that was specially set up for vegetarian dogs. Really!!! This time the family is off on a surprise vacation and our doggy friend is trying to imagine the most incredible place for a puppy vacation… imagine it: leafy luxury, sharks to bark at, coconuts to chase, new things to sniff… Maybe the moon, the bottom of the ocean…every possible wild adventure is considered and then they arrive at The Rambling Ridge Family Friendly Camp Ground. And it really does look puppy friendly and the holiday of his dreams.
Treasure Hunters: The Plunder Down Under
Another book in the Treasure Hunter Series, this series is fantastic for emerging readers, who are desperate to move on to more interesting books than chapter books. This series was the first chapter book series that Hood 8 got hooked on… there are short sharp chapters, wonderful and detailed illustrations, not to mention maps. And we all know all books with a map are particularly good!
In this book the Kidd kids were dashing off to Australia to find treasure and rescue their parents. They need evidence to prove that their parents are innocent, and of course their are pirates. Dashing around the Australian outback, there is a load of stealth learning and interesting facts packed into this book, into the series in fact. These books are absolutely fantastic for a pirate loving, obsessive armchair traveling middle grade reader.
Max Einstein: Rebels with a Cause and Max Einstein Saves the Future
If you haven’t met Max Einstein yet, and you live with a young and feisty scientist… then this is a great series to get into. There are actually four in the series so far, these are the middle two… and they are great, fast paced reads. These are a aimed at middle grade readers and a great way to get a load of stealth learning into your happy young readers as well. Max, short for Maxine, is one of those girls who likes to know everything about everything, an investigative journalist in the making. She is always tripping on unexpected happenings and mysteries seem to follow her wherever she goes, think a very junior version of James Bond, who solves the mystery using fun easy to use science. You can find classroom guides for the books here.
Max Einstein Saves the Future: This is the second in the series, and in each book Max and her friends are working on a global project. Highly topical, for children who have survived the Cape Town drought, the team are looking at water conservation around the world, from Ireland to India. Max is also constantly being followed by a greedy corporation, who are trying to poach her away from the CMI, the Change Maker’s Institute. The institute coordinates Max and her very clever friends and their projects around the world. The CMI are the goodies, and well there is the enemy, always out to trip them up. I found the story a little weak, but… my eleven/twelve year olds literally inhaled this.
Max Einstein Rebels with a Cause: In this book, the third in the series, Max and her team are considering the global problem of food for everyone. All the while they are solving this global problem, they are dashing around the world keeping just one step ahead of the sinister coporation… and something is distracting Max from her mission, as she tries to invent a time machine… to look back and meet her parents. What is not to love, a great mystery, world traveler, time traveling and packed with amazing and well explained science facts.
Young Samurai: The Return of the Warrior
Our kids are all super fans of Chris Bradford, they were lucky enough to meet him, and interview him. This is an extra book in the Young Samurai series, it is a stand alone… but can I just say… if you are looking for an exciting adventure story, a great chapter book series for tween readers, then do not hesitate to get your child reading the first book and Chris Bradford will do the rest for you.
In this book, The Return of the Warrior, you can read it as a stand alone, or part of the entire series. Familiar faces from the series are introduced again, and the adventure speeds up. Our hero, the Young Samurai, returns to England to discover that his sister is missing, and he sets out to find her… but his mission is interrupted when his rival, his arch nemesis from samurai school is also in the country. It is a race against time. It is a rescue mission of note. It is a gripping read.
The Castle of Tangled Magic
Can we sit down and talk about Sophie Anderson’s books just for a moment… they are beautiful, beyond magical and I love them completely. I knew there was something about them when I read The House with Chicken Legs (one of our favourite reads of 2018), and then The Girl who Speaks Bear blew me away, and my word The Castle of Tangled Magic is everything. I love the intertwining of Russian Folk Tales, with Fairy Tales. And while, you can read these stories in order, you needn’t… they do stand alone… that being said they all refer back and around to things in the other books. Also the illustrations are perfection, they take each book from brilliant to classic in one swoop… black and white… interesting maps and loads of detail.
- The House with Chicken Legs one of our favourite reads of 2018.
- The Girl Who Speaks Bear one of our favourite reads of 2019.
- The Castle of Tangled Magic one of our favourite reads of 2020.
- Yes… there is a pattern here!!!
This is the story of a girl called Olia, who has grown up in Castle Mila. Olia doesn’t realize how enchanted or magical her world really is… until a terrible storm threatens their home. Olia is a heroine above all heroines, as her own magic awakens and the reality of the magical world she lives in unfurls so you discover that there are layers and layers of reality. Olia sets off on a quest to save her family castle, several magical characters join her on her quest… to save her beloved castle. oh I love this book. It is slow brewing like most of the books in the series, but once the story gets going you will find yourself flying through 400 pages without lifting your eyes from the pages. This is a story all about family, heritage and standing by your friends through thick and thin. It would make a wonderful family read-a-loud and there are loads of resources (recipes, writing, creating), for all Sophie Anderson’s books on her website.
Artemis Fowl The Graphic Novel
If you have a reluctant reader in the teen catagory, do not neglect the Graphic Novel… these are not “just comics,” they are an art form and your kids will love them. Artemis Fowl and the world of fairies, but not the kind of fairies that you are expecting… these are the ruthless, technology wise, battling against criminal minds, all the while wary of being caught out by humans, kind of fairies. This is gripping, unputdownable stuff, for kids and their adults. The chapter books are brilliant, the graphic novels… superb. And there is a movie tie-in. Everything a reluctant reader might need, to encourage them to open a book, but more… for the kids that have read the series through numerous times, they will carry this book about for weeks, until it disintegrates… and then a bit longer. Don’t ask me how I know this.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and Good Girl, Bad Blood
These are teen reads and they are great. … real live murder mysteries for teens. This book does follow on from the first book in the series: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. What can I say, but who knew the sinister crime that could be lurking in the halls of a highschool in a quiet country town. In the first book, Pip with the help of her friend Ravi, set out to solve a five year old missing person crime, for a school assignment. With a series of interviews that wind in and out of the crime, nobody expects Pip to actually solve the crime, least of all Pip.
In Good Girl, Bad Blood, Pip and Ravi are back… this time Pip, who is almost 18, has turned away from solving crimes, the emotional effort of solving a crime was way more than she expected, the cost to her mental health and happiness was way too much. Lesson learned, Pip has turned her assignment from the previous book into a crime podcast and she is ready to get on with her life. And then… a friend of hers, Conner’s older brother, Jamie goes missing, or does he? The police don’t want anything to do with it, his mother is convinced that something sinister has happened… and Pip knows that as time ticks by, the chances of finding Jamie alive are getting lower and lower.
So Pip to the rescue again, its hard… you can feel her struggle against the small mindedness of little town, with a fair amount of secrets that no-one wants to share. She adds all her discoveries to her podcast, the fact that all the 29 year old men in town have been hoodwinked by a fake account on instagram, the fact that all of them think that they are the man of the faker’s dreams, an interesting twist on the usual tale. This book is unputdownable. Really enjoyed it… gripping story, a load of action happens in the last few chapters… and skipping to the last page will not help you figure it all out (don’t ask me how I know that)!
The Trials of Appolo: The Tower of Nero
I have found the Rick Riordan has the ability to keep my kids up long past bedtime… the rule in our house has always been… you may read as late as you like. Rick Riordan, quite simply, introduces my kids to all nighters, not to mention ancient mythology. This is the last book in his grandiose and heroic series of the Trials of Apollo. These are epic adventures, your children will be drawn into world of mythology in a way that they will never forget. A Rick Riordan ending to a long saga, a dramatic finale, completing the series, and bringing the ancient hero’s together in a climatic final battle against the greatest threat they have ever fought. Whatever you do, start at the beginning, this is a series worth investing all your time into reading. My kids have all loved these… and have flown through thousands and thousands of pages in the name of mythological intrigue.
Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Birds
This series has intrigued me for the longest time. I keep passing them in bookshops and spotting them online… when I was sent the fifth novel in the series for review, I decided that it was time to get to know these books. So, I downloaded the audible of book one, and I am absolutley gripped (two more in the series are free for audible members, just saying). These books have a lovely vintage feel to them, photographs that look real, artifacts that have been discovered… the books alone feel like you are reading ancient journals. Just take a look at the author, Ransom Rigg’s website and you will see what I mean.
Let’s not forget about the story. Miss Peregrine is a bit of a strange bird, really she is. Our hero, Jacob, has always had a special connection with his grandfather, whose dying words are to go and find The Bird. As far as he knows his grandfather grew up on island in Wales, in a children’s home for refugees during World War II. A series of events and a step back in time, and Jacob gets to meet some of the Peculiars… and they are peculiar for a reason. There is a sinister edge to these stories, they are creepy… perfect for older teens, my younger tweens would be totally freaked out by the eerie vibe. I am loving them, they have a dark feel… but I am intrigued. This is my summer series for the summer break this year. In a word: intriguing.
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These books were given to us for review purposes by Penguin Random House South Africa. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.