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Librarians Recommend Book Series for Tweens to Binge Read

Jul 4, 2017

With school letting out in a few weeks, it’s the perfect time for your kids to get hooked on a new series for summer reading. We asked five librarian experts from across Canada to suggest some binge-worthy titles for kids eight to 12. 

Bone (Jeff Smith)

Book cover: Bone by Jeff Smith

Recommended by John Mutford, library manager, Yellowknife Public Library

For older children and tweens, Bone might just be the graphic novel series that gets them hooked on comics for life. Full of charming characters, fantasy-based adventure and off-beat humour, readers are sure to devour these titles that revolve around a trio of creatures that resemble a cross between Smurfs and ghosts and who have been outcast from their hometown. Before long, they encounter an assortment of enemies and friends, one of whom (a human girl named Thorn) they wind up assisting in saving her village.

My son and I enthusiastically read all nine of the volumes together, and the only challenge was remembering what wacky voice belonged to which character. For fans who just cannot get enough, there have been a few spin-offs, including prose novels written by Tom Sniegoski and illustrated by series creator Jeff Smith.

The 13-Story Treehouse (Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton)

Book cover: The 13-Story Treehouse

Recommended by Lise Fortier, youth services co-ordinator, Saskatoon Public Library

Andy and Terry live in a tree with an amazing treehouse, which has vines to swing from, an underground laboratory, a shark tank and more. The treehouse keeps growing as the series (five volumes so far) continues. Andy and Terry write stories together, but they have a hard time meeting deadlines as there are always many distractions, such as burp-filled bubblegum bubbles, a giant banana attack and flying cats. Will they meet their book deadline with all of these unexpected interruptions? Kids will find these funny characters appealing and their many adventures entertaining. There is a lot of slapstick comedy — this is not an educational read, but it is fun. Perfect for readers who like to have drawings interspersed within the text, and for fans of Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants or Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

The Three Thieves (Scott Chantler)

Book cover: The Three Thieves by Scott Chandler

Recommended by Anthea Bailie, collections strategist, Markham Public Library

The Three Thieves is a thrilling fantasy adventure graphic-novel series by Canadian cartoonist, Scott Chantler. Recommended for children in Grade 5 and up, the story begins in Tower of Treasure with a travelling circus troupe arriving in the city of Kingsbridge where they hope to find clues to the disappearance of their acrobat’s twin and to rob the royal treasury. Full of plot twists, thrilling action, and fantastic illustrations, this series is excellent for developing visual literacy and critical thinking while reading. The books, which conclude with the seventh volume, The Iron Hand, have also won a number of well-deserved awards.

A Series of Unfortunate Events (Lemony Snickett)

Book cover: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Lemony Snickett)

Recommended by Leah Pohlman, youth services librarian, Halifax Public Library

A personal favourite of mine, A Series of Unfortunate Events has seen a revival in popularity in recent months, thanks in large part to the Netflix series by the same name. This darkly humorous series follows the journey of the Baudelaire siblings as they attempt to uncover the mystery of their parents’ death while evading the clutches of the devious Count Olaf. This 13-book series is written for children aged 8 and up, and would be appreciated by readers who enjoy darkly funny mysteries, courageous characters and secret societies. Although this is a funny series, parents should not it does emphasize tragedy and misery; it may be too dark for some children.

Lumberjanes (Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen, and Noelle Stevenson)

Book cover: Lumberjanes (Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen, and Noelle Stevenson)

Recommended by Sadie Tucker, youth services librarian, Vancouver Public Library

On their first night at Lumberjane scout camp, a group of young girls witness a woman turning into a bear. Banding together to solve mysteries, encounter Yetis, and more, this graphic-novel series is a hilarious delight. With six volumes under its belt, these comics have girl power to the max. The books are not only a fun read, but they also present an opportunity to think and talk about gender stereotypes and gender identity. Great for readers 10 and up (of any gender) who like action-packed shenanigans.

The Little House series (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Book cover: The Little House Series

Recommended by John Mutford, library manager, Yellowknife Public Library

In recent years, there has been a big push on “Books for Boys” and similar programs that aim to get younger males reading. With declining literacy rates amongst males, such endeavours have their hearts in the right place. However, there’s a danger in initiatives that, in an effort to pair appealing books to readers, label books by gender. That is why I am recommending Laura Ingalls Wilder books for boys versus the usual ninja, sports, and gross-out books that typically get recommended. (Not that there is anything wrong with those books, either.)

The Little House books, perhaps best known for the Little House on the Prairie television adaptation, is a fictionalized account of the author’s life in the northern Midwest of the United States during the latter half of the 19th century. As the books give a chronological account of Ingall’s life from a young girl to womanhood, the stories become increasingly more mature. Throughout it all, however, runs themes of perseverance against hardships (such as disease, difficult financial times, and frequently being uprooted) and the importance of familial bonds.

After a Grade 4 teacher introduced me to the series way back in the day, I quickly sought out the rest. I was enthralled by a lifestyle that was so different from my own, yet pleasantly surprised to find similarities. I was a sensitive type—had our classroom had a shelf marked “Books for Boys,” I would have been too self-conscious to have chosen anything beyond that shelf. I would like it known that realistic, historical fiction with a female protagonist is totally fine for any gender.

Spirit Animals (multiple authors)

Book cover: Spirit Animals by multiple authors

Recommended by Lise Fortier, youth services co-ordinator, Saskatoon Public Library

Four children from different countries and backgrounds must work together to save the world. After drinking a special nectar in their 11th year, each of the children is bonded with a spirit animal, and they must learn how to work with their new companion. This fantastical series has the characters following a quest, completing challenges along the way while trying to stay away from the dark force that is gaining strength. The diverse main characters, two girls and two boys, learn from each other as they have unique skills from their life experiences. This series has a conflict between good and dark, which means there are some characters who are lost along the way. This series ends and another adventure continues with Spirit Animals: Fall of the Beasts. It’s great for fans of Warriors by Erin Hunter, The 39 Clues, and Infinity Ring series.

Alvin Ho (Lenore Look)

Book cover: Alvin Ho (Lenore Look)

Recommended by Anthea Bailie, collections strategist, Markham Public Library

The Alvin Ho series (currently six volumes, from Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things to Allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions) by Lenore Look is ideal to read to children in Grade 2 or for older children to read to themselves. Despite being the fearless Firecracker Man at home, Alvin is terrified of everything! He cannot speak at school, anything out of the ordinary makes him worry, and he has to take his PDK (Personal Disaster Kit) with him everywhere. These are excellent books to use as jumping-off points for talking about anxiety or mental health, as well as hilarious stories about the everyday escapades of a small boy and his family.

Haunted Canada (Pat Hancock and Joel Sutherland)

Book cover: Haunted Canada by Pat Hancock and Joel Sutherland

Recommended by Sadie Tucker, youth services librarian, Vancouver Public Library

With a pinch of history, a taste of Canadian geography, and a dash of horror, this is a deliciously creepy read. Most kids love urban legends and ghost stories, so books like Haunted Canada are great for luring reluctant readers into the world of literature. The stories are short, making it easy to pick up and put down. That all being said, these spooky stories are not for the faint of heart. Children that are a bit more sensitive or imaginative than others may find these stories keep them up at night. Best for readers aged nine and up.

Article Author Erik Missio
Erik Missio

Read more from Erik here.

Erik Missio used to live in Toronto, have longish hair and write about rock ‘n’ roll. He now lives in the suburbs, has no hair and works in communications. He and his wife are the proud parents of a nine-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy, both of whom are pretty great. He received his MA in journalism from the University of Western Ontario.

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