Posts Tagged library

Why DO we love series?

So, which kind of reader are you?  Are you a lover of series, stand-alone books or something in between? For those who love stand alone stories, I agree: there is something exciting about meeting new characters, exploring new worlds, and coming to know the writing style of an unfamiliar author.

From many years in a preschool-8th grade library, I found lots to love for my students who craved series, too. Just what is it that makes them so appealing?

I recall these conversations overheard from my librarian desk at school:
“Dude, I wish he hadn’t stopped at just one book. I wasted my time because now I don’t know what to read that I’ll like as well.”
“I just love this author. I hope he never stops making books.”
“These books are just right for me.”

Here’s what I learned about middle grade students and their love of series.

Familiarity is safe, and repetition is good!  If I could reach a middle grade student searching for his or her reading home, it would very often be within a series. Once a student finds a book to love, why look any farther? From my many years of supporting reading in schools, I know that series books are very useful for helping young readers build reading stamina and confidence, and that this continues to be true well into middle school. Many pieces of research bear this out – more reading = better readers. Truly, level isn’t as important as volume in increasing a student’s facility with reading, though grbbing a student at a level of writing that fits certainly helps. The most important thing is that a student engaged with the content will work to grow to the level, or read more books because they are comfortable and easy. Both these things are fantastic!

Brand loyalty reigns supreme. Don’t insult a beloved series, or its characters or premise. I love series of books, but young people KNOW them, inside and out. And I’m not just talking about Harry Potter or The Percy Jackson series. A student who reads a series passionately – almost any series you can name – knows its characters and the constructs of the world told within its pages more intimately than I can even fathom. This is so much fun to observe!

Connections make enthusiastic readers. One of my main goals as a school librarian – and one I continue to fulfill now that I’m celebrating middle grade books and reading in other ways – is to find touch points with students in their reading lives. If I can share the experience of a book with a student, we have a connection. This means that I have an open door to that student in terms of recommending more, which maintains a student’s enthusiasm for reading long after they’ve left my library. I still recommend books to my students who started with me as middle graders and are now high school students! For many, those connections began when we shared our love of series. What could be better than that?

Here are a few middle grade series in a  variety of genres and styles I’ve shared over the years, with students ranging from 2nd grade to 5th grade. All synopses from IndieBound unless otherwise noted.

The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall

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“Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, these stories are as breezy and carefree as a clear June day.”
Theodosia Throckmorton, by R L LaFevers

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“Theodosia Throckmorton has her hands full at the Museum of Legends and Antiquities in London. Her father may be head curator, but it is Theo—and only Theo—who is able to see all the black magic and ancient curses that still cling to the artifacts in the museum.”
Capture the Flag, by Kate Messner

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“Anna, José, and Henry have never met, but they have more in common than they realize. Snowed in together at a chaotic Washington, DC, airport, they encounter a mysterious tattooed man, a flamboyant politician, and a rambunctious poodle named for an ancient king. Even stranger, news stations everywhere have just announced that the famous flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been stolen!”
Ranger in Time , also by Kate Messner

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This is a very new historical series  for the early middle grades – the second comes out this month.

“Meet Ranger! He’s a time-traveling golden retriever who has a nose for trouble . . . and always saves the day!” (from Goodreads)
The Jaguar Stones, by Jon and Pamela Voelkel

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These books might feature a couple of teenagers, but the content and writing are all middle grade, with great action and adventure, as well as historical content that is well-researched and presented.

“An epic adventure that brings together ancient history and modern adolescent angst – as it pits a pampered, pizza-eating, 21st century Boston teenager against the Death Lords of the Maya Underworld.”

The Underland Chronicles (Gregor the Overlander), by Suzanne Collins

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“This irresistible first novel tells the story of a quiet boy who embarks on a dangerous quest in order to fulfill his destiny — and find his father — in a strange world beneath New York City.” (from Goodreads)

Guys Read, edited by Jon Scieszka

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I was able to cultivate a reader over almost an entire school year by letting him take a Guys Read to study hall every day and return it each afternoon without committing to checkign it out and worrying about it.  “Its here: Volume One of the official Guys Read Library. Jon Scieszkas Guys Read initiative was founded on a simple premise: that young guys enjoy reading most when they have reading they can enjoy. And out of this comes a series that aims to give them just that.” (from Goodreads)

The Imaginary Veterinary, by Suzanne Selfors

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“When Ben Silverstein is sent to the rundown town of Buttonville to spend the summer with his grandfather, he’s certain it will be the most boring vacation ever. That is, until his grandfather’s cat brings home what looks like . . . a baby dragon? “

The list of great middle grade series is so long that it will surely be the topic of another post.

You can find some other info about series around the blog, like this one on  Series for Fantasy Fanatics, and here is another book list, because so many of us seem to love them.

As for me, I think I’m a little bit in between. I love stand alone stories, but investing in a series is a great way to feed the reader in me who just wants to hang out with familiar friends between the pages of a book.

In fourth grade, Valerie Stein touched an ancient artifact from an archaeological dig. Though she never got to travel the world in search of buried treasure, she ended up journeying to new and exciting places between the pages of books. Now she spends her time researching history, in museums and libraries, which is like archaeology but without the dirt. Valerie’s book, The Best of It: A Journal of Life, Love and Dying, was published in 2009.  Both her current work and an upcoming middle grade series are historical fiction set in Washington State. Valerie is Publisher at Homeostasis Press and blogs at The Best of It

 

Ways authors can use the library to promote their books

Did you know that you may be able to add information and videos about your books to library catalogs? Many libraries have social catalogs, putting the power of list-making, tagging and ratings in the hands of readers, much like Goodreads and other platforms. And it gets even better: Let’s say you have a library card with Austin Public. You could upload a video about your book to your local catalog, and that same video would show up in the catalog of New York Public Library and hundreds (!) of other libraries.

At Seattle Public Library (where I work), we are one of more than 120 libraries (including Austin and NYPL, which I randomly chose to impress you) that use Bibliocommons, a shared social catalog. To give you an idea of how it works, I uploaded a book trailer from Mixed-Up Files blogger author Sue Cowen’s You Will Call Me Drog to my library’s catalog, which you can see here (choose the “video” tab). And now you can also see it here in Austin Public Library’s catalog and NYPL’s catalog and Johnson County Library in Kansas, and so on. (And thank you, Sue, for letting me use Drog as an example!)

Does your local library have similar capabilities? If so, here’s how you can enrich the catalog while also presenting more information about your book (or any book):

  1. Go to the book in the library catalog.
  2. Log in to your library account.
  3. Choose “add more” and then “Video.” You’ll fill in a box for headline, another for description, and then the code for a YouTube or SchoolTube video. Be sure to choose “embed” to get the code rather than just using the URL of the video.
  4. The video is now part of the library record for that particular book.

Videos can be anything related to your book, such as an interview, a tour of the locations featured in your book, a young reader doing a booktalk or maybe even trailers done by your readers. Here’s Better Nate Than Ever author Tim Federle talking about his debut novel and here’s a children’s librarian doing a quick 30-second booktalk on Liberty Porter, First Daughter.

You can also add tags and similar titles. When tagging, look to see what descriptive tags are already being used, such as “funny middle grade.” Consider making a thematic list, too. Who could resist books on a list called Awesomely Funny Books or Creepy, Scary Stories for kids? If your book tackles tough topics, a list of similarly themed books could be a great resource for teachers, parents and librarians.

And, of course, since we’re all lovers of middle grade books, you’ll undoubtedly want to make lists, add tags, rate books and upload videos for the books you love reading. It’s a great way to share information on books in a noncommercial setting. We’re reaching readers — with no strings attached.