This week's Top Ten Tuesday is about favorite books from your childhood. While there are many standalone novels I could mention, and probably will regret this later when I see how few of you recognized horse/dog/wildlife stories or other authors I adore, today I'd like to concentrate on series books.
Up until I was around 13, I'd wager that a good 50% of my reading material was series books. Now that I'm older, I prefer standalone novels, not least because there aren't really series books like this for adults outside of romance & mystery novels. But as a kid, there was nothing like the immense pleasure of being able to choose any one from dozens of titles, knowing that they would be to my taste.
I rarely read them in chronological order as opposed to whatever was available/sounded best in the moment, since most were from the library, and I rarely if ever read to the end of a series. But god, for 7 or so years of my life, were they fun.
1. American GirlI started on these when I was 6 or 7, spurred by my grandmother's gift of a Samantha doll. There were only four American Girls when I started reading, but I later got an Addy doll to be Samantha's friend so I read every book from all five characters. Then I aged out of this world and refused to accept any subsequent imposter Girls as part of the canon. But oh, did I love these books, with their clever little sidebar illustrations and fun historical facts in the back. I still think ALL THE TIME about the quote in Samantha's, where she rationalizes her misbehavior because she's only 9, and after all, "that is only half grown up."
2. Pony Pals - Jeanne BetancourtMy mom bought a handful of these for me through Scholastic book orders. I no longer have them, because they're very simple -- I'm sure I outgrew them by age 10 -- but they were such a cute little world. Neighbor girls who each have their own pony and can ride to each other's houses? That's the dream!! Who could forget Lulu, Anna and Pam, or their ponies Snow White the "white" Welsh, Acorn the bay (but clearly buckskin on the cover) Shetland, or Lightning the chestnut Connemara? Mom bought the first 4-6 for me, and I read up to maybe book 15/38.
Another from early elementary school, these slim little volumes were another type of dream. Imagine your dad is a vet but you also take in stray/rescue animals. There were only 12 titles, so I almost forgot about them. I love their illustrated 80s covers, though.
3. Animal Inn - Virginia Vail
4. Hank the Cowdog - John R. EricksonFor whatever reason, when I stumbled upon this series at the public library, I guzzled it down like nobody's business. Ranches are neat! My mom, who was used to me choosing higher brow, was always a little mortified by this because I seem to recall it at least sometimes being crude humor, but I thought it was HILARIOUS and she didn't stop me so I read it steadily for years until I finally got bored with it, probably somewhere around book 30.
Side note: apparently this series, which started in 1982 (!), is still being written.
I was never big on the idea of babysitting ("kids are the WORST" -- me as a slightly older kid), but I was TOTALLY big on the idea of being in a club. And having Club Snacks that I secretly hid in my room. And keeping an ultra-organized schedule & notebook record of our activities.
5. The Baby-Sitters Club - Ann M. Martin
I devoured dozens and dozens of the books and am still sad that the local library purged them. Not sad enough to buy the copies I see for sale all over the place, even though I would if I had a house, but a little sad that kids today may not know it. I saw myself in shy, quiet Mary Anne, but I can't remember if I had a favorite or an order of favorites. I really think I loved them all! Except I liked Kristy a little less because she seemed bossy and also was a tomboy who liked sports, which are dumb, softball being the worst of all (unless football is on the table).
I do remember I was so excited when I finally got to sixth grade so I could know what it really felt like to be Mallory and Jessi, and what it felt like for 8th grade girls to be only two years older (the ones I knew from my bus stop seemed Very Grown Up). I thought about it in 8th grade, too. "So this is the age I'm old enough to have a business. Huh."
I also loved the series enough that I also read some of the Little Sister companion series, even though I wasn't big on Karen, just because I liked having the extended family picture. I barely remember those, though.
I never got into Sweet Valley High. I tried it once after I started reading teen books and was just like, "this is weird and boring." But the middle school era, man, that to me is the TRUE series. I loved Elizabeth and Jessica (read: Elizabeth. But Jessica belonged to the Unicorn Club, which was Cool), and especially the book[s] with a horse. [eta: First Place was one, I know...]
6. Sweet Valley Twins - Francine Pascal
I DEVOURED Goosebumps. I could read a whole one in a day when my age was in the single digits. The most memorable ones to me are the first book (Welcome To Dead House) and The Ghost Next Door. The first one talked about moving into a neighborhood where everything was doused in shade (for Reasons. Reasons of Spook). I think about it EVERY TIME I am in an old, shady neighborhood. The second one...I still loved, but it also traumatized me for life because the kids turned out to have died from a fire caused by a backyard campfire they didn't douse before bed, and my dad ALSO made campfires in the backyard, and not only didn't douse them, he always went back in the house when there was still a small flame, so I was convinced I was gonna die in my sleep one night (or worse, wake up trapped in smoke and flames like the girl in this book, and then die).
7. Goosebumps / Fear Street - R.L. Stine
Then, in 5th grade (age 10-11), I graduated to the more hardcore scares (and have loved horror movies ever since, lol). Weirdly enough, even when I ran out of Fear Street I never got into the Christopher Pike next door. I thought that guy's work was boring, for some reason. But I LOVED Fear Street. All the ghosts and/or grisly murders...just the best!
This is probably my favorite series, tied with Thoroughbred. Best friends at a riding stable, encountering lots of different horses?? Ostensibly my username is an homage to Stevie Nicks, but the truth is that even earlier, I was enchanted by the character Stevie Lake. I don't even like the name Stevie - but apparently all the COOL Stephanies in the world were going by that nickname, so I tried to make it happen for my online presence. (side note: for those unaware, I no longer respond to Rainbow Stevie in any context. I'm embarrassed by the nickname I gave myself so you have to use a NICKnickname, RS.)
8. The Saddle Club / Pine Hollow - Bonnie Bryant
Anyway, even though Stevie was my favorite girl by default, I kind of wanted to be Carol, because she loved horses SO much and was more involved with them. I thought Lisa was kind of boring. But I LOVED all the horses, and all the different kinds of horse care, riding and shows they did made this right up my alley. I'm not sure how many I read or how far I read -- I know I didn't read quite to the end because it's not on my high school reading lists that started September 2000, after book 93 -- but it only went to 101 and the covers up through at least number 87 look familiar.
I tried Pine Hollow (the high school years), too. It went considerably better than my attempt at Sweet Valley High, but I never liked it as much for some reason. Not sure how I far I got into it. Based on the reviews for the final book, that was probably for the best.
Side note: the original illustrated covers for this series are AMAZING. Such beautiful drawings, richly colored, that even actual photographs of horses could not improve upon them. Although I do love that Young Mischa Barton became the cover model for Lisa for some of them. Makes me like both Mischa and Lisa more.
9. Dear AmericaLet's just say I am a LOT more well versed in historical events than I would be without this series. It is also worth noting that history in school always really bored me because so much of it was about wars and politics and law changes. It took me a long time to realize that I actually LOVE history -- I just only care about personal/family lives and the day-to-day aspects of how things were different, not the big picture. Young girls writing diaries was a great way to go (the girls were always more interesting than the counterpart boy series, My Name Is America -- I read only a few of those).
9.5. The Royal Diaries
Let it also be known that I more well versed on the queens and princesses of the world because of its companion series.
I'm planning a post on this in the future [edit from Future Me: it's here now!] but long story short this fascinated me and effed me up and I haven't thought about this fact in years, but it was actually kind of my first foray into fandom -- it's because of this series that I first ended up on fanfiction.net. Can't remember a single story I read or if I liked any of them, but I know I read some.
Cassie was my fave because she loved animals the most, Jake/Cassie was my OTP (11-year-old Me also had a crush on Jake, in part because of the cover model), and Rachel/Tobias eventually wormed its way into my shipping ranks too (Marco was useless to me. I'm not saying it's because he didn't have a girl, but that didn't help. I was neutral to lukewarm about Ax the Andalite). I still think about Yeerks surprisingly often: what it would feel like if there was a creature that knew that embarrassing thought I just had...if Trump/his cabinet is the result of them invading...stuff like that.
I still own several books from this series, having started reading it in 5th grade. Still haven't quite made my peace with the ending. It very much hurt my tender heart. But the series was very memorable, as evidenced by the fact that whenever I see a quote from it, I'm always thunderstruck by how familiar it is, as if I'd just read the words for the first time yesterday. I never was and still am not big on sci-fi, but this series really did it well.
Honorable mentions: Thoroughbred and Boxcar Children have been discussed at length here.
SO...what were your favorite series?? I am so curious! I bet I've read (or at least heard of) them!