Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Power of the Series

My 8 year old is a series junky. Whenever I suggest a new title to her, the first question out of her mouth is, "Is it a series?" The second one is, "Does it involve animals and/or fairies?" If the answer is no, there is a high probability the book goes unread and she misses out on some fabulous fiction. She is currently reading books from five different series: Harry Potter, Warriors, Guardians of Ga'Hoole, Rainbow Magic, The Fairytale Detectives and she's waiting impatiently for the new Percy Jackson and the Olympians fourth installment. On a recent trip to the bookstore she picked up book one in The Faerie Wars Chronicles. I read series too when I was younger but they never had the same staggering number of titles e.g. Dark is Rising, Chronicles of Narnia. Even the Potter series at seven books is a lightweight compared to the others. There are currently 63 titles in the Rainbow Magic series, 15 Warriors titles (plus guides and graphic novels), and title number 14 comes in October for the Guardians. The problem is that it takes my daughter about thirty minutes to read a Rainbow Magic book and a day for the Warriors and Guardians. So, obviously there is some compelling story telling going on there but is there much else? Mind you, I did learn that there is such a thing as burrowing owls when she read me a chapter.

I have noticed this trend with my sixth graders, too. We've got the Eragon Trilogy, Artemis Fowl, Maximum Ride, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Clique, Uglies Trilogy (which has a fourth book????), His Dark Materials Trilogy , Ranger's Apprentice, The Underland Chronicles, The Twilight Saga, The Looking Glass Wars, Charlie Bone, The Bartimaeus Trilogy and need I go on?

Serial success is so abundant that writers that already have one start others. James Patterson is following on the success of Maximum Ride with The Dangerous Days of Daniel X. The three ladies who write Warriors have a new series Seekers about bears. Other writers, flushed with success, suddenly find the fact that they originally declared their series a trilogy rather inconvenient, so they have to call the new books something else. Philip Pullman is writing a prequel to his series about young Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison called Once Upon a Time in the North and in 2003 he wrote a "stand alone novel" Lyra's Oxford. Pullman calls these "amuse-bouche—you know, those little French hors d’Ĺ“uvres served at the beginning of a meal to whet the appetite. Each one is a short story, really, intended to divert and entertain." He also plans to write more stand alone novels about Lyra the next is The Book of Dust.

Publishers also know they are on to a good thing. You can count down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the next book in your favorite series come out (see widget). Then there are the websites. Some of them are really fun. I found out what clan I would be in if I was a Warrior Cat, which house I'd be in at Hogwarts, and what my daemon would be if I lived in Lyra's world. I think that this topic will have to be a separate post.

It's hard when you come to the end of a book you love. You mope around for days and there's a big hole inside. Today's youth don't have to deal with that pain. There's always another book in the series, the trilogy turns out to be five books, or the characters turn up in another series. Even if they're not great literature (excluding Pullman of course), they've got kids hooked. Even with all the other distractions - I spent two hours on my daughter's Nintendo DS today trying to light a virtual fire with virtual twigs -they're reading!!!! I really think JK Rowling, much as I hate to admit it, started a mini-revolution. She's worth more than the Queen of England, and that is a revolution in itself.

1 comment:

Mary Lee said...

You as much as said it yourself, we must let go and let them swim happily in the sea of series. You're lucky your daughter is involved with five different ones! She gets some kind of variety!