Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

View From the 5th Grade Trenches - January 2011 - Hooked on a Series

Here in the 5th grade trenches we LOVE a good middle grade literature series.  My credit card is steaming from overuse as I fill our shelves with the latest installments of our favorites.  I get excited when a kid comes charging in the door waving a new series they’ve just discovered.  I’m a pushover.  I’ll make a beeline for the bookstore and grab up every piece of the series I can get my hands on.   

What hooks a middle grader on a series?

О   Characters – Who wouldn’t want Harry Potter for a friend? 
О   Adventure – It’s a blast to face obstacles, danger, or wonders we’ll never face in real life.  Let’s ride a dragon, fight the Minotaur, or live underwater.
О   Humor-Humor-Humor – Make us laugh and we’ll follow you home. 
О   New Worlds and Fantastic Places – We all voted here in Room 15 that we want to go to school in a castle like Hogwarts.
О   Relatability - Kids love seeing themselves in the situations and dilemmas they find in books.  It helps them understand similarities in their own lives and can be very validating.
О   Attachment – Readers, 5th graders included, make emotional investments in stories that we follow over multiple books.  There is a sense of loss and sorrow when the path we’ve been sharing with our characters comes to an end.  How many of us took to our beds for weeks after finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, knowing it was the last time we’d break bread with Harry, Ron, and Hermione? 

The top three series being read in our classroom even as we speak are:

                        PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS by Rick Riordan
                        “It’s fun watching a kid have to make big decisions.”
Robyn, Kyle, Ilker, Fernanda
                        “Every page is heart pounding, exciting, and breath taking.
                                    Mark, Tyler, Sal, Caleb, Aryanna

                        HARRY POTTER by JK Rowling
                        “The Harry Potter books make you wish you had magic.  We would
like to have teachers like Mad Eye Moody, Dumbledore, and
                                    Hazel, Kathleen, Pratik, Rylee
                        DIARY OF A WIMPY KID by Jeff Kinney
                        “It’s a funny look at facing challenges.”
                                    Melina, Jerry, Kait, Gage

                                    LAST DRAGON CHRONICLES by Chris D’lacey
                                    SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS by Lemony Snicket
THE 39 CLUES by Various Authors 

What are your favorites?


  1. Leslie, this is great. I love the quotes from the kids! I bow down to the authors who possess the gift of carrying thousands of readers with them through a series.

  2. Every MG author should read this post. It's wonderful!

  3. this is great! thanks so much for sharing! :)

  4. Series are life-savers for parents as well. "What? You're out of books AGAIN?" At least a series holds them at bay for a little while.

    This one isn't a series, but I just read/reviewed it and I can't recommend it enough: Dogsled Dreams by Terry Lynn Johnson

  5. Thank you Julie, Lisa, and Anonymous. My class gets a kick out of being featured on the blog. It's really upping their response to literature game. I agree with you Julie on the perseverance factor of creating a series.

    Hello Susan. We went to the Dogsled Dreams link and I've been instructed by my students to have it in our classroom library ASAP. Love your take on a tasty series helping parents.

  6. Great and insightful post. I'm linking to your blog on my new one, Brownie Points, which is a MG book reviewing site. (Reviews by kids, for kids.)

  7. In addition to loving the books you already mentioned, my 9 (and 3/4) son has loved several of Bruce Coville's Magic Shop series, the first Great Brain, and has just started the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins. He also recently read and liked the two Big Nate books... and last year loved the first three Nathaniel Fludd: Beastologist books by R.L. LaFevers.

  8. What about Big Nate, by Lincon Peirce? My son and his 4th grade friends are obsessed with those books!

  9. Thank you, Michelle. Your blog sounds cool. I'll be stopping by soon. I will definitely share it with my class.

    Oh Darsa and Yamile, I think I'm going to have to add some new bookshelves in my classroom. Great recommendations. Much appreciated.

  10. Hi Leslie,
    What a great post? I know how excited the kids in my classroom were when I read a first book in a series...The wonder of being able to read more about their favorite characters enticed my reluctant readers...(of course that wasn't my cunning plan...:)
    More power to you!
    I also used to encourage kids to haunt second hand bookshops to find missing books in the days before Amazon and the internet...
    New Zealand

  11. Hey Maureen, I love the idea of the second hand bookshops. I'm going to pass that on to the class. You are so right about the lure of a good series to the reluctant reader. I think Harry Potter gave those "I hate to read" kids a completely new outlook on books. Thank you JK Rowling.

  12. Thanks for stopping by the blog and entering the contest, Leslie! I just posted our first student review, which was, predictably, the latest Wimpy Kid. My hope is that kids will discuss the book in the comment section.
    I'd like to do some video reviews as well.

    Thanks for all you do to promote reading! I owe my fifth grade teacher for turning me on to Harriet the Spy. That's the book that sparked the writer in me. Bless you, Mrs. Clarke!

  13. Thank you for this fab post. I'm printing it to put on my wall, just as a blast of encouragement.


  14. You rock, Rita. I'm glad you liked it.

  15. I too am a sucker for a good series. My class (being younger than yours) is interestingly hooked on the same series as your class. They are devouring Harry Potter, fighting over Percy Jackson, and trading Wimpy Kid books. It makes sense because these series have all the right parts of the recipe down. A few of my kids are reading City of Ember after I finished it and recommended it. It always amazes me what a good discussion will do for the kids' book picks.

  16. And you will be lending me City of Ember, right, T?

  17. Thank you for your son is in 6th grade and has read most of those but it's nice to know "Last Dragon Chronicles' as I've not heard of that series.
    Julie sent everyone over to visit and glad I did!

  18. I read this with my fifth grader...excellent list.

  19. Hello there, Tracy and Sarah. Welcome. I've had to buy duplicates of all the LAST DRAGON CHRONICLES for the classroom. They fly off the shelves. I'm glad the list can be of service to you.