In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Dear Annie,

Ah, spoilers as occupational hazards.  Before Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out in 2000, there was buzz that one of the characters was going to die.  Quickie reviews carefully kept the secret.  I read it fast, but not as quickly as one of my customers.  A ten year old boy dropped by the store to tell me that he'd finished the book -- probably within the first 48 hours of publication.  "And I just knew ______ was going to be the one to die!" he crowed.  I was about two-thirds through the book at  that point, but such is life.

You ask what series will last.  Hmm.  I think Harry Potter will for lots of reasons: good writing (most of the time), humor, evolving characters and evolving complexity of successive books.  And it draws so heavily from the British mythic tradition: those themes are keepers.

The only other series I can feel confident saying that it'll be around in 50 years is Philip Pullman's
His Dark Materials Trilogy
-- usually referred to as the Golden Compass books.  The first one came out in 1995.  It's so ambitious, creating a wonderfully believable parallel world and weaving together varied characters and great action.  And it grapples with much bigger issues, many of them having to do with religion and organized religion.  It's wonderful.

Game of Thrones is one of my boss Steven's favorite books.  I think I need a long summer after I retire to attack that series, but it sounds riveting. 

A lot of the other series we've been talking about are good entertainment, and some of them can really resonate with their readers.  Does that mean they'll still have the emotional pull exerted by some of the literary first loves we talked about last spring?  I guess part of what I'd hope for in a book or a series that's going to last is that it affects a reader.  Not just entertains or engages, but really makes someone think, or see the world differently.  The transformative power of literature.  It's hard to know which ones those are until someone has lived with them for a while.

Any more nominees out there?



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