I’ve been cleaning out my closet recently, and I’ve come across a huge box of books in the back—all books from my childhood that I thoroughly enjoyed. They’re good comfort books, and they helped me make the jump to decide to write my own manuscript and enjoy learning to write.
- Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne
These were my introduction to history lessons as a child–I bought the first 20 in a boxed set through the Scholastic Book Magazine when I was in first grade; never regretted it. The books follow a brother and sister, Jack and Annie Smith, as they explore a new-found hometown of Frog Creek, Pennsylvania. On a visit to a park they discover a large treehouse shouldered in the branches of a tree, and upon entry they see its filled with hundreds and hundreds of books. That’s the hinge of the stories–the treehouse is magical and can take them anywhere that is depicted in the books in the treehouse. My personal favorites? They go to Egypt at one point and accidentally break into a tomb of a pharaoh, and are rescued by a ghost. In another they go to the Amazon rain forest and pontoon boat their way down the river looking for a magical artifact.
The joy in them comes from the way the stories are set up–since these are children’s novels, the kids are the protagonists and the problem solvers, adults are nearly useless in most of the stories. Each book has historical accuracy and is a sneaky way to teach children about major historical periods; and some popular legends, like King Arthur and Journey to the West.
- Animal Ark series by Ben M. Baglio
I was one of those kids who was usually reading books about animals as a kid, and Animal Ark was my dream series for that. The series follows veterinarian’s daughter Mandy and her best friend James in their hometown of Welford in Yorkshire. Because it’s written by British authors for a British audience I did suffer a bit from ‘British ignorance’ (much like the Harry Potter series for many young readers). I had no idea that a Range Rover was a car until a few years after reading the books, nor did I know where any of these places that they visited or did I know what some of the objects and items they spoke about were either. Still, had I been able to access information about them I would have known what these things were.
Mandi and James both get into various shades of trouble throughout the books, with various different animal companions for each book. The books teach a surface about how animals should be cared for and also has excellent descriptions of the veterinarians practice that Mandi’s parents run. Kids will enjoy the characters that aren’t completely perfect and the chance to learn about a new animal during each book.
- Secrets of Droon by Tony Abbott
Before I read Harry Potter I read the Secrets of Droon series–it follows three kids, Eric, Julie, and Neal, who discover that Eric’s basement staircase has a little doorway that leads to a magical kingdom beneath the surface of the Earth called Droon. Droon also has a problem with adults solving problems, as only these three kids are ever able to accomplish anything in the books. The best way I can think to describe the overall series is that it’s Discworld but aimed at young kids, and preaches the power of friendship a little too hard. The kingdom of Droon itself is seeping with magic and in the 44 books, the kids barely seem to scratch the surface of it. They go from simply exploring the kingdom to getting caught up in a small war between two small city-states, to fighting an ancient evil and eventually becoming as powerful as a resident of Droon normally is.
Kids will enjoy the well-written action sequences and the abundance of wacky magical creatures present. There are good morals within each novel; even though most of them lean heavily on the importance of being an individual, it’s important to still learn at a young age.